2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Brandy Yu, CEIBS

Brandy Yu

CEIBS (China Europe International Business School)

Age: 41

“An authentic, passionate & purpose-driven individual with a strong growth mindset.”

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Family Members: Single

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a modern & contemporary art collector. I used to run a high-street buyer shop & curate a running gallery.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Shanghai International Studies University

Where are you currently working? Managing Director, Allbirds China

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: GEMBA19 SMT CCT

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being able to give back to society and my community is something I am very passionate about.

Through our Wuhan Donation organisation committee, when we started our GEMBA journey when COVID first broke out. Exactly two years after when Shanghai experienced a resurgence of cases, we donated 490 pairs of “The world’s most comfortable shoes” to Shanghai Tenth People’s hospital’s doctors and nurses, who had been supporting mobile cabin hospitals for relentless hours and had blisters all over their feet. It was a 24-hour “mission impossible” operation during a full lockdown – manpower, warehousing, transportation, inventory and everything else was a logistical nightmare. I’m thrilled that we managed it and that such dedicated doctors and nurses are able to work while their feet enjoy a higher level of comfort and care.

Of course, we play hard too. As an enthusiastic skier myself, I’m glad that we have helped a lot families to enjoy the glamour of winter sports.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of my simultaneous transformation on two fronts. First, I moved from a functional role leading marketing and digitalisation to a General Management role. At the same time, I moved from a very mature multinational organisation to a start-up, purpose-driven business environment. The experience has been mind-blowing. We have pretty much started from scratch to create a fully empowered Allbirds China business growth trajectory, while amplifying the brand’s mission and commitments regarding sustainability. That comes along with disrupting our past legacy and resetting the whole organisation in terms of people, mindset and business strategy. We’ve achieved our highest growth momentum at +88% YOY across the global markets, with an attrition rate of 45% without any channel expansion. The more important aspect of growth means unlocking our potential to bring our sustainability commitments to life within a broader consumer market and value chain ecosystem, ultimately making positive impact on society and the planet.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Our professors in CEIBS maintain a high standard of both academic excellence and professional integrity. They bring substantial and thought-provoking business cases to our attention while elevating the framework to inspire senior business executives.

Dr. Yuhchang Hwang is my favorite professor, although he only taught us one elective module. Still, it was a very enlightening couple of days. He taught us that the ultimate secret to being a great business leader is to do the following: “Do well by doing good. To give, to love, to respect, to create value for your family, the people around you, and wider society.” Also, he taught us the importance of humility, which was defined by the esteem with which you regard others. Humility of learning is also a constant theme that persists across the professor’s classes. This is the true legacy of his teaching that we, his students, can carry forward.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I have always been fascinated by the idea of “Global Citizenship” and “Leadership in a global organization”. On a personal level, I feel that cultural encounters and diversity of experience inspires creativity. Those unknown and uncertain parts of life are always worthy of exploration.

Professionally speaking, for a lot of global companies, the China market has risen to a strategic proposition, not only in its profit contribution but also in terms of reshaping or resetting the frontiers of a business’ future global strategy. The question of how to cultivate effective leadership in that environment is what brought me to CEIBS’ GEMBA program and cohort, where I knew I could find answers. Additionally, the high standard of academic commitment which CEIBS is renowned for added a lot of credibility, something I valued in my decision-making process.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? There are a couple of key learnings I have found particularly relevant in an entrepreneurial business environment:

* Make the hard but right decisions regarding PEOPLE. Easier said than done as we are all human, but make decisions with compassion.

* Start with a clear purpose, and hold onto it firmly. This will help clear your thoughts, and help you navigate difficult times like the current global setting where wars, pandemics, and other major shocks make for a highly unpredictable business environment. Control the controllable.

* Practise active listening in class and in your work. This helps you understand customers’ needs, employees’ needs and stakeholders’ needs, while bringing value creation opportunities.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The dynamics of having all these things happening together actually gave me more energy, which I normally channel into new learnings, taking new perspectives gained in school back to work, challenging how we can do things differently, and exchanging thoughts with my significant other, (who is an entrepreneur himself). This has helped us forge a deeper level of connection that is themed around mutual growth. There are quite a few experiences I could name, like the Capstone Project journey and hanging out on a ski trip with classmates after an intense working period, both of which were quite rewarding.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? It is always started with unlearning, in order to maximise your learning experience. Come with fully open eyes and ears, invite different perspectives, and enhance your own critical thinking. Also don’t be shy of contributing and giving more to your school/cohort and community, you absolutely will gain much more than you’ve given.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I actually studied much harder than when I was in university, because people around you who are even more senior in their business world are so committed and study hard. Then we all get quite competitive and inspired, challenging each other to do better. The amazing thing is our lovely classmates can party even harder, or kick ass on a football match.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The Global Breadth part is somehow missing in the learning journey, as unfortunately our cohort has been greatly impacted due to pandemic. We hope that we can complete this part of the programme post-graduation.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jeanne Wang, who sits at the board of Cansino Pharm. Previously a CFO, post-IPO, she became CMO & CHRO of the company. She is in the same leadership module group as myself. She is so driven and we could clearly follow the path of how her company’s vision came to life and made huge social impact, saving people’s lives during the past two-and-a-half years. She is a very confident and charming character, a loving mom, and a devoted business executive, who possesses a lot of critical thinking capacity and manifests how a China business embarks on its globalisation journey. She is absolutely my role model.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Dedication, focus, and quality learning time, It was meeting people face-to-face in the classroom, at the pubs, and on the sports court. It is all about understanding each other, deepening connections, and also rewarding one’s self with time to step back from everyday business to develop some fresh thinking. When you are not working, your mind is still working.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To become a business leader who connects West with East, making a tangible difference to our shared community, our industry ecosystem and wider society.

What made Brandy such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“From the moment you meet her, it’s impossible to miss Brandy’s confidence, energy and charisma, all of which she utilises to the fullest in both her academic and professional endeavours. In this sense, she displays the hallmarks of a typically effective marketing executive, but there is much more to her than this. She has proven her resilience and versatility by transitioning from her well-established role within Adidas to orchestrating Allbirds’ wildly successful China debut – an immensely challenging and complex task. This is indictive of Brandy’s drive to excel, and her willingness to think differently and absorb new lessons and mindsets. She utilises every tool at her disposal to think, act and lead responsibly, with suitably impressive results. For example, she is a leading figure in her company’s CSR efforts, introducing new sustainability measures and campaigns, while pouring her limitless energy into making them successful. This admirable attitude of wanting to ‘give back’ is mirrored in her tireless CCT (Class Committee Team) efforts and her coordination with the GEMBA Office to share Allbirds’ experience of debuting in China with the rest of her class. Brandy has been an invaluable member of the class, enriching the experience of her peers while ensuring that she learns as much as she can from the program.”

Professor Bala Ramasamy
Associate Dean and Director of Global Executive MBA Program


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