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Alumni Stories | Maggie Chen: "Follow the Heart without Transgressing the Line"

November 10, 2020

The Guanghua-Kellogg Executive MBA program has a broad and vibrant global alumni network. To date, it has attracted exceptional business leaders and industry experts from 22 countries and regions. They engage in cross-cultural collaborations that furthers the development of their respective companies and industries. Maggie Chen, a student in the new cohort of GK07, has shared her story with us.

Maggie Chen (GK07, Class of 2022), Vice President of marketing for KFC at Yum China, was among the first wave of pioneers to advance digital marketing, e-commerce, and develop new marketplaces for Chinese retail sectors. Ambitious to overturn traditional methods and never tiring of unearthing new scenarios to implement technology in the business world, she applies her exceptional talent and skillset to digitally transforming brands, encapsulated by her professional philosophy of "Think of the big picture, start with the small, and make it happen."

A Perfect Gift in the Golden Autumn

It was last autumn when Maggie was giving a speech as a guest speaker that she entered Guanghua for the first time. "The afternoon sunshine at Peking University's campus was warm and pleasant, and Dean Liu Qiao's profound knowledge and deep insights filled my imagination as the image of a contemporary Chinese scholar." Smiling at the memory, she remarks how that moment planted the seed of furthering her study at Guanghua in her mind.

For Maggie, 2020 marked an unforgettable year. Facing the pandemic, her industry and company were tested to the limit. Professionally, she also wished to increase her knowledge as well as broaden her perspective to take on more responsibilities and tasks. It was during this period that she encountered the Guanghua-Kellogg Executive MBA. Blending western methods and eastern wisdom, the eclectic mix of Internationalization and Sinification provided by the Guanghua-Kellogg Executive MBA program was exactly what she was needed. She decided to give herself the best gift and joined the program without any hesitation, committing herself to Guanghua's motto of "Brilliant Thoughts".

Grasping Every Learning Opportunity

During the opening ceremony this September, faculty from Kellogg School of Management sent their warm welcome to the new cohort and emphasized the importance of a "high impact low ego" community. This profoundly impacted Maggie as she truly believes that in this unpredictable business environment, it's crucial to control oneself so that challenges could be judged rationally, and action taken promptly.

In the ensuing intensive courses, macroeconomics firstly opened a window into a new world. Maggie developed her understanding of the global economic system and global financial markets, explored the macro-economy and its effects on the real economy, and delved into the professor's rich professional experiences and investment insights. This journey of discovering new knowledge revived a profound joy of learning that she hadn't felt for many years.

Maggie was deeply impressed by the knowledge and inclusive thinking of the professors on the program. "Peking University is the top university in China and is blessed with the country's leading academics. When we had a lecture on the topic of the Middle East and the Islamic world, it felt like the mysterious region was having its veil lifted and its secrets exposed. It was phenomenal!"

Maggie eagerly anticipates expanding her horizons in her GK EMBA journey. "Based on the culturally integral and influential Peking University in China and the truth-seeking and rational Northwestern University in the United States, Guanghua and Kellogg, two top business schools, integrate the essence of East and West into one EMBA program. It is utterly unique and unlike anything else in higher education. This program is an entrance into the unknown, from which I hope to broaden my perspective and explore ways to consider challenges dialectically."

Continuing KFC's Innovative Journey

Following more than 10 years in the beauty industry, Maggie joined Yum! China six years ago and commenced her time at KFC. KFC is an established brand in China with more than 6000 stores in 1000 cities spread across the nation. Its success in localized marketing, operation standardization, and supply chain management have made it a classic case study at many business schools. Already an instantly recognizable brand, how could KFC continue its rapid growth? And how could KFC continue to win the hearts of young people? How could they stand firm and achieve success in every differentiated field of the vast Chinese market? To address these challenges, Maggie is looking forward to getting more strategic inspiration from her study with the GK EMBA.

Upon hearing that "the continuation of China's economic miracle depends on innovation stimulating total factor productivity" in class, she found it just as applicable to brands and companies. How can China's new digital infrastructure help brands upgrade their production efficiency and service models? And how can the rapid development of China's modern agricultural practices better solve the matching of production relations to the supply side of catering? Will the continuous innovation of food technology deliver surprises in cost, quality, and convenience to consumers? And can customized marketing create more demand? These issues are all of vital importance and companies need to implement new ideas by embracing innovation and technology. Maggie hopes to take a grounded and diligent approach to participate in future developments and upgrades, and apply her newly acquired insights to her work even while studying. "Only through thorough innovation and change can we ensure this classic fried chicken chain stays delicious and exciting."

Follow the Heart Without Transgressing the Line

For Maggie, the passage “Follow the heart without transgressing the line” from the Analects of Confucius has always held special significance to her. The heart is like a container. It can hold a countless amount of knowledge, it can hold different thoughts about a single object, it can care about the world, and it can care about the individual. It is its own master. Armed with such a heart, business leaders can become more prudent, objective, perceptive, and empathetic, focused on creating mutually beneficial scenarios. It has been a challenge to balance a busy work schedule with intensive studying. However, Maggie firmly believes that her EMBA journey will help her develop a wiser and more analytical heart. "Maybe I don't have to wait until I'm 70 to reach my goals. In my current surroundings, with everything from my heart, I can be the best version of myself and brighten the lives of everyone around me."

In this tumultuous time of uncertainty and structural change in the global economy as well as China's business environment, we wish Maggie success in achieving her goals on her GK EMBA journey. We look forward to seeing more impactful and innovative international executives and entrepreneurs like her becoming part of the Guanghua-Kellogg Executive MBA program in the future.