2019 Best EMBAs: Wendy Ho, Emory University (Goizueta)

Wai-Ee “Wendy” Ho

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

“An insatiable learner, doer and global citizen who builds bridges and lifts those around her.”

Age: A lady doesn’t tell.

Hometown: I currently reside in Atlanta, GA but I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and completed my senior year of high school in New Zealand.

Family Members: My incredible parents Sam & Mary Ho, my brother and sister-in-law Kit & Jessie Ho (and nearly 100 immediate relatives!)

Fun fact about yourself: I once had to milk 200 cows working as a farmhand in New Zealand! Thank goodness it was a dairy farm where most of the actual milking work was done by machine but it was still quite an experience to learn how to keep the farm operations running smoothly. I went on to deliver a student speech at the end of the school year, participate in a 40-hour hunger challenge to raise money for underprivileged children worldwide, and graduate amongst the top 10% of my high school. This was all part of my yearlong scholarship as an exchange student in New Zealand.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Florida State University, Bachelor of Science in Communications, Magna Cum Laude

Where are you currently working? Director of Marketing, CNN

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: In my family, we were raised on the importance of philanthropy and community service. From a young age, I saw my parents help the needy, give to local charities, and lead neighborhood groups. It made a lasting impression on me that giving back is a gift for the giver too. So when I moved to Atlanta for my first job out of college, right away I went about identifying different causes that spoke to me. Leading up to my MBA, I have done the following:

  • Tutored for Literacy Action where I worked with my student to overcome his adult illiteracy and work on his dream to become an EMT.
  • Served many years as a volunteer, board member, and board chair of Culture Connect, a nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrant and refugee families in metro Atlanta thrive and succeed. We operated the nonprofit like a social enterprise, grew from $700K in revenue to more than $2.3M, and enabled individuals to become first-time entrepreneurs and family breadwinners.
  • Sat on the steering committee comprised of over a dozen Asian community groups in Georgia and become a part of a $16.5 million, five-year partnership between the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) to improve health and reduce health care disparities for the AA and NHPI population. The grant was believed to be the largest ever at that time solely dedicated to AAPI health issues.
  • Served on inaugural young leaders’ boards for United Way Metro Atlanta and Young Audiences Art for Learning to cultivate the next generation of board members and service leaders among emerging professionals under 40.

For my commitment to giving back to the community, I have been recognized with “Outstanding Atlanta” and “25 Most Influential Asians in Georgia”.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud to be named on the Dean’s List after my first year of business school, which is awarded to the top 10% in the class. I received a promotion four months into business school, so expectations at work have been dialed up. To be able to balance the promotion while successfully carrying a full class load made the recognition a sweet reward.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I could describe specific moments winning new business or large marketing campaigns, but upon reflecting on this question, I took a step back and realized that what I am most proud of is the journey: building my way up from nothing to becoming a part of one of the most storied brands in the world and lifting others along the way. Coming alone to the US for my undergrad was a leap of faith for me and a big sacrifice for my parents. There I was in my senior year, a starry-eyed student with no family, no money and no connections in the US – just a dream and a belief in myself. By day, I took a full load of classes while applying for PR internships and by night, I waited tables to pay rent. I remember the joy when I landed an internship with Alexander Ogilvy Public Relations in Atlanta. Fast forward numerous years and several incredible jobs later, I am now a director of marketing for CNN where I get to work with the best in the business every day. Along the way, I have been given opportunities to build brands, win business and make decisions on behalf of my company. I have been trusted to lead, and I have been allowed to fail. And because I benefited from the guidance of those who invested in me, I now get to lead and mentor other professionals. I am proud of how I got here, and even prouder of the relationships I built along the way.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Hard to name just one! Among many, Strategy Professor Rob Kazanjian, Finance Professors JB Kurish and Shehzad Mian, M&A Professor Kevin Crowley and Alternative Investments Professor Klaas Baks all have turned this “poet” into a bit of a “quant”! Those were the classes that I dreaded most in the beginning, thinking that I would have a difficult time grasping the concepts, let alone enjoy the discussions. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had an affinity for numbers and modeling. Not only did these professors do an incredible job explaining the concepts, they also taught in a way that brought these topics to life. They instilled confidence and excitement for the course material. Through a mix of interesting speakers, complex cases, and current discussions that draw from the front pages of the news, I was able to immediately connect the dots from the course material to my current job and business environment.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Entrepreneurial Private Equity: it is one of the most popular electives at Goizueta. As soon as I sat in on the first class, it was easy to see why. The class is co-led by two lecturers: Klaas Baks, who is an academic leader in the field of alternative investments, and David Panton, who runs a very successful investment fund. The interplay between theoretical knowledge and practical application bring the topic of valuing, acquiring, and running a business to life in a very tangible way. On top of that, the class always has a great energy and both faculty are very engaging, wicked smart and very accessible.

