1. Why are you applying for this Executive degree program? How will it contribute to the achievement of your professional objectives?
When I approach the question of why I want to participate in this particular Executive Degree program, it is easy to produce logical, sound answers insofar as the benefits the program will give me and the opportunities that come paired with this type of experience. However, it is much more difficult to express properly the drive I feel towards this type of program: I have always been drawn toward business, and while this is the next logical step in my career, it is also something that I have been personally working towards for many years.
I have every intention of becoming a lifelong learner; I want to continue to pursue my education in business throughout my life, regardless of the path that my career takes me on. This program in particular will provide me with an excellent opportunity to network with like-minded individuals. I am still young and still in the formative years of my career, and participating in this type of program will undoubtedly open my eyes and provide me with new perspectives on business as a whole. I subscribe personally to the Mastermind Principle: that theory that people with similar goals (but different backgrounds) can come together to meet, mentor and challenge each other to move forward and structure a better world. I personally believe that we are each other's teachers and students. Perhaps it is somewhat youthful naivete, but one of the aspects of this program that I am most excited about is the opportunity to meet with and experience the different perspectives that come with the Executive degree program.
On a more practical and personal note, to achieve my current career and business aspirations, I feel I will need specialized knowledge that an HEC EXED program can provide. Though I am grateful for the extensive firsthand training and experience I received from my family and my other mentors, I know that the business world is constantly changing, growing and evolving. In fact, life is constantly changing, growing and evolving. That is why I must do the same. It would be a great disservice to myself and to those who trained me if I were sit on my laurels and live in the success of the past. As rewarding as my endeavors have been, I feel that I have an interesting future to look forward to. This program is part of that future.
My reasons for applying to this degree program are a combination of practical and ideological, but I feel that together, my future goals and aspirations make me an ideal candidate for this type of program. I am driven, open-minded, and goal-oriented without being overbearing. I am approaching this program with the mindset that it will help me achieve my overarching, long-term goals.
2. What professional achievement are you most proud of? Please be as specific as possible.
Although Cruiseweb, Inc. offered me the first professional job I ever held, it is still the job that I am most proud of. There are a number of reasons why I hold my time with this company in such high regard. Perhaps most notably, it was one company that helped me get my feet wet in the world of sales and marketing. Anyone who has ever worked at sales and marketing knows that it can be a difficult, cutthroat world, and this firm gave me an excellent foundation for building the skills necessary to be excellent in the sales and marketing world. In addition, it helped me land one of my first select achievements: the skill set necessary to build strong client relationships. Thanks to the other people in the company and the clients who did business with me, I was able to cultivate the skills that allow me to provide a strong telephone presence, respond promptly to customer queries, identify and resolve problems and provide accurate product information for interested clients.
Working as a Group Cruise Specialist for Cruiseweb, Inc. also put me on a personal path of discovery. Working as a Group Cruise Specialist was not an easy task, but I pushed myself past the point I thought I was capable of, and managed to excel in the position. We are often unsure of what we are capable of until we are put through the crucible. Cruiseweb was precisely that: a crucible through which I tested my skills and stamina in the workforce. It was one of the first few jobs that provided me with the right environment for experimentation within the boundaries of responsibility. While acting in the Sales and Marketing capacity for Cruiseweb, I also discovered that I was capable of identifying customer and company needs and formulating the appropriate strategies to address those needs. I took the invaluable lessons that I learned from Cruiseweb to the other jobs I landed later on, particularly as a Travel and Key Account Manager and a Senior International Sales Counselor.
Not every task that has to be completed in the workplace is pleasant; for younger employees, this can be a difficult lesson to learn. Working at Cruiseweb taught me the discipline: the ability to complete tasks that were unenjoyable for me, and the discipline to search out ways to make these tasks more enjoyable in the long run. I never quite took to reading daily sales statistics, as I enjoy the human aspect of business much more; however, reading sales-related numbers was part of my jo, and I quickly learned how to read the statistics efficiently and carefully, despite how I felt about the task. At the same time, it increased my appreciation for the things that I already did enjoy: communicating and connecting with people. Sometimes it is the very things that we do not particularly like that remind us of who we truly are and what we really value.
Working with Cruiseweb helped me get a clearer perspective on the type of person that I truly am, along with what I genuinely desire. One of the greatest benefits of working with people in such a context is seeing what really moves me and what I can delegate to someone else. Cruiseweb helped me hone the skills that I have naturally, while also allowing me to learn skills that come less naturally to me, like business statistics and the more number-oriented side to sales and marketing. While a difficult job, it certainly made me a more useful, well-rounded employee and leader overall.
3. Please describe a situation where you failed to reach a professional objective or goal, and what you learned from this experience.
Everyone has a few failures or embarrassments in their life that they relive, wishing they could change the results; sometimes these are silly failures or personal embarrassments, but sometimes they take the form of poor or impulsive choices. My first major professional failure took place during graduate school, and it was a failure of the poor timing variety. I made a decision to drop my Masters in Clinical Psychology Program in order to invest time and energy in something that I was really passionate about: business. The catch was that I made my decision to withdraw from the program after the two-week no-penalty grace period had passed. This resulted in two of my professors crediting me with an F grade and a C grade. While I am happy that I made the decision in the long run-- clinical psychology did not resonate with me as a career path-- I waited far too long to proceed with the action of withdrawing from the program.
During this time, I struggled with the decision I was making to forego the clinical psychology degree and pursue business. Clinical psychology was something that I had long believed to be my ideal career path, but my mentality and personality changed more than I had anticipated in my twenties, compounded by a personal situation that will be expounded upon below. I struggled back and forth with the decision, and arrived at the decision to drop the Masters degree too late. However, I am not sorry I dropped the course; had I continued, it would have been a betrayal of the path I truly wanted to follow, and would have resulted in a setback of my goals and aspirations another semester or year.
