Before I came to Yale, I had already worked for 11 years. Yale was my dream school because the first Chinese overseas student in the U.S. graduatedfrom Yale in the 19th century. But at the time, it was not very affordable for Chinese students to study abroad. So I joined some international companies in China after I graduated, in the technology industry and later the automotive industry. But even though I obtained a lot of international experience in my jobs, I was eager to have a pure overseas environment.
In the first semester, the language and culture barriers were more than I had imagined. Even though I studied English in high school, I had to spend two times longer than the others for the classes, for the assignments, for the cases. But the environment at Yale is very good—supportive, open. People will not judge you because of your language, because of your culture or nationality. There are a lot of Chinese students here—it’s a big community, and they are very helpful.
People are very engaged with the class discussion. When a professor asks a question, there’s always a student who has had the exact experience in their real life. So it’s not only an academic theory, but a practical experience. I took a lot of courses which shaped my mind and the way I think, like Corporate Responsibility, Global Leadership, and Market Strategy. They made me realize that today’s global leaders should think past the business strategy. They should grasp global risks and trends, and strive for a cross-cultural environment. I think I can use a lot of things I learned from here and try to implement them at Apple.
I took a class at the Yale School of Drama called Visual Storytelling. In every class, the professor introduced a piece of art and demonstrated how to tell a story behind that artwork. In the final presentation, you had to choose one artwork and spend three minutes describing it and telling a story behind it—and it’s best to link to some of your own stories. I chose a wall drawing by Sol Lewitt, who also has artwork in Evans Hall, and related it to my engineering and operations and design life. It’s two-dimensional, and there are a lot of curves. It looks like there are no rules, and I describe it as my life: It looks like a mess, but there is a plan!
Interviewed on March 3, 2017