2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Ryoun Chung, Indiana University (Kelley)

Ryoun Chung

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business-SKK GSB Executive MBA

“One who believes the phrase, “The effort will never betray you.”

Age: 47

Hometown: Kyounggido, South Korea

Family Members: Me, my wife and a 15-year-old son

Fun fact about yourself:  I have a routine of constantly nagging my family about not keeping the house tidy while getting told off by my wife for not separating recyclables from trash.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Executive MBA from Indiana University Kelley School of Business
  • Executive MBA from SKK GSB, Sungkwunkwan University Korea
  • Bachelor of Arts, Korea University

Where are you currently working? (List Company and Role) I have worked for Amazon Web Service (AWS) as an account executive for the public sector since October 2019. After being in a comfort zone for 20 years, it was an easy decision for me to step out of it. Previously, I led commercial territories and service business in Ericsson-LG enterprise before joining AWS.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: It is my great honor to be one of the winners for the Academy Excellence Award from Executive MBA of SKK GSB and Indiana University Kelley School of Business. It was extremely challenging, both physically and mentally, for me to balance work and study when I just started my career from AWS at the end of the MBA course. Without the encouragement and cooperation of my colleagues and the advice and help from professors, it would have been impossible for me to complete all courses with great results. I’m also very proud to receive the Silver Award for Applied Business Project carried out with other team members (Eunyoung Lee, Changha Woo, and Bumsoon Hwang). It was a project that used abandoned farmland to increase agricultural productivity and contribute to creating wealth in rural areas. We were able to come up with practical solutions to the problem by leveraging relevant skills we gained from EMBA and our professional experiences. I hope my team can raise seed funding and further develop this idea in the future. Above all, landing on my dream job at AWS was the best result of my EMBA program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? (And why?)  It has been a privilege that I have been able to work with great managers, colleagues, and customers throughout my career. I’m proud of earning the LG Excellence Award twice, despite coming from a liberal arts academic background with a lack of IT knowledge. My customers and colleagues pushed me to get out of cradle and constantly acquire new knowledge in IT. I could not help but study all the time so that I would not let them down. This has led to my career progress and eventually joining one of the world’s leading IT companies. This brings new challenges as I deal with heavy regulations and competition in the business areas where I am responsible. I will never stop being curious and I welcome the challenge.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One of my extracurricular activities is to actively participate in the Wellness Club, the purpose of which is to promote the health of its members. Major activities include exercising together for indoor activities – such as rock climbing, badminton, swimming, and gym sports – and for outdoor activities – such as cycling, hiking, power walking, golf, and tennis. In this club, we decide quarterly the plan for activities to do together. Since I am interested in squash, I become a tutor for the squash program. There are 20 regular members of the Wellness Club. We have not gathered often in 2020 due to COVID 19, but we plan to have a golf program for the next quarter.

The most notable leadership role was when I was an employee representative at a previous company. As a leader of 200 employees, I dealt with people problems like poor welfare conditions, salary concerns, and issues around employee relations. I also had to negotiate with the company on matters like its wage pick system, layoffs, wage freezes, and spin-offs. It was painful to discuss those issues with the leadership team. I remember I had tons of meetings and communications for closing gaps between two extreme parties. However, I learned precious lessons from those experiences by understanding the leader’s position and stance within a very close distance.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? =It’s a tricky question to answer as every professor presented great insights to me. The professors in EMBA of SKK and Kelly gave me new approaches to matters that have been left unresolved throughout my 20 years’ experience and allowed me to look at problems from new perspectives. In particular, Jim Wahlen and Suil Pae of accounting, Andrew Lee of macroeconomics, Raunaq Pungaliya of capital market, Jae Ha Lee of risk management, and Sreeni Kamma of corporate finance allowed me to understand the operation of business from financial perspectives that I previously lacked.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? An essential factor in my choice of SKK GSB and Kelley school for the EMBA was the reputation of the faculty members and the curricula. Also, it was critical for me to finish both MBA degrees in a relatively short period of time. Having classes delivered 100 percent in English by named SKK and Kelley professors was another attraction. I am sure that selecting the EMBA offered by SKK and Kelley has been my best decision except for my marriage to my wife.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I experienced my intellectual enlightenment through EMBA programs, and I was so pleased to be able to apply this knowledge at each stage of the company’s decision-making process. It is also a great pleasure to share peers’ experiences, to discuss different ways of solving problems, and witness different leadership styles at close range. With those experiences, we could share our candid camaraderie with peers in EMBA, which I could not feel at any other group in the company. We could talk about each other’s worries and dreams totally free from office politics and stress.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The first subject in EMBA of SKK and Kelley was the management of organizations delivered by Jaepil Choi. Many students took office politics as one of the negatives leading to organizational inefficiencies. However, we learned that office politics can be a lubricant to smooth the works, with cooperation between horizontal and vertical organizations acting positively. Needless to say, every organization suffers a lack of resources to achieve its target. Under the circumstances to compete for limited resources, individuals, or teams need to combat to acquire resources.

