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This CEIBS MBA Has Her Sights Set On Sharing Economy Start-Ups

Sarah Northrop is targeting tech start-ups while juggling family with career

Mon Apr 11 2016

The sharing economy is booming. Firms like Uber and Airbnb are securing multi-billion dollar valuations and capturing the imaginations of MBA graduates determined to work in a disruptive sector and drive positive societal change.

For Sarah Northrop, the sharing economy is about sustainability and making a social impact. She’s one of the latest generation of socially-responsible MBA students keen to jump on the sharing economy bandwagon.

Yet Sarah is not your typical MBA student. She juggles family and career; looking after two young daughters while studying an MBA at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), and proving that mothers can be MBA students too.

Sarah ran her own California-based business delivering physical therapy before her husband’s job took the family to China. Now, she plans to return to the US and use her China experience to skyrocket her career to the international stage.

What are your career plans?

I am exploring opportunities at sharing economy, technology and mobile health startups. I'm looking for strategy and business development positions in the US, with a company planning to expand into Asia.

What attracts you to the sharing economy?

I want to inspire people to do more with less, and to respect out earth’s limited resources.

The use of shared resources can help us reduce overproduction of goods, and our environmental footprint, while at the same time elevating the service industry to maintain employment and grow the economy.

How have you found juggling family life with an MBA? 

Having children certainly makes the MBA process more complicated!

I still need to feed the kids, do the laundry, supervise homework and arrange playdates. None of that stops just because I have a full-time student schedule.

However, I am lucky to have found an amazing woman who helps me with housework and child care. I would advise other parents considering an MBA program to go for it, but to be sure to find reliable and flexible helpers to lighten your obligations at home.

How did your family adapt to life in China?

The move to Shanghai was quite an adventure, which my husband and I readily embraced. Our two daughters, however, were a different story.

They were 7 and 9 years old when we came to China and had to leave behind the house that they grew up in, our dog, and their friends. They certainly had feelings of loss to overcome before they were able to experience a sense of belonging or joy. But by the second year here, they were able to relax into the adventure and adapt to our new way of life, and by the third year they began to thrive.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at CEIBS?

I was ready for a career change.

I had hit a salary and responsibility ceiling in the field of physical therapy. My learning pace was slowing down and there was little challenge or growth opportunity left.

I wanted to learn more about Chinese culture from a business perspective and CEIBS offered a program that suited my internationally-focused personality. The school is well regarded and well ranked, and I knew I would be surrounded by classmates with incredible ability and expertise.

Why do you think MBA students are attracted to China?

China is in the middle of a very fast transition where the average Chinese citizen’s level of economic power, education, and international engagement are all increasing sharply.

It’s a country with a population of 1.35 billion and there’s infinite variation in its people, particularly in younger generations. This variation and unpredictability is exactly what makes China a fascinating place to be right now. Past and present are constantly mingling before my eyes, sometimes synergizing and sometimes clashing.

How have you profited from your MBA experience so far?

I have definitely undergone an academic and personal transformation during my short time at CEIBS.

Since I began the program in August, I can feel how much more creatively I think, how much more analytically I see, and how much more strategically I plan. CEIBS has been a great catalyst for my career and personal development.