2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Eunsoo Johanna Jeong, INSEAD

Eunsoo Johanna Jeong


Age: 41

“I’m a true third – culture child, trying to stay open-minded for all cultural and individual challenges in the international working environment.”

Hometown: Frankfurt, Germany / Seoul, South Korea

Family Members: Parents, Sister

Fun fact about yourself: My favorite playlist includes extremely different and diverse genres of music – Classical Opera, Orchestral Music, but a larger contribution comes from HEAVY metal and punk!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Yonsei University, Seoul

Double Major, BA in Psychology and English Linguistics and Literature

Where are you currently working? La Prairie Group (under Beiersdorf), Regional Business Development Director Asia and Oceania

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: In my college years, I did work as German and English interpreter Volunteer during the World Cup 2002. On a regular basis, I volunteer and support for abandoned animal shelters. I also do career coaching or advices for young women working in cosmetics, retail, and luxury sectors – hoping that we can see more female leaders in this industry and hoping that I can be of a help.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I want to give myself credit for being able to hold up to the tight schedule and workload (study load) to manage in difficult times – basically managing the studies so far. But I remember also the joy and sense of achievement when our team’s proposal on real-life strategy challenges were ranked first place by the Port of Antwerp, it was so rewarding after numerous sleep deprived nights with fellow classmates, it was a really intense and physically challenging task. Hopefully more of these experiences are to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Overall, I’m proud of myself to have been able to work up the ladder, starting from fresh graduate as a Product Manager in a local market up to where I am now. I learned to be flexible, both in management styles and communication styles, depending on what role I serve and what the cultural context is. If having to call out some points in particular, it would vary from the different experiences across companies and roles. This includes being able to turnaround a negative P&L to entering a new market and successfully launching the brand in this market which ranked number one at the year of the launch.

My decision to choose INSEAD did not happen by coincidence – the school has very high reputation within the cosmetics, retail, and luxury sector. Thus it was one of my finalists of schools I considered. I have also met inspirational colleagues and leaders throughout my career who are INSEAD alumni which draw more interest. Finally, my I was given an extraordinary experience by one of my past employers, L’Oréal, to participate in General Management Programs with Cedep in Fontainebleau. Knowing that Cedep shares not only a part of the campus with INSEAD but also part of history and teaching fundamentals, it helped me to make the final decision. I liked everything: the small and cozy dorms in the forest, the fresh air, and (of course) the methods of horizontal learning by debating through each topic.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? There are many, but being able to meet different professionals with different backgrounds in different industries gives me personally a fresh eye, after spending twenty years in luxury and retail industry. I am inspired by their experiences and different ways of thinking that gives me motivation to think out of the box and apply this habit and take more innovative approach in problem solving at work.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? It was harder than I imagined and I was constantly fighting with time! Yes, it also applies to single people like me! I just had signed for the current company before I was admitted to INSEAD. Therefore, I had to juggle between adapting myself in the new company and leading a new team when I just started the year – and this happened as COVID was seriously hitting the retail industry. Every day was one of probing process. It could painful when financial decisions came with it, particiularly with an ever-changing situation in the 12 different markets I manage. This means I had to juggle mental pressure to prove myself at new workplace, not to mention a heavy workload and study schedule. I am based in a third world country; therefore, I was not able to travel for the last 18 months, I didn’t see any of my family members or close friends, both in Europe and Korea. It was hard now and then, with the loneliness and fear of the current pandemic influenced the level of motivation and drive. The only way to juggle between workload, study load and home was really trying to keep faith. I started to enjoy simple things in life such as catching up on sleep during a Sunday – as what I lacked the most during studying at INSEAD, was the absolute number of hours of sleep!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? First, decide carefully. Make sure you believe yourself that this EMBA will bring is worth to you personally, as the executive program is much more costly than a normal MBA. Second, look at not only the school reputation itself, but also the mix of the students and their backgrounds. There will be a different mix of industries, and average age differences of the intake; choose a school that you think the networking experience will help you in your current or intended industry and career. Finally, try to enter the program after travel resumes if you’re not confident in being able to sit twelve hours a day in front of the video conferencing screen.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I guess the biggest myth would be that we would believe that we would be back to our brightest time in college life. The only difference is that we would be more diligent in doing all homework on time and do pre-work for classes much better than what we did in college years! After 20 years away from college, I learned my brain had changed to a more corporate-life compatible than the academic-nerdy brain I used to have back then! Funny part was, you still need determination to overcome all the temptations in life and push yourself further.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I hope there won’t be any, as I still have more than half of the program to go! I think though, I would truly regret it if I would not be able to meet all the excellent professors and classmates in person before the end of the program due to COVID as this will be a major lost opportunity. Also, I am hoping to be able to participate in extracurricular activities which hold me back right now. There are things that you can only experience when you are physically on campus – and I know this time and opportunity will not come back.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Zachery Brown. Of course, all classmates in our cohort are special and incredibly smart. However, I always felt that Zach has something special. During our short morning catchups that the professor facilitated for us, he shared his unconventional background and why he joined the program. He has deep insights on every topic beyond the surface of the study topics. I truly felt he looks at fundamentals and sense of purpose of things when we study – which I think comes from real experiences in life, and also something that we also call ‘wisdom’. In addition to these, I admire his openness to things, the pureness of his curiosity on every topic and his friendly approach to everyone.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? In fact, I had started a MA program right after graduating university (and also a regular MBA program in my mid-twenties). I could not finish due to not being able to manage work and financial challenges. Therefore, an MBA was always sort of a bucket list item or an “unfinished business” item on my list. To complete this, I did not want to take compromises to do part time or online.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Purely focusing on career track, I also want to keep the vision and ambition of being able to climb to the top of a brand or a company. However, looking at the ‘how’ angle, I want to be an International leader of a business who has not only proven track record of leading financial successes. In addition, I want to be someone who has enough human sensitivity to be able to lead a culture of being inclusive and integrate diversity. On top of this, it would be great to become an inspirational female leader to open more gateways fostering more women in the business and support them.

What made Johanna such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Johanna was highlighted as a strong candidate through all the admissions process and identified as a solid marketing expert. She started her career in local market commercial role, as product manager at Body Shop and since has occupied various international leadership roles at global beauty companies including Estee Lauder, L’oreal, LVMH, & Cj. Johanna has a great international exposure, was born and raised in Germany, studied in Canada and has been living in Hong Kong for the past 7 years. Johanna is fluent in German, Korean and English.”

Teresa Peiro
Associate Director of Global Admissions, Degree Programmes at INSEAD


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