Amee Chande was born in London, UK, but grew up in Vancouver, Canada, where she studied business and psychology at Simon Fraser University. She went on to do a masters at the London School of Economics and did an MBA at Harvard Business School.
She is a board member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Currently living in London’s Notting Hill, Ms Chande enjoys travelling, photography and outdoor pursuits such as kayaking and trekking.
What has been your best business trip?
I was on my first consulting project at McKinsey, based in Toronto. However, our client was in Hong Kong. We agreed to meet in New York City for our first progress review. As part of the team, I flew to New York for the day, had lunch with the client at the Four Seasons, presented my work in a glorious skyscraper and came home that evening. I was 20-something, and could not believe how glamorous my life had become. There have been many business trips since, but none as special as the first.
What is the best piece of advice given to you?
One of my mentors told me that if I did not feel a little scared before starting a new role, then the challenge probably was not big enough, or the decision brave enough.
Who are your business influences?
Working very closely with people such as Lenny Mendonca, a director at McKinsey, and Susan Chambers and Lee Scott, executives at Walmart, helped me learn from those at the top. It gave me an opportunity to see first hand that it is possible to excel at business and still make time for other passions in life.
What is your alternative career plan?
I would love to be a travel photographer. By combining my love of people and travel, I would want to photograph people in their natural surroundings. Capturing the unique aspects of an individual’s story would be satisfying on many different levels.
Which websites/apps would you recommend for businesswomen?
I would love to have an app that just turned everything on my phone off — forcing me to take a mind break at regular intervals. Being a great leader is about seeing issues from new perspectives. I really believe that making the time and the effort to engage in non-business pursuits such as family time, reading, travel and the arts makes me a better leader and businesswoman. Note: there should be no way to override “break-time” on my wonderful new app.
What is your favourite business book?
I particularly enjoy reading biographies of leaders — in business, politics or society in general. Learning about the achievements and tribulations of others both inspires me and helps keep things in perspective. An author whose view on business mirrors my own is Keith Ferrazzi, who writes in his book Never Eat Alone: “Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people.”
Why did you choose Harvard Business School?
Business school was about surrounding myself with others from whom I could learn. I chose HBS because the school puts an emphasis on keeping the alumni connected. Some of my best friends, and most interesting business interactions, have come through the organisations I have been a part of. True story: completely unexpectedly while on holiday, I ran into another classmate while speaking with a Voodoo priest along the roads of a small town in Togo. It had been several years since we had last met, but we did not miss a beat in catching up on one another’s lives.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
People. At Alibaba in Europe, we spend a lot of time helping companies large and small think about their business opportunities in China. I love hearing the stories and motivations of entrepreneurs building fantastic British brands, and the passion they have for sharing their story and products with the world. Each one is so unique, and inspiring. I really enjoy the challenge of building a team from scratch; finding talented individuals and transforming it into a group with a collective purpose.
Which business deals do you wish you could have been a part of?
One deal specifically has caught my imagination, and that is the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that came out of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women. It focuses on removing all the obstacles to women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life.
Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?
The agenda for my meeting would be to generate ideas and foster commitment to using technology to eradicate illiteracy among young girls globally. Three individuals who I feel would be willing and able to set the pace would be Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, for her ability to lead and inspire, Susan Wojcicki of YouTube, for being an excellent role model, businesswoman and mother, and sitting on top of the worlds largest distribution platform, and Anita Tiessen, chief executive of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, to represent over 10m girls and young women members across 146 countries. Women helping women — a model in which I have utmost confidence.