1. What was the main reason you decided to study at IE?
The main reason I decided to study at IE was that I wanted an international experience. Born and raised in the USA, I was at a point in my life where I needed to experience something different. Perhaps due to the usual American-centric perspective, I was always told American schools are the best in the world and I struggled with the decision. The turning point was after a brunch in San Francisco with my Vice President of Citi Investment Banking. She said, “Sharon, your MBA experience is different from undergraduate because it truly should be an experience that you, yourself, define.” To this day, I am so thankful for her words of wisdom. IE was a real pivot point for me.
2. What was the greatest challenge you faced during your studies?
The greatest challenge I faced during my studies was breaking out of the Asian American stereotypical GPA-focused academic approach to learning. I guess I was successful in overcoming this challenge because I didn’t graduate top 5% of my class! But the friendships and relationships I formed, to this day, are the most valuable assets to my time at IE.
3. What has been the primary lesson you learned during your program?
The greatest lesson I learned at IE was, life is what you make out of it. I remember there was this one professor that had a list of items that we needed to pay attention to in a video. After showing the video, he asked, “How many of you noticed the gorilla that passed through?” I think only one person raised their hand. The lesson was, sometimes we are so focused on certain things that we fail to see the real opportunities. Before IE, this was my case. I had a vision of what I needed to do to get into private equity. Headhunters, Reddit blogs, and experts all gave me a list of 1+2+3 to “success.” Although I now work for the largest private equity firm in the world, the course that got me to this point was nowhere close to what I had envisioned. This is life. It was IE that prepared me, to “roll with the punches;” get up when you fall; and identify the real opportunities.
4. How has this program impacted your life?
The program’s greatest impact on my life was opening up my narrow vision of the world. What was once just the USA, my vision of the world is now truly global. I currently live in Shanghai, China and I have lived abroad, inclusive of IE, for now, 6 years of my life, roughly 70% of my professional life. Of course, there are always cultural and language challenges that require me to learn and adjust, but overall I love the experience of working abroad. Without this program, I probably would never have left American soil.
5. What was the best memory you have from the program?
Probably to no one’s surprise, the best memories I have from the program were not in the classroom. I remember I would always go to the Palace Hotel lounge bar with now one of my best friends, literally, in the world. We’d spend hours sipping our cocktails; eating the roasted almonds and olives; while talking about all the concerns on our heart. Despite changes in location, career, etc., it is a friendship that I truly cherish. I guess my concluding word is simply, IE was an experience that changed my life.
Sharon Yuan Chen
IE Woman of the Month-2012 IMBA and Master in Advanced Finance Graduate
Head of Corporate DevelopmentCCH | Brookfield