“There are so many things that I wouldn’t have even realized without BOW, and they helped me become more proactive, confident, and bold in my professional life.”
OCTOBER 21, 2020 | BY LILY ZHU
Before attending London Business School, Wendy studied at Duke and worked in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) industries for three years in San Francisco (first in consulting and later in tech sales). She also interned in China, Guatemala, and Argentina during her undergrad. Wendy hopes to use her LBS MBA to explore the TMT sector in EMEA and broaden her international experience. After obtaining her MBA, she aspires to work as a strategy or business development manager in the tech industry in London.
You graduated from Duke with a Statistical Science degree in 2017 and have since worked in consulting and data science. How did BOW and your other college experiences prepare you for your career?
Being in BOW and studying Statistical Science at Duke definitely prepared me for a career in TMT. I remember a few guest speaker events/lean in group discussions where we talked about navigating a professional environment as the only woman in a room full of older men or about how women tend to negotiate their salary less often compared to men. There are so many things like these that I wouldn’t have even realized without BOW, and they helped me become more proactive, confident, and bold in my professional life. For instance, I actually encouraged another female colleague on my team at Celonis to negotiate her salary when she was worried about being inexperienced, and we both got a raise.
You did DukeEngage in Guatemala your freshman summer and interned in Argentina your sophomore summer. Could you describe those experiences and how they contributed to your decision to go into consulting?
My dad was a consultant, so I actually was trying to avoid going into consulting at first! I wanted to try different things that weren’t consulting my freshman year, so I explored non-profit and microfinance through DukeEngage in Guatemala, and then I did a data science internship (with a lot of programming) the following year in Argentina because I was considering majoring in computer science. I really want to work internationally (ideally in many different countries throughout my career), so I was very excited about these opportunities because I thought I could use them to “test the water” a bit and see if I could successfully build a life for myself through a new job in a new country. I also did an e-commerce internship working in marketing and operations in China. After all these experiences, I was still a little lost on what I should do after graduation. My mentor (from BOW!) advised that I look at each of my internships and identify the things I loved about them versus the things I disliked. For instance, I loved traveling for work and enjoyed data visualization, but I disliked working alone programming all day in Argentina. In the end, I concluded that strategy consulting would best fit my “likes” and “dislikes” from all these internships.
How did you transition from your role as an Analyst at Altman Vilandrie & Company—a strategy consulting firm specializing in TMT—to your role as a Data Scientist & Management Consultant at Celonis—a software company and pioneer in process mining?
I started looking at opportunities in industry after a six-month “externship”-type project with a corporate client at AV&Co. I wanted to see if I could execute more and build more industry knowledge as a tech industry expert or a consultant, and I wanted to have more ownership over my projects. Ideally, I’d also like to have a better work-life balance in my next job. At a consulting firm, I would typically need at least 2-4 more years before I get to engage directly with clients to build out the scope of my project and lead a team. When a recruiter from Celonis reached out to me about this new opportunity where I could take more ownership and become a part of the core team to expand Celonis’ footprint in the US, I decided to take a leap of faith and join the start-up, which is now a Series-C company valued at $2 billion.
You also studied abroad in London during your sophomore fall. Could you describe that experience and how it contributed to your decision to pursue your Master of Business Administration at London Business School? Yes, it was a huge factor. My study abroad experience definitely gave me the idea that I want to move to London (hopefully for the long term). I’ve always fantasized about living in London ever since I fell in love with the BBC show Sherlock, so I had very high expectations for the city when I came to study at King’s College in 2014. That semester proved that London was everything I hoped it would be and more. I love the city so much and have been trying to move back for the past five years (sorry San Francisco). Therefore, LBS was always high on my list when I started my MBA applications.
What do you hope to be doing after finishing business school? How will obtaining your MBA help you reach your professional goals?
My short-term aspiration from obtaining my MBA is to get a holistic picture of how global organizations function and to lead my own team. My long-term aspiration is to continue pursuing a global career and run my own company. My experience in both consulting and enterprise software sales has allowed me to peek into different segments of clients’ operations, which has sparked my interest to learn more about business operations holistically. With an international MBA (LBS is comprised of 92% international students), I would learn to leverage my global background to facilitate business conversations and lead my own team.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time nowadays? Do you have any new interests, or have you been spending more time on old hobbies?
A bit of both. I used to be the kind of person who was always traveling or going out, so I’ve really surprised all of my friends and family with how much I’m enjoying time at home during the pandemic. I barely used my kitchen during my first two and a half years working in San Francisco, but in the last six months my roommate and I have developed very good cooking skills (to the point where I now enjoy making bubble tea from scratch when I want to procrastinate on schoolwork). I never played games before, but now I’ve mastered a few games on my Switch. I also became very good at home organizing and completely transformed my boyfriend’s messy apartment in three days after some Marie Kondo binge-watching. I also started working out regularly, something I had planned to do before but never managed to accomplish until now. In terms of old hobbies, instead of traveling, I finished several travel-themed books (specifically those by Peter Hessler). Instead of going to music festivals, I spend more time curating my Spotify playlist and playing the piano.