Fay Zhao

Nationality: Chinese
Age: 32
Last job title: Senior Product Specialist at Johnson & Johnson
Previous degree and university: Master in Engineering at Central South University in China

Fay Zhao

1. Why did you decide to do an MBA?

“There was a great leader when I worked at Johnson & Johnson, who trusted, authorised, supported and encouraged me to try new things. This is very important for a business. I wanted to become a leader like him. I know all about engineering but wanted a foundation of business knowledge before I could become a real leader and start an organisation that combines these interests.”

2. Why did you choose RSM for your MBA?     

“I quit my job in May last year, and visited some friends in the USA and Europe. People in the Netherlands are friendly and helpful. And I feel safe here too, even at night. I also completed a language summer school in Leiden. I like the academic climate in the Netherlands: It’s very international, and the professors are of top quality and very approachable at the same time. I’ll never regret coming to RSM.” 

3. What transformation in your professional life are you hoping to achieve with an MBA?

“My dream is to have my own business one day, and this is the first step to achieve that. Because I worked with surgeons a lot, I represented Johnson & Johnson in a collaboration with Operation Smile, which does free surgeries for children. This led me to think about life. I really want to help people, especially children. It gives me a lot of sense of achievement. I want to start a company using cutting-edge technology to have a better life. I’m a big fan of high tech. I want to leverage this skill in a new organisation.”       

4. What has been the most challenging so far?

“Some management subjects are tough, but the great thing is that the seven or eight people in our work groups have different backgrounds. For every subject, at least one classmate has useful knowledge and experience to share. Another challenge was to learn how to communicate with the various cultural backgrounds. We had stereotypes in our mind. But personality is more important than nationality. The key to good communication is not to make assumptions, but to be authentic and honest.”

5. How has the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLD) affected you?

“I love this part. It’s one of the reasons I chose RSM. I’ve learned that leadership isn’t about authority. And business is not only about money. Real leadership is when people are willing to follow you, not just because you have power and authority. A great leader should be a great coach: you serve people to succeed and bring out the best in team members.”                   

6. How do you hope the RSM MBA helps you to be a force for positive change?

“In my previous work I heard someone talk about 3D-printing technology to create hands for children born without a hand. I was moved and touched. I wanted to make this, and help children too. So I bought a 3D-printer and did online courses to learn how to use it. Eventually, I made a successful 3D-printed hand. After this hand was ‘born’, I wanted to set up an NGO to recruit volunteers and teach them how to make these hands. But I didn’t know how to do that because I knew nothing about business, strategy and HR. And I need funding, but had no idea how to create partnerships and negotiate. RSM has taught me a lot of business and coaching skills, so after the MBA I will know how to do this.”

7. After the full-time MBA, what does the future hold?

“I want to use my new skills and work experience to ultimately start a company that combines technology and health care to benefit children. It might not happen immediately, but I’m preparing for this development in the future. For now, I’m proud of being part of RSM and I want RSM to be proud of me too.”