Fangfang Wang
Home Region

Chongqing, China

Undergrad Education

Foreign Affairs College, Political Science/Government, 2011

Previous Experience

Mars Food Co., Ltd.; The Brookings Institution (China); United Nations Development Programme

“I had to think about what kind of leader I wanted to be.”

In China, Fangfang Wang participated in a general management training program at Mars Food that allowed her “the freedom to customize my career path.” Through a series of rotating assignments, Fangfang developed a deep understanding of consumer motivations, “what’s behind purchasing behavior and how we can incentivize it.”

She simultaneously acquired comparable insights about leadership behavior. “When I went into sales, I was the only woman on the team,” Fangfang explains. It was a male-dominated, relationship-based operation in which the men would gather in tight-knit circles to “smoke together and exchange insights.”

“For me, as a young woman, it was hard to copy their leadership style,” says Fangfang. “I had to think about what kind of leader I wanted to be. Should I fit in by changing myself or should I provide an alternative perspective for my team? I chose the second option.” Fangfang introduced data-driven analytics and consultative selling techniques to the company. Recognizing chocolate’s value as a high-margin product, she led initiatives to drive demand, including partnerships with other candy manufacturers (“to make a larger chocolate market overall”) and a “chocolate festival” to inspire consumer interest.

Using private sector techniques to reach public sector goals

Earlier in her career, when Fangfang had served as an assistant to the United Nation’s Development Program, she realized that the U.N.’s millennial goals for addressing climate change would take more than public sector support. “If you can’t engage the private sector and persuade consumers, you can’t get more people to use clean technology,” she says.

Fangfang sustained an interest in using private-sector principles to achieve public-sector ambitions while fulfilling assignments at the Brookings Institution and Mars. After four years with the latter, she became intrigued by start-up opportunities in education. Despite Mars' efforts to recruit the best university graduates available for its management trainee program, "our hiring failure rate was high, nearly forty percent," says Fangfang. “I saw a lack of soft skills, such as critical thinking. We had lots of ‘yes men,’ but few people capable of innovating.”

With that insight in mind, Fangfang wants to “work as a content provider to cultivate softer skills in students.” She sees her HBS education as a way “to make myself a stronger leader. The school cultivates the confidence and courage you need to do the things you want.” Although she has compelling ambitions, Fangfang believes that attending HBS means more than just acquiring tools or talents. “If you’re considering an MBA from HBS,” she says, “think less about R.O.I. It’s really about opening you up to diverse intellectual challenges. The personal development here is way more important than the potential economic advancement or return.”