How an MBA Helped This Yale Student Get Out of Her Comfort Zone |

How an MBA Helped This Yale Student Get Out of Her Comfort Zone

By Linda M

Updated March 16, 2021 Updated March 16, 2021

Jia Zhang, Yale MBA candidate from China, tells us how going to b-school can help business professionals expand their horizons and become more confident in their careers.


For many applicants, an MBA might seem like a perfect opportunity to improve their skillset, expand their network and increase their chances of landing top-tier jobs after graduation.

While this is true for many, an MBA can also be much more than that.

TopMBA caught up with Jia Zhang, Yale MBA candidate from China, to find out how her business school experience helped her get out of her comfort zone and evolve on a personal and professional level.

Taking the leap

While Jia grew up in China, she always felt drawn to studying abroad. In fact, during her four-year undergraduate business degree in Accounting and Finance at the National University of Singapore (NUS), she embarked on a one-year exchange programme at the University of Southern California, where she had the opportunity to experience life in another continent.

Upon her return to China, Jia worked in the finance industry for five years – first at Credit Suisse as a Summer Analyst and Senior Analyst; then at Haitong International Securities Group as an Investment Associate. It is then, she says, that she began considering taking the next step into her business career.

She said: “At that point, I felt like I had already had my start in Asia, especially in China and Singapore. But I wanted to see what was beyond what I was familiar with, so I decided to challenge myself.

“Some of my friends were already doing MBAs abroad, and I’d never really lived in the Western world for a long period of time before, which further pushed me to look into schools in the US.”

After applying to and interviewing at multiple b-schools, Jia realised the MBA programme at Yale would be the “best fit” for her skills and ambitions.

She said: “Yale has a social mission, which educating leaders for business and society. That resonated with me, because I also think that you must have some form of social mission while pursuing something in the business world. That, combined with the school’s focus on commitment, leadership, and professional development, was a defining factor in my choice.”

Becoming more confident

During her MBA, Jia realised she wanted to pivot her career into private capital investments.

She said: “In the future, I would like to look at how private capital investments can make a social impact. So not just purely from a private capital perspective, but I also want to work with things such as social impact investing.

“Being at Yale has been vital in helping me achieve my goal. The school has a lot of social impact initiatives, clubs, and activities. For example, I was part of their Social Impact Consulting Group, where my classmates and I helped a health and education start-up design their strategy and come up with an investment pitch to raise funds during COVID-19. It’s been great.”

Given her previous, positive experiences abroad, in 2020 Jia also decided to undertake an MBA Exchange at London Business School, which she says helped her understand how business is conducted in Europe.

She said: “I definitely strengthened my financial skillset during the MBA, both at Yale and during my exchange at LBS. Taking classes about case studies on business in the US and Europe allowed me to see what business practices look like on this side of the world, which helped me shape my structural thinking and my foundations.”

The benefit of a different environment

Jia says the welcoming and collaborative environments of the Yale and LBS MBA classes – with one-on-one interactions with professors and group projects within the cohort – allowed her to truly get out of her comfort zone, an experience that she believes will benefit her in the long term.

She said: “The class environment is different compared to Asia. The professors at Yale and LBS really try to get everyone engaged, which is a change that I’ve really enjoyed so far.

“I’d recommend to any foreign student – especially those in Asia – to try studying abroad and seeing what the world is like somewhere else. It’s really, really great to explore and be surprised, especially if you’re young.”

This article was originally published in March 2021 .

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Written by

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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