The Oxford Dictionary defines politics as “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” If the word “power” is changed to ‘our goal’, we can accept that we do need politics in companies. I was also not positive about office politics, but I came to think that I could be wrong though many MBA case studies. Since then, I have been trying to build a relationship with various departments in the company, and I have prepared short but core messages in case I encounter a chance to meet with leadership to express my projects even within a short period of time.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? For a year-and-a-half, it was not easy for me to handle work, study and being a normal family member. It would have been impossible to complete an MBA course without support and understanding from my family members. My wife also had a job and my 15-year-old son needed sensitive care. Luckily, all family members, including my father and mother, helped me focus on an MBA course. Every Friday, I had to leave the office earlier for the classes and my managers always backed my studies.  Above all, the support and help of my colleagues in the 10th cohorts (especially I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Serom Kim for his sacrifice for the 10th cohort’s academic achievement) bolstered my belated challenge. Everything was miraculous and I am grateful.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? An MBA will surely provide you with new experiences and challenges, but I think the consequences can vary, depending on how you take it. What your MBA can mean to you completely depends on how well you define and track your goals. I would recommend that you define your goals and then assign milestones along with timelines to better achieve the goals in the course of your MBA. You should not think that an MBA degree can change your life or career. It would be correct to say that through MBA you can also change your future. I highly recommend all in MBA programs to participate in both private and official programs actively and mingle with others. I strongly believe that relationships really matter.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? All professors and programs from EMBA of SKK and Kelley were amazing. But I would like to say that you should throw away the belief that the MBA itself can bring the development of your careers. MBA is a process in which you can change in a positive path through various programs, professors, peers, and their experiences sharing. By executing this change by yourself, you can create your own results.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Regrettably, I could not participate in the last residency program in Germany. EMBA of SKK GSB and Kelley provides three onsite, one-week residency programs – the first at Indiana University Bloomington, the second at the Washington Campus of Indiana University, and the third an ESMT MBA course in Berlin, Germany. I would like to recommend EMBA of SKK and Kelley’s residency programs in terms of providing not only experiences of cultural diversity but also deep academic intelligence. However, the overlaps of the schedule for my new company left me unable to attend the last residency program in Germany. It would have been a precious time, to picture my recent memories with my peers who had worked hard for one and a half years if I had been in Germany.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Changha Woo has been a country manager (Korea and Japan) of Yara International, a Norwegian Nitrogen Fertilizer Manufacturing Company, for 13 years since 2007 (when he was 31 years old). Although he was four years younger, I have to confess that I really respect him as a leader and a human being. He was a humble and hard-working colleague who had shown leadership in critical moments. He suggested the project topic for ABP projects and he played a crucial role in creating solutions by diving deep under the process of development on the project, which turned out to be a significant contribution to our team’s winning of Silver Award for the ABP project. One of his great strengths is his communication skill, which shows that he cares for others and always brightens his surroundings with his humor. I am sure that sooner or later, he will be the APAC leader of Yara international as he aims.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…curiosity about people, knowledge, and work disappears and I get used to everything. I was annoyed by myself being stuck in a stagnant life and found myself rolling around my bed on weekends. I could not find any stimulus inside myself, and I felt that my friends were running a little faster than me. I wanted to upgrade my profession through better academic insight and be more confident in my business management.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  My long-term goal is to organize my own business to return my experiences and knowledge to society. I would like to help people and communities in need with a social value-modeled or not-for-profit organization type company. Techsoup, an NPO delivering IT resources to other NPOs for free, is one of the examples for my future business model.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  One who dreams, challenges that dream, tries to achieve that dream, and then makes others dream.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Opening my own business that contributes to social welfare writing books for my descendants to learn lessons from my mistakes and experience.

What made Ryoun such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“I have worked with Mr. Chung for the past 18 months in my role as faculty director of the Kelley/Sungkyunkwan Graduate School of Business Executive MBA program in Seoul, South Korea. Ryoun was an outstanding student, excelling in each of his rigorous EMBA courses, despite the fact that they were taught in English — his second language.

Faculty members in particular recognize and appreciate the fact that he is truly intellectually curious. As importantly, he combines this trait with a strong sense of discipline, in part, out of recognition of his own personal responsibility for his learning and success in life. He has very distinct academic and career goals; yet possesses the maturity that provides him with the ability to readily adjust to both the obstacles and the opportunities that arise throughout life.

Most of all, Ryoun Chung’s classmates and instructors would immediately describe him as a caring individual who is totally dedicated to the welfare of those around him. He is a valued team player and leader who inspires all he meets to share in his commitment to making this a better life for all.”

Eric L. Richards
Chair of East Asian Initiatives
Professor of Business Law
Kelley School of Business


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