Ruby Chen is deputy director of executive education at Ceibs in China, which she joined in 2011. Prior to this, Ms Chen worked at Peking University Guanghua School of Management and spent 17 years at McKinsey. Her roles during her time at McKinsey include organisation specialist and director of the McKinsey Leadership Institute in China. She also completed the company’s mini-MBA programme.
Ms Chen grew up in central Taiwan. In her spare time, she enjoys producing films. She is the co-founder of CNEX, a non-profit foundation focused on the production and promotion of Chinese documentary films. In 2001, Beijing Bicycle, a film she produced with her husband, won an award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
1. What is an average day at work like?
If I am in town, I get into the infamous Beijing traffic around 7.30am to go to campus. I will then either get on a conference call or work on the computer to scan for urgent emails. During the day, I work with my team in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. I may drop-in on any executive education programmes; I sit at the back to “feel the air” in the room, then talk to participants during the break. On my way home, I typically spend time talking to my CNEX staff in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei, answering their questions via WeChat, or on phone calls and having Skype meetings if needed. I also stay close with my Mom and other family members in Taipei via a WeChat family group we’ve set up. Evening is family time with my husband and son, typically after dinner I spend my time either having a fireside chat with family or watching movies and reading a book.
2. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love problem-solving. I enjoy most the excitement of meeting and overcoming different challenges presented in China’s fast-developing economy. There are always many learning opportunities as we work with various type of executives, the brave risk-taking entrepreneurs, the cautious professional managers, the young innovators, the successful start-ups, you name it. I always feel that I’m so blessed to have had opportunities throughout my career to be at the most exciting time in the most exciting places.
3. How do you deal with pressure?
I’ve found the best solution is to get things done with a sound plan ahead of time, while being flexible and ready to adjust when needed; to build a strong team around myself, tolerate mistakes but continuously push for improvement. Thinking out of the box and always remembering to take a ‘balcony’ view are two important things I always do. Yoga and meditation also help to balance both my mind and energy.
4. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
I’ve never thought about this. Perhaps give everyone a day off to sit in the woods, next to a clean and beautiful lake or river, to enjoy fresh air and meditate to purify and re-energise their mind.
5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
There have been many stories in my life that prompted me to believe that one should always treat others with a genuine warm heart and empathy and try to give help whenever possible, wherever you are and whatever you do. This not only gives me peace of mind, but has also helped open many doors for me and continues to bring me enormous satisfaction in daily life.
6. What advice would you give to women graduating this year from business school?
First clarify what really matters in your life and never forget that in whatever you do, you should try to be open to different career opportunities, give yourself the time and space to try out a few things. The people around you are the most important aspect of your learning and happiness.
7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I say what I mean. I think about what is behind everyone’s words and behaviour, understand their incentives and find common interests to get things done in the best way we can find together – men and women alike.
8. What is the last book you read?
I’ve been reading three books simultaneously these past couple of weeks. One is a recently published book by Ceibs Baosteel chair professor of economics Wu Jinglian in which he discusses reopening the reform agenda in China, the second is a book about films by Yasujiro Ozu, and the third is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would probably enjoy doing it all over again, but twist some moments that I regret such as spending a bit more time with my father and I would be warmer to some of the people I met during the journey – there were times that I was too self-focused. One thing that I would definitely do is to always leave time for sports and exercise every week.
10. What are your top tips for networking?
I’m not particularly good at networking, but I believe it has to be done within one’s own capability; you can’t just network for the sake of networking. Most people want to build a meaningful relationship.
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