Alumni Network Thrives in China
The growing number of Yale School of Management alumni working in China have forged a powerful, supportive network that straddles sectors in this rapidly expanding economy.
By Karen Guzman
When her daughter was choosing a business school, Shirley Yeung ’93 wasted no time pointing to the Yale School of Management.
“In Asia, and particularly in Greater China, SOM is having an enormous impact,” says Yeung, founder and managing partner of the Shanghai-based venture capital firm Dragonrise Capital. “I told my daughter, ‘If you come back to Asia, you’ll see how respected SOM alumni are here. In my business—venture capital and private equity—our graduates are a major presence.”
This Yale SOM presence is being felt across sectors in China today, where an expanding economy is providing more opportunities for graduates. In 2005, 45 Yale SOM alumni were working in China; today almost 200 are there.
But the numbers alone don’t reflect the uniqueness of the network that has sprung up in China. Yeung, a Yale SOM Board of Advisors member who has been mentoring women students and graduates, sees it firsthand. “There’s a very strong community here,” she says. “We all support each other. It’s just fantastic.”
Lei Zhang ’02, founder, chairman, and CEO of Hillhouse Capital in Beijing and Hong Kong, has hired numerous Yale SOM alumni. “Among the great joys of building a successful firm has been helping young members of the SOM community and drawing upon their knowledge and passion,” he says.
Hillhouse sponsors alumni events in Asia and hosts annual career treks to China for Yale SOM students. “We have also drawn from Yale’s great talent pool of investors and operators for our portfolio companies,” Zhang says.
Because Yale is such a powerful brand in China, Zhang believes the university’s influence will continue to grow. “Yale has united and inspired generations of talented people who have helped advance Chinese society over two centuries,” he says. “It’s my honor to be part of this legacy. I hope the next generation will join us.”
Neil Shen, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China, who earned a master’s degree at Yale in 1992, says that Chinese students who go abroad to Yale reap big rewards back in China. “The very fact that you went to study in the U.S., and in a top university like Yale, means you have a great educational experience, and that adds a lot to your résumé,” says Shen, who also serves on the Yale SOM Board of Advisors.
Leading Sequoia, a global firm in China, Shen has funded many of the biggest tech startups in existence today. He says that the Yale connection is increasingly evident in Chinese startups now.
“Twenty years ago, we got a few alumni who were in banking or investment management in China,” he says. “Now I see people going into entrepreneurship in biotech, in artificial intelligence, or in industrial tech—all types of entrepreneurial efforts.”
The Yale Center Beijing, founded in 2014, plays an important role for Yale alumni in China, says Shen, who serves as chair of the Center’s executive council.
“We have a very active center that provides a lot of interesting programs and activities and links people who are interested in science, technology, and the humanities,” he says.
Housed in a 16,500-square-foot space in the Chaoyang District of Beijing, the Center is a hub for Yale’s activities in China, helping the university form new partnerships while supporting research and study initiatives from all of Yale’s schools and divisions. It also serves as a gathering place for alumni from throughout Asia.
“When we look at Yale in China, we should look long-term,” Shen says. “We should consider what’s going to be the impact on China in 20 or 30 years. We’re building those relationships now; the Center is facilitating this.”
Yeung, whose daughter Martha Xiang ’19 will graduate from Yale SOM this spring, says that the Global Network for Advanced Management is also helping Yale SOM flourish in China. The network includes several business schools in Asia, including three in China.
“Yale SOM is all about global impact, and if this isn’t global impact, I don’t know what is,” Yeung says. “We have a community of alumni out there who help each other, who support each other, and who have something in common to be proud of, and we’re willing to give back.”
Read more about the Yale alumni mentioned in this article.