Susan Cheng (Shu Cheng), a student in HKUST’s Part-Time MBA Program (Bi-Weekly Mode) graduating class of 2020, a senior manager at Lincoln China, responsible for training and supplier improvement.
The path of personal growth has always been a multifaceted one, which is built on experiences, perspectives, and lessons, or a desire to reinvent oneself. For Susan, a part-time MBA student at HKUST who finished her studies and graduated in 2020, growth is more like self-invigoration after reaching a certain threshold. To her, it means a metamorphosis, a progression, and a “breakthrough.”
The growth of adults depends heavily on how they approach their comfort zone in the workplace. When Susan realized that she was “working in comfort,” she decided to return to school to gain knowledge that would stop her from being a stereotype.
Through two years of study, she has not only broken down barriers of thinking and expanded her vision but also gained a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges that her industry may face in the future.
Refusing to stay stagnant in the workplace
Susan was a senior manager at Ford China (Shanghai) responsible for a premium brand owned by Lincoln, and had what many would consider a “smooth” career path. She entered the automotive industry upon graduation, and her timeline coincided with one of the most rapid growth periods in China’s automotive industry, particularly in the luxury car industry. This coincidence not only gave Susan a challenging and decent job but also gave her exposure to an elaborate division of the industry. She had her “big moment” just a few years into her career.
“I was involved in the founding of two luxury brands, DS and Lincoln in the Chinese branches, from 2011 to 2014. We had to do a lot of pioneering work, including building a marketing network, participating in brand creation, and setting up new call centers. Because many of the standards were from the U.S., we had to adapt them to the needs of Chinese customers. The whole workflow was long and hard, but it also gave me a wealth of rewards.”
The Lincoln Way, an approach that aims to deliver warm, human, and personalized customer experiences created by Susan’s customer experience team over the course of a year and a half, has been well received by the market since its launch. Now, the Lincoln Way has become an integral part of Lincoln’s customer experience strategy.
Susan has been involved in the development of a number of standards, including Dealership Personnel Image Standards, Dealership Facility and Environment Standards, and Dealership Service Process Standards. She could have sat on her laurels, but she chose to step out of her comfort zone to challenge herself. “I don’t want to stay stagnant in the workplace. Learning is the best way for me to break through,” said Susan.
“Cognitive iteration” at HKUST
Susan’s connection with HKUST started after she gained a better understanding of its MBA program.
“I had two options, to study in the U.S. or to study for the part-time MBA at HKUST. I had been following HKUST for many years and its MBA program fit my needs in terms of ranking, curriculum, and faculty. That’s why I chose HKUST. It was a decision I deeply contemplated. It proved to be the right decision.”
Since January 2018, Susan has been flying from Shanghai to Hong Kong on weekends to attend classes. She has never missed a class in two years, which is praiseworthy for a busy person like her. “I’m motivated because I cherish the chance to learn,” said Susan.
“I spent a lot of time traveling for my MBA studies. On the plane, I felt exhausted but excited because I knew the MBA program would bring me a systematic knowledge framework, an international perspective, and a drastic change to my thinking. It would also help me to improve my cognition and think outside the box while at work. So, I looked forward to the course, including the interactions with teachers and classmates, and I cherished every learning opportunity.”
Before coming to HKUST, Susan considered studying in the U.S. She wanted to expose herself to diverse business cultures and understand the commonalities and differences of different markets against the backdrop of economic globalization. The MBA international exchange program of HKUST met her requirements, eliminating her thoughts to study in the U.S.
“I participated in an International field trip co-hosted by HKUST and the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, and it was an impressive experience. Many people may think that Russia still has an energy-intensive industrial structure. If not for the interaction with local officials and business leaders, we would not have had the chance to learn about the achievements of Russian state-owned investment banks and large energy companies in AI and other fields.”
Learning is a layered process. Over the last two years, Susan has upgraded her knowledge system, thinking, and vision through the bi-weekly MBA program, which has given her enough confidence to meet the opportunities and challenges brought by her changing work environment.
Brave and tenacious skier
Susan loves to travel and enjoys sports, and she is especially passionate about skiing. “When I started skiing, I didn’t even know how to get off the lift, so I basically fell down all the time. Then, I gave up on using the lift, walked halfway up the mountain, and then skied down. That’s how I learned to ski.”
Susan admires people who are optimistic, persistent, and energetic in life, because “some landscapes are only open to those who are brave enough.” She tirelessly treks in the snow with her heavy skis to see the beautiful scenery at the top of the snowy mountains. She is both a persistent skier in the snow and a calm and diligent thinker in the workplace. She applies the knowledge she learned from her MBA classes at work and thinks deeply about the competitiveness of enterprises and future opportunities in the industry.
In a fast-changing world, people usually put efficiency first and lead a hectic life. Susan is an exception. Willing to challenge herself and grow, she also appreciates the joy of a slower-paced life. Because of this, she is able to remain calm and relaxed at work, patiently waiting for her moment to blossom.