It came down to a choice between pursuing an MBA at Nanyang Business School or at a rival institute in Singapore for Jiang Weiwei, senior director and head of healthcare for China at Air Liquide, a French-listed multinational supplier of industrial and medical gases.
Jiang, who had a master of electrical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in materials science at the time, says she chose NTU’s MBA programme because of its higher international ranking and specialised subjects in finance, which would enable her to gain in-depth knowledge of finance.
Pursuing an MBA at NTU would “accelerate my learning curve by gaining business knowledge that I didn’t learn in school”, says Jiang, who completed her MBA in Finance in 2009.
She says she has also gained a competitive advantage over peers who are not MBA holders, thanks to her business study and knowledge of finance management, accounting and investment. “I can challenge all the assumptions in the business plans,” she explains.
In December 2016, Jiang was promoted to senior director after serving as Air Liquide’s general manager of home healthcare in China since 2013. The company’s healthcare division services 1.4 million patients at 15,000 hospitals and clinics around the world. Last year, it accounted for €3.1 billion of Air Liquide’s total global revenue of €18 billion.
To date, Jiang has worked on several merger and acquisition projects for Air Liquide in the home healthcare and medical gas markets. She searched for companies with potential and performed due diligence work. Her work taught her to build relationships with the owners of takeover targets, identify operational synergies between those companies and Air Liquide, seek investment approval for such projects, and integrate the new subsidiaries into Air Liquide’s operations.
Before becoming a business leader, Jiang learnt about the value of teamwork in her group discussions and projects at Nanyang Business School. “That was quite fun because people came from different backgrounds and expertise, different levels of skills and career paths, so you learn to deliver a project and to accommodate and engage everyone in the team,” she says.
That experience stood her in good stead when Air Liquide asked Jiang to start a new home healthcare business. She conducted a study of the market, hired people, built relationships with suppliers, liaised with external laboratories to test the products, and secured management’s approval.
“The most difficult part of the project was that we had to complete it within three months,” Jiang says. “I certainly benefited from my MBA experience in the way I managed the project as a leader.
“The MBA programme gave me the tools and financial knowledge … to do my job better.”
Jiang, who is based in Shanghai, says her work as a business leader is about finding the right people and giving them the appropriate tasks, motivations, incentives and guidance.
She credits the MBA case studies she had read with influencing her leadership style. For those who seek to be business leaders, Jiang has this advice: “Try to give yourself sufficient time to listen to people, observe and think thoroughly as much as possible before making the decision.
“Once a decision has been made, try to back it up and do not change it easily. However, do not hesitate either to change and admit that you’ve made a mistake if it is right thing to do.”
Business resources and energy could be wasted if leaders fail to listen to others and leap to wrong conclusions, she adds.
Since completing her MBA studies, Jiang has attended informal gatherings of MBA alumni, and she’s found the network helpful to her career, although opportunities for such gatherings have become few since she relocated to Shanghai.
Before moving to China, Jiang joined Air Liquide in Singapore. To develop her career in the company, she asked to join its healthcare division, which was smaller than the more mature industrial division, because of her interest in healthcare and she felt that China’s healthcare market “was going to boom” because of its fast ageing population.
The mainland’s dependency ratio for retirees could reach 44 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations. The dependency ratio compares the difference between those not in the labour force with those who are working, or can work full-time.
Jiang says she joined the healthcare business because she could have a larger business contribution to the company, as the industrial division was already established.
“My decision was right because the healthcare business has been growing. Although healthcare is much smaller than industrial but certainly we are getting the focus of the group, we are getting the investment from the group,” she says.
“Over the long term, home healthcare is a very promising industry, especially in China.”