How an MBA gave Susan Yang the confidence to thrive at Burberry
A global perspective comes in handy when you're helping one of London's most famous luxury brands grow its market in China.
Working alongside other high-performers from around the world is what Susan Yang remembers most about studying a Full-time MBA at Melbourne Business School.
"The experience at Melbourne Business School studying with a lot of world classmates gave me a chance to really understand how people talk," she says.
"People come with different perspectives and education backgrounds. Definitely when it comes to Oriental versus Western, people's mindset and the way they think is very different.
"The dynamics between the group, and how you work together to achieve the best result, ends up being really practical in your work life afterwards."
After studying, Susan returned home to Shanghai to work as a Planning Manager for Burberry – one of the world's most famous fashion houses – with a newfound confidence.
"While luxury is very prestigious, it's also a high-pressure industry," she says.
"I think people in our industry are different from a lot of other industries. They're smart but also, they have very strong opinions. They have attitude.
"Studying an MBA definitely gave me a lot of knowledge, but more than that, it built me into a more competent person. It gave me confidence and changed my presence.
"When I talk about things, it's not just based on my own industry experience – it's about a lot of things working together. That's given me an edge over my competitors."
Having a global perspective is important in an industry which has seen some foreign brands attract controversy due to perceived racism or political insensitivity.
"Luxury brands are targeting young people right now who express an attitude and are trying to make their own choices, but you have to respect their cultural and political identities as well," Susan says.
"Brands need to be more authentic than ever, which is very challenging."
Susan says her MBA experience gave her a unique opportunity to introduce her classmates to the real China when they undertook the Business in Asia unit in Shanghai.
"Before we came to China, we had a class in Melbourne to talk about China's economy, and the discussion was quite tense because the Chinese students' perspective was so different to our Western classmates," she says.
"It was very inspiring to open this conversation up and let people who think differently see for themselves. When you actually come to China and Shanghai, you're exposed to the people and the city, and you can see that Shanghai is so much fun, and so modern and different."
The willingness of Chinese people to embrace what's new is one reason for Burberry's success in China, and especially in its largest city Shanghai, Susan says.
"The most fascinating thing about Shanghai is people's high acceptance of change. As people experience lots of new things, they feel their life is becoming better, and you just don't know the limit here."
Something else Susan learned living and studying in Melbourne for a year was the importance of slowing down occasionally.
"Living in Shanghai, people tell you that fast is always good – you need to be competitive, you need to keep pace with your peers," she says.
"For me, living in Melbourne gave me a chance to understand what a different lifestyle looked like, and why people enjoy and value that.
"In Melbourne, they understand that there is a meaning for being slow sometimes. It's a chance for you to really adjust and think about whether you're doing the right thing."