Yanyan Song, Executive MBA 2019-20
Programme:
Executive MBA
Nationality:
Chinese
Education:

BSc Biochemical Engineering, Beijing University of Chemical Technology. MSc Economics and Administration, Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics. MSc Engineering/Industrial Management, Royal Institute of Technology Madrid

Job prior to Imperial College Business School:

Corporate Strategy Specialist - Head of Pricing, ArcelorMittal

Professional background

I have spent the last 12 years working across various roles in dynamic international environments. My first employer was the China National Petroleum Corporation, one of the largest integrated energy groups in the world. My current employer is ArcelorMittal, the world's leading steel and mining company. I have worked in IT, purchasing, finance and strategy in seven different countries, leading different projects from IT systems integration and financial process improvement to AI driven forecasting. This experience enables me to solve problems with an understanding of different perspectives, while also allowing me to develop new skills quickly. As a result, I have progressed rapidly within my current organisation, reaching the position of Corporate Strategy Specialist - Head of Pricing in less than four years. In my current role, I lead the development of the industry and pricing outlook, help CMOs with the go-to-market strategy, and engage in mergers and acquisitions.

During my career so far, I have developed lasting friendships, built professional networks, mastered languages and professional skills, and gained a valuable MBA study opportunity with Imperial. I won a financial talent of the year 2012 award in Luxembourg, and have been recognised as a talent of ArcelorMittal several times. Among all these achievements, the one I am most proud of is my recent work with Mr. Davignon, vice present of the European Economic Community's Executive Commission in the 1970s, on his OCED (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) speech addressing the overcapacity issue in the steel industry. This speech shared the experience of European steel restructuring in the 1970s, and facilitated the China supply side reform in 2016.

Why Imperial’s Executive MBA?

I decided to study an Executive MBA for two reasons: one is to develop my leadership skills in managing change and technology-driven transformation; the other being to gain perspectives from different industries. I have always been curious to understand how people think and work in other industries, and to learn about cutting-edge developments in different sectors. My past work with research and development teams on artificial intelligence projects made me think about how I might learn to drive technology development and deployment in traditional industries in a more efficient and effective way.

I chose Imperial not only because of its inclusiveness and global academic reputation, but also because of the School’s focus on developing leaders in a tech-driven environment, and the high amount of praise and recognition it receives from the business world.

A unique and rewarding opportunity

The Executive MBA programme at Imperial is unique for a number of reasons. Besides the more obvious factors such as its academic reputation and highly regarded status among business leaders, the inclusiveness and diverse nature of the programme are what truly stood out to me. In addition, the programme’s unique focus on developing leaders in a tech-driven world gives it a significant point of difference over other MBA programmes.

For me, the most rewarding part of the programme has been the amount of personal development I have achieved in such a relatively short space of time. During my time on the Executive MBA, I have improved my communication skills, become more confident when presenting, networked with subject-matter experts and thought leaders, and been exposed to a wide range of projects across a multitude of sectors. All of this, paired with opportunities to gain hands-on experience in developing go-to market strategy for startups, pitching as a startup entrepreneur and developing commercial opportunities has made for an extremely rewarding experience overall.

Key takeaways

My key takeaway from the programme so far has been developing a set of working toolkits for problem solving in areas such as finance, accounting, strategy, and behaviour. By learning how to think in a more structured way and look at problems through multiple lenses, I certainly feel I can now find solutions to a diverse range of challenges. These tools have also given me the foundations required for leadership and negotiation, both of which I plan to take back into the workplace as I continue to develop my career.

Favourite modules

It’s difficult to decide what my favourite module is. I enjoy elements from each of them, such as the levels of interaction in modules like Organisational Behaviour and Managing Negotiation, the lecture content in Strategy and Pricing Strategy,  and the inspirational, enlightening nature of modules like Corporate Innovation and Intrapreneurship.

Another surprising opportunity which I didn’t expect to gain from the programme was the chance to design a startup and pitch it to investors. This was a great learning experience and one which I feel will serve me well in future.

Applying my learnings to my role

There are numerous ways in which I have already found myself using the learnings I have gained during my time on the programme, such as the use of storytelling when developing communications for senior management, learning to resolve conflict effectively and giving constructive feedback using skills learned in modules such as ‘Responsible Leadership and Corporate Success’

I have also had the timely opportunity to synthesise my learnings in strategy, accounting, economics and finance to develop short-term pricing strategies for my company during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been extremely useful.

People at Imperial

I would describe my cohort at Imperial as a diverse, inclusive, ambitious group of individuals who are all working too achieve a common goal, albeit with different motivations and areas of expertise. Working in teams with such a diverse and capable group of people has been a great opportunity to learn how to manage team dynamics, coordinate, and collaborate under time pressure. It has also been a good opportunity to learn from classmates who are subject-matter experts within their fields, or come from significantly different cultural backgrounds to my own.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to take part in various activities outside my programme that have extended my network even further, such as advising for startups with MBA Connect and acting as Business Strategy Advisor for fundraising of the ASHA Centre charity. I also worked on a startup project with graduate students from risk management and computer science programmes, learning a lot from them about simulation and 3D modelling theory. 

In my experience, the faculty at Imperial College Business School have been extremely conscientious and student orientated. They show genuine passion for their work and are committed to delivering the best possible experience for students.

My future career

My ideal vision for my future career is to develop into a thought leader and key influencer in my industry. As for right now, I would say I am somewhat of a thought leader in the corporate strategy department of my particular company, and continually looking for ways to build on this.

Following my completion of the Executive MBA programme, I plan to use the network I have developed, coupled with the credibility of an Imperial MBA, to help me achieve the goal of leading a business function within the next two years. Alternatively, I may choose to pursue a strategic role at senior management level within other organisations in the manufacturing or professional service sectors

London location

I both live and work in London so the location of Imperial’s South Kensington campus is highly convenient for me.

Some of my favourite activities when I’m not working or studying include sampling London’s many fine restaurants, museums, and entertainment venues (there’s an incredible array of musicals, plays, comedy shows and ballets to choose from!). I also enjoy some of the smaller festivals and markets that take place in areas such as South Kensington, Trafalgar Square and Clapham Common to name but a few.

Advice for prospective students on balancing work, family, and study commitments

It is never too late to invest in yourself. For those who need to balance their studies with family life and/or work, my advice would be to stay open and win the support of those closest to you, such as your partner, colleagues, and HR at your place of work. Having these people behind you will not only put your mind at ease, but also allow you to focus on what’s most important when finding the balance becomes challenging. When you do find time to spend at home, focus on the quality of the time spent with loved ones. While at work, take time to separate your attention and ensure sure that projects you deliver remain of high quality and are delivered on time.

Find out if our Executive MBA is right for you

Programme:
Executive MBA
Nationality:
Chinese
Education:

BSc Biochemical Engineering, Beijing University of Chemical Technology. MSc Economics and Administration, Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics. MSc Engineering/Industrial Management, Royal Institute of Technology Madrid

Job prior to Imperial College Business School:

Corporate Strategy Specialist - Head of Pricing, ArcelorMittal