Directing Business Innovation From China

Director of Business Innovation and MBA alumna, Amy (Bing) Chen.

As part of our interview series with the female heroes of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) we spoke to Director of Business Innovation and MBA alumna, Amy (Bing) Chen.

Ms. Chen is currently Director of Business Innovation for Daimler Greater China. Before joining Daimler, she was Project Director of Business Development for AES Corporation in China, during which time she led M&A efforts and established partnerships with prominent energy companies.

While working for McKinsey & Company Germany, she gained extensive consulting knowledge on strategic topics across Europe and North Africa. She also worked in the USA before for Motorola, Inc.

Ms. Chen holds an MBA from RSM Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and a BA in International Finance from Renmin University of China.

We spoke to Ms. Chen about her career so far and her motivation for studying for an MBA.

TNW: You are currently working as Director of Business Innovation at Daimler Greater China. What do you believe is the key to fostering innovation within a large corporation?

AC: The very essence of innovation is that you are doing something NEW and constantly CHANGING which means there is a limited precedence to refer to, but also a big green-field and a lot of new chances and opportunities.

I guess that is true whether you are with a large enterprise or a start-up. 

Not unlike getting VC’s for start-ups, the key is to believe in our idea and convince a lot of stakeholders across multiple functions within the company. The main difference is probably that within an organization one needs to translate new business models into a language that fits the given standards and processes.

TNW: What was your motivation for undertaking an MBA?

AC: I had four years of working experience at that point – half in the US, half in China, and had just entered management within a small investment firm. I always wanted to learn more and grow faster, and I wanted to continue to live in a multi-cultural environment; the MBA sounded like a good solution.

[Okay, so I also met my now husband at that point, who moved back to Europe. I wanted to give the relationship a shot, but still keep going fast at my career – the RSM was the magic solution.] 

TNW: How has your MBA helped you to bridge the gender gap in different cultures?

AC: It’s interesting that you put “gender gap” and “different cultures” in one question. The greatest asset of RSM in my opinion is the extreme multicultural mix.

I’ve made life-time friends from places I still could scarcely point to on a map – Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Columbia, Philippines. When we travelled, we would each be holding a different passport!

I believe the first realization came regarding “different cultures” and how differently the roles of daughter-wife-mother-career women are required or expected. The realization itself allowed me to free myself from the roles I was educated to take since birth. In the end, there is no absolute right or absolute wrong. And it goes from there.  

TNW: Have there been any difficulties/obstacles you faced because you have an MBA, and if so, how have you overcome them?

AC: Not at all. On the contrary, the MBA really opened doors for me – without it I could not have entered McKinsey as an associate, and the experience certainly helped me to find and pursue my way at Daimler.

TNW:  In what way do the relationships you have with classmates or other RSM alumni add to your professional life?

AC: I would describe it more as how it has added to my whole life, not just my professional life. A classmate of mine who did a summer at McKinsey made an introduction for me, so we meet every year for McKinsey’s recruiting session at RSM.

When I had my wedding in Frankfurt, I had my RSM friends flying and driving in from Amsterdam, Dubai, Milan, and the US. A year later, a similar group got together for a Greek wedding in Athens, and several years later we were back together again in Slovenia.

I admit that I have not met many of them since I moved back to China and became a mother, but we are still connected virtually and they will always be an important part of my life no matter what the distances involved.

TNW: What advice would you give to a woman choosing to do an MBA programme today?

AC: Enjoy!

TNW: You have worked in Europe, the United States and China. How has this experience informed your approach to business? What did you learn from the various cultures you’ve encountered in your professional life?

AC: The best approach is to act and talk like an American; think and plan like the Germans and be practical and flexible like the Chinese!

Jokes aside, in an ideal world, business is business wherever you conduct it. I feel lucky that because of my experience, I can contribute to the cross-cultural “translation”.

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