Alumni Footprint Series, An Interview with Hung-Wen Lee (Taiwan)


Name: Hung-Wen Lee (Gray)

Year of Graduation: 2017

Nationality: Taiwanese

Country of Residence: Netherlands

Current Employer: Nutreco


My background can be considered as “non-traditional” for an MBA graduate. I studied biological science and got my master’s degree focusing on aquaculture. The idea of pursuing an MBA firstly came into my head when I was in college. At the time, my motivation was quite unique – I wanted to start a shrimp farms enterprise. Fulfilling my dream of becoming a shrimp farm entrepreneur consisted of two parts for me. One part was to understand the technology required to maintain shrimp farms and the other part was to understand the commercial side, how to keep an enterprise running and get revenue. I could get the technical knowledge from my master’s degree in aquaculture but for the commercial part I would need to get an MBA to learn that in a structured and comprehensive way.

However, I gave up this shrimp farm entrepreneur dream soon after I entered my graduate school – I felt it involved too much labor work and was too socially isolated. I also stopped thinking about doing an MBA accordingly and went to start my corporate career in sales and marketing, working for a year in a local Taiwanese food company and another 3.5 years in German chemical company based in Taipei. The idea of doing an MBA didn’t disappear completely though, it gradually came back to my life plan again when I realized that I would not be fulfilled if I continued the life that I had. There was still a lot I wanted to know about how a big organization sets its goals and plans strategies for the future growth, and how these strategies are transferred and executed at the regional and local levels.  Being a field sales or marketer would not give me the answers. And more fundamentally, I wanted to have a very different life both professionally and personally. In other words, I wanted to transform myself inside out.

IESE soon became my top option because of its case methodology with general management focus which I believed could help me learn much faster and in more practical way. Its location in Barcelona where I had experienced and enjoyed briefly as a backpacker during my college days, was also ideal for having a dynamic and exciting personal life. These were the main reasons I chose IESE.

With my fellow students from Taiwan during our graduation

After joining IESE and spending the most enjoyable two years in my life so far, I found there is actually much more of IESE’s unique spirit that I still carry with me now, 4 years after my graduation.

One is to serve the society and care about people. A memory still vivid in my head is in an Operations class, we discussed a case about a manufacturing company at the edge of going bankrupt due to it losing competitiveness. Our professor was asking what would you do if you were the general manager. One classmate said we should shrink the labor force, laying off workers as the first step. The professor replied “If laying off workers is your first step without exploring any other options, you are not entitled to graduate from IESE!” This is just one example of IESE’s culture, we care more about people instead of caring about just money or numbers. Doing Good Doing Well, IESE’s flagship conference on responsible business, is another big way the school focuses on how companies can make a positive impact on society. This spirit is present all through my MBA journey, and makes me believe there is so much we can do to serve the society.

Another one of IESE’s unique qualities is the sense of diversity and inclusion. Most European schools are very diverse but in IESE where you stick to the same team and same section for the whole year, you will truly feel included in this big family. Given my non-traditional background, I was skeptical about myself as an MBA-to-be before starting the program. Thoughts such as “Do I look like an MBA?”, “How do I act like an MBA?” used to occupy my mind before coming to Barcelona. But when walking out of the campus as an MBA graduate, I realized that there is no “standard” MBA. Everyone is different and every idea is valuable. The best way to keep growing for your entire career is to be yourself and find the embedded strengths which can contribute to your professional life and the society rather than to pursue a shadow which does not belong to you. This change of mindset will only happen in an inclusive environment.

With my section mates of Section A in the first year.

Luckily, when I graduated I was hired in the global leadership program in a Dutch company through the support from IESE Career Development Center. Since then, I’ve completed 3 very different global assignments. Each one is a multiple jump for me in terms of location, industry and function. Each one requires the learnings I gained at IESE: general management knowledge, genuinely caring about people, bringing positive impact to organization and contributing through my own unique strengths. Thinking back from now, IESE not only started my international career but also sets a great foundation for me to leap and grow both professionally and personally.

Often, we spend too much time on finding what “means” will help us to reach our goals rather than taking sufficient energy to think about what our goals really are. My advice to prospective applicants is to look at yourself seriously, thinking through your life and being crystal clear on who you are and what you want to do, before you explore start exploring business schools. 

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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