Mengwen Zhao
Home Region

Shaoxing, People's Republic of China

Undergrad Education

Renmin University of China, BBA Finance, 2011

Previous Experience

Nestle (China), Johnson & Johnson Consumer

HBS Activities

Marketing Club, Consulting Club, General Management Club, Investment Club

“It gives us the intuition that informs our business judgement.”

Before Mengwen Zhao (MBA 2019) arrived at HBS, she had worked for six years with two giant multinational corporations, Johnson & Johnson and Nestle. In a way, HBS represented a chance to think smaller.

"In China, there are lots of local companies that grow fast," Mengwen says. "I loved my jobs with the multinationals and found the work very interesting, but I became passionate about local companies because they're faster and more innovative."

HBS was both a logical choice—and a lifelong ambition. "When I was ten, my father told me that the best school in the world was HBS. That's how strong the reputation is. It might've seemed irrational, but I figured, if I had a chance to achieve my dreams, why not go for it? Also, lots of people from local Chinese companies come to HBS. Going there would help me build connections with the companies I'm interested in."

Expanding beyond specific functions to general management

Reflecting on the HBS curriculum, Mengwen says, "The course structure doesn't just give us technical knowledge; it gives us the intuition that informs our business judgement. We are forced to think. How will you think about business when you're faced with difficult situations?"

Mengwen offers accounting as an example. "Other business schools give you how-to techniques. But at HBS, you learn how accounting fits within overall general management. How do you build a financial structure throughout the organization? How do you form effective relationships with auditors? HBS gives us the big picture for managing our career paths." She recalls an observation from a HBS career coach. "He said that the purpose of this school is not to teach you skills you'll use on your first job after graduation, but what you'll need to know in the last ten years of your career."

HBS has challenged Mengwen's assumptions about leadership. "Before HBS, I thought I had to appear strong," she says. "In Leadership & Organizational Behavior, I learned that you don't need to be the smartest person on the team, but to inspire others. The most important part of leadership work is to bring out the highest potential in others."

This summer, Mengwen will return to China as a consultant with McKinsey. "I want to explore all the time. Being a consultant allows me to explore different industries. In the long run, I can choose one to work for."

Ultimately, Mengwen says, "When I'm seventy or eighty and look back over my life, I hope that my experiences can be made into a story. If you keep doing the same thing, you can't have a story. I want the highs and lows, a story I can share."