Thanks to their deep industry connections, we heard from nearly two dozen highly successful entrepreneurs and private equity and investment practitioners. I was always impressed by the stories, humility, and practical wisdom that the speakers share. After all, these speakers lead some of the biggest venture, private equity, and hedge funds in the world. They lifted the veil to give us a peek into how they led their businesses and investments to massive successes. More importantly, their talks were incredibly human, fraught with ups-and- downs, and ultimately heart-felt and inspiring. At the end of each talk, the speakers were asked to impart their “Top 10” wisdom. Three insights were often repeated:

  1. Always treat others right: be fair, have integrity, be generous, and help others even when (especially when) there’s nothing in it for you.
  2. Be really, really good at something: let that be your calling card. Own your craft.
  3. Opportunities are out there for the taking! At some point, you have to leap. Taking (calculated) risks are necessary if you want to reap the rewards. But take heart: you know enough; be confident.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? It was Goizueta’s excellent reputation, the caliber of my peers, and the phenomenal breadth and depth of the executive MBA faculty. I wanted a rigorous program that met me where I was professionally and could propel me forward in big leaps.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? For me, it is the dual opportunity of building skills in myself such as honing an interdisciplinary mind and refining my leadership style while building a network of smart and driven school mates whom I have the utmost respect and pride to know.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Even in an imperfect world, a leader must still make decisions and drive the objective forward. Indeed, it is during ambiguous, fast-changing circumstances where a leader truly shows her mettle. Thanks to my MBA, I have learned to be comfortable making decisions without perfect information and to communicate a way forward so others can see the purpose and direction where we are headed.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Oh, the juggling act started very early in my MBA days! This specific story occurred in the very first month of classes: I had been leading a large brand campaign over several months and involved a multi-city tour and management presentations. The campaign culminated in a 700-person event on a Thursday. I remember sending the final post-event report to my boss, then immediately picking up my Strategy case reading for the rest of that night and I was in the classroom by 8 AM for the next two full days. By Sunday, I was wiped! My boyfriend was so sweet: he made dinner so that I could put my feet up. Looking back, those kinds of days are a blur, but I successfully powered through them by being very present or “in the moment” so I could give the task at hand my 100% focus. I became very good at time management and working efficiently. And especially good at delayed gratification and negotiating: “I can do it… I just can’t do it right now. How about next week or after?”

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That you literally don’t have time to do anything else aside from school and work… Sure, you have added a new commitment to your life, but a good amount of school work can be planned ahead so fun activities with your friends and family can still have a place in your life. Two pro tips: build a great study group that can help you when other areas of your life unexpectedly asks more of your attention; and chip away at your schoolwork: don’t get behind or else it becomes impossible to dig yourself out. That’s when it’s easy to get overwhelmed and panic.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I hadn’t done it sooner.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? So many incredible people to choose from! If I had to narrow it down to one person, that would be Jesse Sladek, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who served on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His kindness and cool, steady demeanor belie a strategic mind and powerful organizational and process skillset gained from his military background. Having worked in several study groups with Jesse, our team always benefitted from Jesse’s efficient leadership and collaborative style. Outside of school, not only does he and his wife Lyn run a busy household with three little children, Jesse is the president of Emory Veterans Association, a student organization focused on providing support and opportunity for student veterans at Emory. Without a doubt, we are a better class because of our veteran classmates like Jesse, Colin Smith and Jason Bell.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I often found myself brainstorming business ideas with friends over dinner!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Run a business that delivers outstanding value to my stakeholders, be it customers, equity owners, employees or allies.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A highly competent person with a kind heart, bold ideas, and always gets the job done.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Design and build a home exactly the way I want it; see the Northern Lights.

What made Wendy such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Wendy Ho epitomizes the model student and business professional. Even with a very demanding job as the director of Marketing at CNN, she has taken full advantage of all the courses available to her at Goizueta and maintained high academic performance. More impressively, she has established herself as a leader and extended herself across all the MBA programs at Goizueta by creating a women’s speaker series. Her commitment to the community outside of Goizueta is equally impressive with many leadership roles on non-profits and community organizations.”

Wendy Tsung 
Associate Dean, Working Professionals MBA Programs at Emory University – Goizueta Business School

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.