Unlike some, when Jo Feng, EMBA ’11, started her executive MBA program, she wasn’t looking to change jobs. The year was 2010, and Feng had just been promoted to marketing director of a business unit of AstraZeneca China, a pharmaceutical company, where she oversaw more than 2,000 people.
“I thought I would do that job forever,” Feng says with a laugh. “Then I would retire.”
But she wanted to earn a master’s degree. And since her undergraduate work had been in medicine — she’d even worked as a neurologist for three years before making the leap to pharmaceutical sales and marketing — she wanted to broaden her horizons and learn more about business.
The choice for a program was easy, according to Feng. Fudan University’s reputation and her own knowledge of the program, since her boss was an alum, led her to Washington University and Fudan University’s joint EMBA program.
Feng remembers her time in the program as extremely busy. “I didn’t do anything social at all,” she recalls. “I’d just do my job and study.”
But it was worth it. The graduation ceremony was in St. Louis on Washington University’s Danforth Campus in Graham Chapel. “My husband was there together with me. He saw me on the stage get my degree from the dean, and he said he was very proud of me. In China, we don’t see this type of chapel often, and the ceremony made me feel like ‘Wow, this is a great thing I have done.’”
There were other benefits as well, she says. “The program helped me broaden my perspective. I think it’s useful to be open-minded,” Feng says. “ And sometimes a chat with my classmates would give me new ideas for my own area.”
Feng’s classmates inspired her in other ways, too. Her friend Qing Wu, MBA ’11, took up running while she was in the executive MBA program, and Feng started running herself in 2013. A year later, she competed in a Gobi Desert Challenge, an annual competition that pits EMBA graduates from China’s top business schools against each other in a three-and-a-half-day race across the Gobi desert. The section of desert that they run has been called an “800-mile-long river of quicksand.”
“I didn’t know I could run,” Feng says. “But you don’t know your full potential if you don’t try.”
That became Feng’s attitude in her career as well. In October 2014, a job with AstraZeneca in the United States opened up. Previously, Feng would have turned down such an opportunity due to uncertainty regarding her language skills and navigating a workplace outside of China. But now she thought, “Why not?”
After discussing the position with her EMBA classmates, Feng went for it. By 2015, she was working in Maryland overseeing AstraZeneca’s global product and portfolio strategy in the areas of infection, neuroscience and autoimmunity.
Feng worked in the United States until 2017. When she returned to Shanghai, she was offered her current position as general manager of AstraZeneca China.
“If you had asked me back in 2011 if I would do any of this, I probably would have said no,” Feng says. “But being in the EMBA program taught me to always explore my potential.”