2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Yeonjung Park, University of Chicago (Booth)

Yeonjung Park

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Age: 37

“Working mom of two sons aspiring to empower women to achieve their full potential.”

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Family Members: My supportive husband KC and resilient two boys Suho (5) and Jiho (2). Jiho was born two months before we started our program, so my Booth cohort thinks our level of knowledge directly correlates with Jiho’s height.

Fun fact about yourself: I am a wine lover to the point that I studied the world of wines in the past and earned a few certificates. So, my Booth cohort has kindly let me choose wines when we eat out together. Another fun fact is that I am married to a famous plastic surgeon in Korea, so people often come to me for K-beauty consultations.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, Environmental Studies, and Economics (triple major) from Tufts University.

Where are you currently working? I am a Senior Associate at Philips Ventures, a strategic venture capital group of Philips. Philips Ventures specializes in early and growth stage investments in software, services, and technology companies addressing unmet needs all along the care continuum—from healthy living and prevention, through effective diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I have served as an alumni member of the Tufts Admissions Network since 2013 and interview 8+ high school applicants every year. Recently, I participated in the Chicago Booth Executive MBA Info Session as a panelist and am very much looking forward to becoming an active Booth alumna upon graduation. Empowering women in the workplace is another topic that I am passionate about, and I have been participating in numerous women’s mentoring programs as a mentor in-and-outside of work.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I joined the Chicago Booth Executive MBA program right after I gave birth to my second son. Over the course of past 22 months, I have been continuously put into situations where I needed to objectively prioritize and allocate my time and attention amongst work, childcare, homemaking, and Booth. As more working moms in the program deferred, I felt that it is imperative for me to push forward and to succeed. So, I am proud of myself for not giving up and pushing all the way through the program to become a Booth alumna.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was internally recruited to join my company’s global corporate strategy team in 2018, where I was the only Korean among 80+ team members. After four years, I successfully pivoted and joined Philips Ventures in the third quarter of my Booth program. Now, I build out an external venturing strategy and digital health venture portfolio as the team’s sole representative in APAC. I am proud of what I do as I support global healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs to move healthcare forward by bringing a wealth of industry knowledge, network contracts, and expertise to the table.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is so difficult to just name one! I learned so much at Booth but my first professor, Professor Haresh Sapra, is indeed the most memorable to me. His Financial Accounting class is one of the three Foundations courses in the program, so Professor Sapra truly dedicated his time and effort in making sure that each and every one of us fully captured the basics of accounting. Since I had no classroom knowledge in accounting or finance prior to entering Booth, I felt like I really gained a strong business foundation from his class.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose Booth for its distinguished faculty and the same prestigious MBA degree as its full-time program. With three campuses across the globe, the school offers not only a great level of locational flexibility, but also a strong, diverse cohort as your lifelong friends. Booth’s strong reputation in economics and finance also attracted me as I wanted to deepen my knowledge and expand my network in these fields through my MBA.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Chicago Booth is well known for its “rigorous” MBA program and the same applies to its executive program as well. In every class, you face a Eureka moment because professors always push you to go above and beyond. The program is structured in a way to equip students with strong thinking capacity and capability. With learnings from Booth, I am more structured and detailed in my analysis and decision-making process. There is also an immense learning from your classmates, ranging from industry insights to management skillsets, and I took these learnings to my work and applied them every day.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? We had many dads and moms in our cohort, and I was the ambitious mom with the youngest kids. Though I had put in a lot of time commitment to juggle work, family, and school, I quickly came to realize that it’s never enough – especially under such an unstable childcare environment with lots of nanny churn. Throughout the program, I started my day at 7:30am and went to bed at 3am the next day. For the first three quarters when our classes were on Zoom, my newborn son often joined classes with me in a baby sling. When I flew out to take classes for the remaining quarters, I video-called my kids every day during breakfast, class breaks, dinner and I did not miss a single night to say sweet dreams.

My boys and I battled our way through COVID-19, influenza A, and pneumonia together – and as if the universe was testing me to see how far I could go, they all coincided with my final exams. Sometimes stress and lack of sleep got in my way to shut off my focus and motivation. But every time, I had my cohort and professors showing compassion and support, telling me that I can do it because I am YJ.

There was no winning recipe in juggling. I was walking on thin ice, and that ice broke much more than I had expected. But with support from my loved ones, I always got up and continued to walk down my path. It is without a doubt that I was able to do so thanks to my husband and my parents who always believed in me and stepped up to help carry my load.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had an opportunity to transfer campuses for one or two quarters and spend more time in London/Chicago. Quite a few of my classmates did so, while temporarily relocating offices or working remotely, and maximized their Booth Executive MBA experience. It would have been great to have more in-person interactions with such an amazing and inspiring group of people.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Despite all the challenges of juggling work, family, and education, once I decided to pursue an MBA, I wanted to do it “right”. An executive MBA program felt more right for me as the classmates share similar years of work experience and are at a similar stage in life, while still eager to learn and expand boundaries. Though we had good times outside of the classrooms, I truly loved how dedicated my cohort is when it comes to learning and embracing knowledge.

I also thought an executive MBA provided richer career support and extracurricular programming for students and alumni. In fact, I hugely benefited from Booth’s executive coaching sessions and was able to pivot to my current position. So I am happy that I made the right decision to choose the Executive MBA program at Chicago Booth!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to continue to develop my career where I can learn, grow, and have fun with a diverse group of people. I hope to drive meaningful impact throughout my career, especially empowering women. As Booth alumna, I aim to bring a strong sense of commitment to the community of businesswomen, sharing my lessons learned with peers who have doubts about pursuing a career path like mine.

What made Yeonjung (YJ) Park such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“YJ balances her many roles with grace and agility. I have seen her video-calling with her kids early in the “morning and again during class breaks and in the evening, and she is always 100% present for them. And then literally five minutes later, she is 100% present in the classroom or with her study group. To make a career transition such as YJ’s during this Executive MBA Program takes tremendous commitment and perseverance, so I can only assume she is equally 100% present in her professional life.

One of YJ’s admissions essays focused on refuting the claim that there are two types of women who can climb the ladder in the business world: single women or b***** women. In her application, YJ argued that courage, dedication, and proper support play a critical role in the empowerment of women – and YJ demonstrates those qualities with gusto.

YJ never hesitates to stand up for what she believes is right, even if it’s an unpopular point of view. She advocates for herself and her classmates with passion and professionalism. Because of COVID, YJ and many of her classmates were forced to be on zoom for part of their program. For some, zoom classes made it easier to multitask and more difficult to focus – not YJ. And while YJ’s submission above speaks to the support she received, I can attest to the fact that YJ provided much support to her classmates and served as a role model for many.”

Julie Morton
Associate Dean, Executive MBA Program


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