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Austin Cai ’25 introducing panelists at a winter social in Beijing

Introducing Our Community to Prospective Students in Beijing

During winter recess, Austin Cai ’25 hosted a panel discussion in his home city of Beijing, creating an opportunity for prospective students to get to know more about Yale SOM and what makes the community unique.

When I learned about Yale’s tradition of hosting winter socials to bring current students and alumni together with prospectives looking to learn more about the school and its community, I was eager to host one of these events during my trip back to my birth city, Beijing, China. I knew the Yale Center Beijing would be the perfect locale for the occasion. When I reached out to contacts there with the idea, they were not only welcoming, but also hinted at a larger-than-expected crowd based on past Yale-related events.

With the blessings and support of the Yale SOM Admissions team, my next step was to find a group of current students and alumni from diverse backgrounds and industries who could act as panelists to share insights about their personal experiences and answer audience questions.

Ultimately, we had more than 120 registrants, and the Yale Center Beijing team exhibited impeccable professionalism, swiftly executing event logistics. On the day of the event, attendees started trickling in 30 minutes before kick-off. As they intermingled over hors d’oeuvres, I acquainted myself with the panelists.

Beijing Winter Social panelists
Beijing Winter Social panelists

The first to arrive was Faye Wang ’24, who brought her passion for leading recruitment at the Consulting Club and her involvement in renewable energy topics. Joining her was a friend, Pengbo Wu ’20, a current product manager for TikTok Shop at ByteDance. The more senior panelists, Judy Zhang ’12 and Mike Peng ’13, added to the discussion with their depth of experience: Judy, a managing director at Cambridge Associates, had extensive experience in asset management, while Mike, the founder of Seas Capital, brought insights from his investment roles at Aplus Capital and Hillhouse Capital.

After a brief welcome message, I dove into questions covering the SOM experience, academic rigor, career resources, and the global community.

When asked about why they chose Yale SOM, Judy and Faye highlighted the unmatched strength of Yale alumni in finance and consulting and how welcoming they are to current students in providing advice or helping with recruiting. Panelists also mentioned the size of the program—specifically that it was large enough for diversity, but also small enough to have ample opportunity to customize your own experience. One point I emphasized was the opportunity for serendipitous encounters with the SOM community and broader Yale college through proactive outreach. Judy and Mike also praised SOM’s commitment to social impact and how doing good for society is at the core of the program’s values.

Other questions elicited jovial anecdotes about how tight-knit the SOM community was. Mike talked about the international trips he took with classmates, which gave him a global perspective that’s proved helpful in his investment roles. Pengbo shared her stories of bringing people together through food, frequently cooking dumplings for dinner parties with more than 50 attendees, which earned her the nickname of “solo catering company.”

When asked about career resources, panelists emphasized not only the effective counseling from career advisors but also from professors and the enriching course content. At SOM, there are abundant resources to assist students in smoothly transitioning across roles, industries, and locations.

The enthusiasm from the audience was palpable. Most attendees stayed over an hour past the scheduled end time to get their questions answered. Many commented on the specificity of the panelists’ answers, which gave them a transparent view of what living and learning at SOM was like. The attendees left the event full of inspiration and encouragement and I, too, felt honored and grateful to host such an event.

Austin Cai is a recipient of the Zhenyi and Charles Liu ’11 MBA Alumni Fund Scholarship (2023-2024)