Yaping Wang
Home Region

Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Undergrad Education

Peking University, 2007

Previous Experience

Mars Inc.

“What really excites me is talking to customers, finding out what chocolate means in their lives.”

After completing bachelor's and master's degrees that positioned her for a life of research biology, Yaping Wang decided to study….deliciousness.

"I discovered that my passion is less about research and more about applications and business, more about working with people," Yaping says. "I wanted a job in an industry instead of a PhD."

For more than eight years, Yaping worked for Mars in Beijing, conducting research for product innovation. "I probed for consumer insights, then helped translate those insights into new products and worked with engineers on manufacturing – a full cycle of development." A typical cycle would take one to two years. "I like seeing what we've developed come to market," says Yaping. "What really excites me is talking to customers, finding out what chocolate means in their lives: joy, connecting with friends."

Reaching beyond technology

With four years' experience addressing the Chinese market, and another four expanding to the global landscape, Yaping recognized a desire for a new direction. "As I moved from execution to strategy, I needed more than a technology lens," she says. "I needed a business lens to make recommendations for leadership: planning road maps, choosing products for development, differentiating and positioning the brand. As a manager, there is so much to learn in order to lead and empower teams."

As a practical matter, Yaping's educational and career experience were not sufficient "to take me beyond candy to look at health care and biotechnology. I knew that business school could help me make the transition."

On a personal level, taking the time to pursue her deepest potential had a larger, intergenerational significance. "I went through a lot of reflection after I became a mom," Yaping says. (Her daughter, Evelyn, is now five.) "Women shouldn't always have to compromise on a career. I saw my own mother's regrets, and I want to be a role model for my daughter."

First, HBS appealed to Yaping for its general management focus. "I'm not interested in being an investor," she says, "but in being a general manager."

But again, there is a more intimate dimension to her choice. "I tend to be introverted," Yaping says. "The case method helps me practice making arguments on the spot without advance planning. It's essential to be engaging to be a leader – I want to be more comfortable with that. The section experience helps. It's a safe environment where everyone can take risks. I feel so welcome and included!"

The challenge has not always been easy. Midway through her first semester, Yaping sought free coaching from HBS that helped her speak with greater confidence. "I think being comfortable reaching out for help is an important thing to learn; it doesn't have to be associated with being weak."

As Yaping prepares for a summer role in biotech and subsequent leadership opportunities in the industry, she reflects on the virtues of her present experience. "The deep personal connections made here are so much more than 'social activities' – I learn so much from my classmates."