2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Misun Yang, Indiana University (Kelley)

Misun Yang

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business / Sungkyunkwan University, SKK GSB Executive MBA degree program

Age: 44 years old

“Results-oriented leader with a growth mindset, opportunity explorer to grow both business and people.”

Hometown: Kyunggido, South Korea

Family Members: 18-year-old son and parents

Fun fact about yourself: I’m so bad at cooking that when I ask my son whether he would like to choose between food I made with fresh ingredients or delivery food, he always answers that he will eat delivery food. If there’s anything that I can’t do well no matter how hard I try, it may be cooking!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science, Pharmacy, Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea

Where are you currently working? I’m a director, working for Gilead Sciences Korea as a business unit head of sales and marketing for HIV and anti-fungal products.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: As a part of my job, I’ve been working on many educational projects utilizing social media, YouTube, and other channels to enhance awareness and access of HIV diagnosis for high-risk populations, to prevent them from the risk of HIV infection. HIV is a serious disease that can cause a lot of problems when it’s not properly treated. The infection rate hasn’t decreased yet in Korea unlike other advanced countries so there’s a high unmet medical need. Thus, I’d like to help them live a better and healthier life. Also, helping children in under-developed countries is another thing that I’d like to continue. I have been helping three children living in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka for almost 10 years through World Vision. Recently, I started to sponsor a project for supporting hungry children and sexual-minority runaway teenagers in Korea. I’m happy that I’m able to help those people.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My last assignment of the MBA program, the applied business project, was the most memorable and the project that I’m proud of the most. It was a four-month journey with great teammates, where we developed an application that could help consumers to learn golf in a very fun and easy way on a mobile phone. In the process, we would connect people to buying customized golf clubs through the application. We were fully motivated with our idea and the topic and in the process had to overcome a lot of challenges and also learned a lot in the process.

The most difficult challenge was that we needed to secure a time to work on the project because we all had to work at our respective companies and take classes at the same time. There wasn’t anyone in my team working in the golf industry — as we had different industry experience and backgrounds — but finally, we were able to complete the project successfully and finish off with a great presentation to the faculty members with tireless passion and unwavering perseverance. Over the four months, I had the opportunity to meet many inspiring leaders with different backgrounds, such as successful start-up CEOs, AI developers, and start-up founders. I was able to better understand the overall structure and critical components of the start-ups that I only imagined in my head. It was an incredible experience that will help me when I start a new business. I learned a lot not only from this project but also from my teammates.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Before joining Gilead Sciences Korea, I worked for Merck and launched Keytruda (oncology product) in the Korean market. Lung cancer was the #1 cancer in mortality and there was a high unmet medical need as many patients were dying from lung cancer, especially for those who needed the second line therapy. As the lead for the country launch, I successfully launched Keytruda and established it as the standard of care in lung cancer treatment in Korea with a lower financial burden on the patients. I accelerated its reimbursement approval from more than 24 months to 15 months, which was an unprecedented help for lung cancer patients and their families to get the proper treatment with less concern about the cost. I was proud that I could present a new life to the patients and their families through these efforts. Keytruda became the No.1 product in the Korean pharmaceutical industry.

Another big achievement I’d like to mention is the successful new product launch in Gilead, Biktarvy, a product used for HIV treatment. As the country business leader, I set up the ambitious goal to achieve the world-class launch and I encouraged my team members to fully commit and engage by linking corporate growth with individual growth. As a result, we’ve now become the No.2 country worldwide in its market share. But most of all, what makes me proud is that this new product makes HIV treatment simpler and safer and I can help many HIV patients live longer, healthier, and happier.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There were so many great professors, so it’s a tough question to answer. Every professor who I met in Kelley-SKK GSB Executive MBA program inspired me with great energy and tireless passion. They gave me new insights and allowed me to look back on myself and approach the problems from different perspectives with many real-life examples through case studies. For example, in the business strategy course, taught by Will Geoghegan class, I researched Tesla Inc. and realized that it has a lot of potentials for growth. Thus, I purchased Tesla stocks and made some money on the stocks as well. But if I need to choose only one professor, then I choose Andrew Yi (professor of finance at SKKU Graduate School of Business), who was a professor for my first class, “Global business environment.” It may be memorable because it was my first class in the Kelley-SKK GSB Executive MBA, but he also made it easier for me to understand difficult economic terms. I am so grateful — I can now read articles from The Economist and CNBC with less difficulty, thanks to him feeding my knowledge about the economy.”

