Julia Yu
Julia Yu is a Weekend MBA class of 2018-19 student. When joining Imperial College Business School, Julia was working as a Product Manager at ZARA, Inditex Group.

Professional background

Shortly after having completed my undergraduate studies in Hong Kong, I began my career in the retail industry. Having managed several European contemporary brands, I was invited to join Versace to manage two young product lines and launch their initial wholly-owned stores in Asia Pacific. During this period, I worked directly with the brand’s headquarter to identify the best product and sale strategy for the Asian market. This opportunity enhanced my in-house luxury brand experience. Thereafter, I moved to Shanghai to join a startup team and established an online luxury outlet platform. Working directly with the founder, we successfully partnered with over 1000 globally-renowned luxury and fashion brands. During this period, I focused on negotiating contracts, generating pricing strategies and social media promotions, arranging logistic needs and campaign advertisements. The breadth of my experience opened my eyes to the fascinating, yet fast-paced world of e-business and entrepreneurship.

After having an impact on the company’s growth, I joined ZARA at the Inditex group in Shanghai. Having worked for the central business, I was nominated to continue my journey in the product department at the group’s headquarters in Spain. Currently, I focus on product development and distribution to China. I enjoy the nature of the work very much as it allows me to utilise my previous experience in both online and offline retail to perform end-to-end brand management. My career started in the retail front line by managing stores; I then transitioned to the back office managing the product, the direction of the brand development and concrete sales strategies.

Choosing the Weekend MBA and Imperial College

I believe an MBA is a valuable asset when aiming for career advancement and personal development. I completed my undergraduate studies in Social Sciences, thus I lacked business knowledge to take my career to the next level. I always wanted to pursue my MBA, however, instead of doing it right after my graduation, I decided to focus on my career advancement. By obtaining additional years of professional experience, I am able to not only contribute to my cohort, but also to my organisation. Furthermore, from a personal point of view, I was looking for an MBA that would enrich my personal development.

Imperial’s Weekend MBA programme was the ultimate fit for me as it allows me to pursue my MBA dream without putting my career on hold.  Despite many other part-time MBA options, the Imperial Weekend MBA resonated with my work schedule due to its flexible and blended format. Furthermore, Imperial College Business School is the ideal environment for personal and professional development, and the weekend programme itself already is a challenge of time management.

Weekend MBA experiences so far

Since I did not have much prior business education, every topic that has been covered so far has been completely new to me. One of my favourite classes is Managerial Economics with Professor Jonathan Haskel; he is brilliant! He is very engaging and has the unique ability to teach complicated concepts in a fairly uncomplicated manner. The Organisational Behaviour module has proven to be very insightful. Professor Jonathan Pinto is very energetic and as we navigate through the topics, he fills the classroom with humour, which is very much appreciated during the long weekend sessions. Decision Analytics has also proven to be very practical when assessing inputs, outputs and learning to make decisions in an analytical yet pragmatic manner. Similarly, Financial and Management Accounting has allowed me to understand the language of business. Prior to commencing the module, I had very little knowledge about accounting and I can confidently say I now understand one of the core business functions.

The faculty

The faculty has proven to be very responsive to feedback. When students speak up and revert feedback, the faculty has clearly taken it into consideration and acted quickly. An MBA is a large investment in every sense of the word, thus getting what you expect is a crucial component and I am very grateful.

Cohort

My cohort is full of very brilliant, successful and above all, ambitious individuals.  Since the induction week, everyone has been open-minded and extremely helpful. People draw from their strengths and experiences and help each other when needed. Apart from the academics, we have social events such as multicultural dinners, which help us gain exposure into our different cultural backgrounds. It has also been a great way to socialise and network in a casual, yet professional way that offers a life-study balance. From my personal point of view, meeting such dynamic and career-driven individuals has been one of the key takeaways from the programme. In a short period of time, I can confidently say that I have gained friendships that will last a lifetime. I have no doubt that these MBA friendships will certainly prove to be an asset in the future.

Juggling the work life balance

Balancing the MBA, work and a social life has proven to be extremely difficult. Early into the programme, you learn to value and maximise your time. Time management has become a crucial component of our lives as you really need to block out time to focus on your studies. Nowadays, I find myself reading for modules whilst I am commuting to work or during my lunch break. Weekends almost always include study time as it is the time when I can truly devote long uninterrupted periods. The structure of the programme really teaches you to prioritise what is most important at a specific point in time. For most of us, work and the MBA take top priority, regardless of the order. For others, family may come first, thus it is important to set your priorities and plan accordingly early into the programme. With the pace and level of content, you do not want to fall behind.

The London factor

London is a multicultural hub, there is certainly no doubt about it. Studying in London has opened my eyes to the world from a personal and professional perspective. The city, its vibe and its people have allowed me to self-reflect on not only my career, but also my personal ambitions. I don’t believe any other European city can offer what you can achieve in London.

Coming to London reminds me of my time in Hong Kong, thus in a sense, it feels like I’m coming home. Furthermore, we have a lot of students that commute into London for the weekend sessions, thus the city has become a part of our common bond.

Imperial opportunities

In just a few months, being associated with the Imperial brand has opened many opportunities. Recently, a group of Imperial MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management students reached out to me for insights into the retail industry as they are preparing their start-up and ZARA could be one of their potential customers. Representing my organisation in an academic setting felt truly rewarding. I was not only able to contribute to their research, but I also expanded my network and gained an insight into a Master’s cohort.

Career and professional development

My career goals are very clear to me – I want to continue developing my career within the retail industry. I hope to combine my experience in online and offline retail to innovate in different ways to drive brand management and the retail business. Given my Chinese background, I would like to create online and offline platform channels to enable European brands to successfully enter the rapid-growing retail market in China.

As a Weekend MBA student, you have full access to the Careers services, and after an introductory meeting, I was given new approaches to start thinking about my career development and building my networks. In addition, the personality tests that are a component of the Personal Leadership Journey really emphasise your strengths and areas of improvement. Since personal development is one of my main MBA drivers, this module has enabled me to have a hard look at myself and identify my areas of development.

Advice for Prospective Students

It is very important to come into the programme with the right expectations. You must have stamina and a clear mind to come to the classes to enjoy the learning atmosphere. The MBA is a remarkable journey; you will be constantly challenged, inspired and amazed by your classmates’ achievements and ambitions. The journey goes much farther than just grades, come to the MBAs with an open mind and soul, and be open to new friendships. It is an amazing environment to learn, obtain confidence and gain new perspectives. It is truly an enriching life experience.

Role
Weekend MBA
Nationality
China
Undergraduate education :

Bachelor of Social Science, Hong Kong Baptist University

Current position :

Product Manager, ZARA, Inditex Group