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Meet The MBA Heading Up Digital Business At IBM Asia-Pacific

Sojung Lee moved to Shanghai for her MBA almost a decade ago. Today, she’s director for the Digital Business Group at IBM Asia-Pacific


Thu Oct 24 2019

It wasn’t a difficult decision for Sojung Lee—now a high-flying executive at IBM—to make, moving from her home country South Korea to China for her MBA in 2011. “The reason I came to Shanghai was to learn new things and make broader connections,” she says. 

Sojung chose the International MBA from Fudan University. In Shanghai, students have the opportunity to be at the heart of China’s emerging markets, as well as at the centre of global investment—according to the latest figures the city boasts 625 regional headquarters for global multinationals, along with 426 research and development centres.

During her MBA degree, Sojung had the fortune to be one of the first students to take advantage of Fudan’s global connections. Since 2011, students on the program have the opportunity to pursue a second degree during their studies at either Yale School of Management, MIT Sloan, or Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada.

More than 50 Fudan MBA students have had the opportunity to travel overseas and pursue a second degree to date, and Sojung credits her MBA with giving her the global experience needed to succeed in her career. Besides the offer from Yale, Sojung also got a chance to pursue study at LSE when she graduated from Fudan.

Global MBA experience

Fudan's IMBA is ranked 34th in the world and first out of university based b-schools in mainland China by the Financial Times. Fudan's MBA tops the chart in various fields of the ranking: top globally for graduate salary percentage increase and first in China for value for money, career progress, and its careers service.

The IMBA is delivered in partnership with MIT Sloan, offering students the chance to gain insights from both Asian and American business leaders. 30-to-40% of Fudan’s faculty are international, giving students a global view.

As an international student at Fudan, Sojung very quickly discovered the benefits to learning among people from different backgrounds. Today, the Fudan MBA program boasts a 50-50 gender distribution and over 40% of students in the class are international. As over half of worldwide MBA applicants plan to apply to international programs, it’s clear that a global mindset is at the forefront of an MBAs needs.

But Sojung didn’t only get the chance to learn from international faculty at Fudan— thanks to Fudan’s second degree program, she spent a year studying for a Master of Advanced Management (MAM) at Yale in the US.

Sojung is quick to remind students that though the second degree might not be an MBA program, it’s just as rigorous, and just as crucial to your business school experience. “On the MAM program, we were treated in the same manner as MBA students, but in a different business environment,” she says. 

Because of this, Sojung says, students should be ready to take up challenges on their potential second program and capitalise on these experiences.

“Think of what you want to achieve,” she notes, “MBA programs won’t just scout opportunities for you to try—you have to maximize every opportunity you’re given.”

Excelling in Asian markets

Almost 10 years after her MBA degree from Fudan, Sojung is thriving in her business career as the director of the Digital Business Group for IBM Asia-Pacific, leading digital transformation across client companies. 

Even now, as a seasoned professional in her field, Sojung remembers her time at Fudan and the experiences she had on the MBA program. There, she learned to be “flexible, diverse, and resilient,” she says.

“At the start of my MAM program at Yale, Dean Edward Snyder invited the class to his home for further discussions, so the 13 of us were sitting nervously in dean’s living room,” Sojung recalls. “The dean suddenly called my name and asked me what I thought about Morale Hazard, and I didn’t know what it was!

“I blushed—it was obvious that I was not ready for this discussion,” she continues. “After that experience, I learned to always be prepared before every meeting.” 

Sojung is putting her business skills to use in a highly-varied role, “managing the entire Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand, India, Korea, and parts of Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam,” she explains.

“Every market is different in terms of language culture, the way they do business, and even holiday time!” Sojung says.

“During my time on the Fudan IMBA, I learned how to collaborate and build meaningful connections. Ultimately, I learned that with strong connections and community, we can learn together and help each other.”