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Kelley has a great reputation for its MBA program and its alumni include a lot of great leaders. It’s well-known that it has one of the best faculties with a great curriculum. It was also attractive to have both MBA degrees (SKK GSB and Kelley School of Business) in 18 months.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Have a broad perspective. As everyone has different backgrounds and experiences, the way we approach problems and solve them could be very different. I realized that different perspectives could have a significant impact on our thoughts and judgements and what I learned is that it is important to respect various perspectives. Then, I can make better decisions with a broader perspective. The biggest change at work was that I began making more efforts to understand the perspectives of my colleagues and team members and try hard to listen to their different perspective to find common ground.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education?  It wasn’t as easy as I thought. At least three days a week, I had to spend very busy days with individual and group assignments, and I needed support from my family members, including my son. I also had to leave the office early every Friday to attend the class, and my manager and team members fully understood the situation and encouraged me to focus on studying. I would not have done it without their support. Despite these challenges, I was so glad because I was able to apply what I learned in class right away. In the process, I applied some of what I learned to my work, such as designing and implementing digital marketing through utilizing social media and developing the manual for crisis management and preparing the communication to senior leaders. I think that I had more fun during the course as I applied what I learned in class and could see myself improving at work.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I think the biggest worry for many people who are considering an MBA is whether it is worthwhile to invest their time and money. I was one of them. When I started, I had doubts on whether this was the right decision. — and it was. Looking back on the past two years, I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot in a short period. Especially through the MBA, you can meet precious friends who will stay with you for a lifetime, who are irreplaceable. Graduating from Kelley School of Business – SKK GSB is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? An executive MBA is a program that is mainly attended by experienced people, so you may think that you will prioritize less on studying and just focus on networking, but that wasn’t the case for us. The enthusiasm of the students attending the class was more passionate than undergraduates. There is a lot of studying to do but it’s worthwhile to do so.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I remember my visit to the Indiana University Bloomington campus to attend my first immersion program. I was able to learn and experience many things through this program. The most regrettable thing was that I was not able to participate in two immersions this year and last year due to COVID-19. I hope one day I can visit Washington DC (Kelley participates in the Washington Campus program) and join the immersion program with some of my classmates again.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? All the classmates are great, it’s too difficult to choose one because all they have different strengths and unique talents that I want to have. I appreciate all of them, who became my teacher during the course. Among them, two people inspired me a lot: Dongwon Kim and Seokjin Han.

Dongwon Kim is a person whom I respect a lot. He’s currently working as the communication strategy manager at Philip Morris International. Dongwon was the vice chairman of our cohort along with me. In his role as the vice chairman, he showed great leadership skills during challenging situations. We were impacted by COVID-19 in the middle of our course and there were a lot of uncertainties and difficulties with our cohort and the school. He helped us complete this course successfully by always caring and respecting others and achieving a common ground through sophisticated communication that got to the point. Good decisions made within the given circumstances and developing a win-win solution that gives benefit to both parties is what I learned the most from him.

Seokjin Han is an AI evangelist, working for Microsoft. Even though he is a technical expert, he understands the big picture very well and is intellectually curious, so he always tries to learn more. And he works harder than anyone else, so I respect him as a good leader. Besides, everyone wanted to work with him as he was always considerate to others and put himself in others’ shoes first when communicating.

I believe that all my classmates including these two friends will grow into great leaders in their respective areas in the future.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives?  As an office worker and a working mom, my life was always busy. However, I have a strong willingness to grow and learn and turn into a better person. Therefore, I decided to attend the Kelley School of Business – SKK GSB Executive MBA program. The other reason was that I wanted to apply what I learned to my work. I think it is more meaningful to achieve the outcomes through learning than to learn itself, so I thought it was more attractive to work and learn at the same time.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  I’d like to be a strong business leader, respected by various stakeholders such as colleagues, employees, patients and the community. Becoming the general manager of the affiliate is one of my tangible goals. Also, I’d like to be a leader who helps people to grow, as well as the business. I want to be an entrepreneur who contributes greatly to my community and society. I’d like to live by sharing many valuable things that I have learned at work and the Executive MBA with the people around me that I admire.

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

“Misun (Scarlett) exemplifies the ideals and aspirations of all EMBA students. She brings intense intellectual curiosity in every classroom and elevates everyone around her with her energy and rigor. She questions the status-quo and always challenges herself and her classmates to seek the best way forward, elevating everyone with a ‘can-do’ attitude for unyielding pursuit for excellence. But what makes her stand out the most is her genuine affection for others — her willingness to help and to bring out the best in everyone. With all the sacrifices it takes for students to participate in the challenging program, she led to build a community of learning that can rise to any challenges. She is a valued teammate, a mentor, a leader, and a friend that you would always want to have on your team.”

Andrew Yi, Ph.D.
Vice Dean of MBA Programs
Professor of Finance| SKK GSB
Sungkyunkwan University


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