I also went through a humbling family experience that resulted in a prolonged undergraduate degree program—a four-year course that took me ten years to finish. The reason why it took me so long is because I took the time to pay a debt of gratitude to the grandparents who had raised me when I was little. My grandfather fell ill during my sophomore year of studies. Since I had been living at school prior to that, I returned to my hometown and transferred to a nearby university in order to care for him. I attended five different universities, juggling work, school and caregiving all at the same time. The price I paid for my "multitasking" was slower academic progress (part-time schooling and an online degree program) and a lower overall average, though I did compensate for it in terms of a 3.3 to 3.5 GPA in individual schools across the board. Again, I do not necessarily regret my course of action, although I would change things about the way I handled the situation; these hardships helped mold me into the stubborn, goal-oriented person I am today, and I am thankful for that.
Despite the nature of this challenge, these "failures" ultimately worked out in my favor in a number of ways. For one thing, they helped me gain a greater awareness of who I was and the kind of person I wanted to be. They also reminded me to continue employing the beginner's mindset—a desire to unlearn old patterns and an openness to test out new things. They reminded me that I needed to stay aligned—aligned with the kind of person that I really am and aligned with my purpose in life. It is true that I have been through a lot of very interesting (and, some would say, unusual) experiences, yet I also know that I still have a long way to go. That is part of the reason why I am applying for this program: I consider it a benchmark and a "mid-course adjustment" in my professional career. All the experiences I have been through have prepared me for this and they are still preparing me for even greater things down the road.
4. How do you think you are perceived by colleagues? Please mention 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses.
My personal life experiences have led me to become a highly goal-oriented individual. I have become good at pinpointing a goal and striving towards it, regardless of how long it takes for me to get there. In some cases, this means that I work much longer and much harder than my peers to achieve the same goal: for instance, personal issues caused me to extend my B.A. undergraduate study much longer than the average student. While I recognize that being goal-driven is an excellent attribute in moderation, sometimes my colleagues may feel that I am too goal-driven and success-focused. However, I still feel that this is one of my biggest assets as a student and as a professional. Conversely, this goal-oriented mindset can also be a weakness for me in certain group settings. I can become so fixated on the end goal of the project that I lose sight of balance in the group and in my personal life; however, I work very hard to ensure that I work well in groups despite this tendency.
I am also good at delving deeply into things and arriving at a thorough understanding of them. This is part of the reason why I was able to lead and manage teams of people and to achieve results while working with them. Whether its systems, people, leadership or anything else, I leap right into the details and do my best to understand all that I can about them. I then use this knowledge to direct people, manage environments, implement systems and so on.
This particular proclivity often leads to a bevy of questions when I am trying to understand a new concept or engage in a new process. Sometimes people who understand more quickly with more efficiency become bothered when I am working to understand new concepts; however, I try to use my skills at building rapport-- my final strength-- to offset the negative aspects of this quality.Linked to this weakness is another weakness of mine: I sometimes enjoy working on problems individually before moving on to integrate with the group. I find that this gives me more control over my understanding of problems and the issues that have been raised, and make me a more efficient group worker.
Lastly, I am adept at and building rapport between people. Part of my training in psychology and entrepreneurship involved dealing with different people with different perspectives and different backgrounds. I had to factor in their different personalities, dreams and desires and somehow get them to work together toward a common goal. I did this time and time again as I worked for various companies. This is not an innate skill; instead, it is one that I have worked very hard to cultivate. All in all, I think that my colleagues perceive me as a competent individual who connects well with people. This is not to say that I am perfect; I know that there are still lessons to be learned and higher levels of competency to strive for.
5. How would you define leadership?
Leadership is one of those concepts that is often surrounded by buzzwords in the business world; many people talk about it, but it is much more rare to see people follow through with the responsibilities that come with leadership. Leadership is not bullying: it is not throwing one's weight around and compelling people to follow one's demands. This is especially not the way it works in business. Business is all about relationships and working together to accomplish a common, lucrative goal for all concerned. A leader understands that success is a team goal, something that all the people involved in the process have to work for together. A good leader also understands that success in a project is not entirely their doing. Taking credit for the things that they were responsible for but also giving out praise to one’s team is an important function for a leader.
Leadership is not merely pointing the way to success or delegating tasks to a group of underlings. Some businesses prefer leaders who take charge of groups, telling them exactly what to do in order to get to where they want to go. However, an effective leader does not need to micromanage his or her team. Instead, the leader brings out the best possible qualities in his or her team by motivating them and providing clear, achievable expectations. Influencing others has to do with modeling—that is, providing a significant example that others would want to follow. I believe that all of us are models of behavior for other people, for better or for worse. Leaders, then, are the people who model good behavior and inspire other people through their example.
Good leadership is done for the sake of promoting people's highest and best good. This is connected to the influence I discussed in the preceding paragraph. For me, the real focus of leadership is relationships, not results. It is possible to get results and yet damage one's relationship with others in the process. This is not true success. Successful leadership involves promoting the welfare of the people whose lives you influence. Once leaders do that, the results will follow, as people are more willing to participate in a process that makes them feel useful and valuable, rather than one that makes them feel like merely another cog in a wheel.
Another often-overlooked facet of leadership is the idea of promoting others’ welfare in the group. It is possible to impose what one thinks might be best for others on them, yet that is not what true leadership is about. Rather, real leaders guide people to discover their own answers, show them the way and go that way themselves. Leaders promote a sense of unity and togetherness within the group, ensuring that all members of the group are comfortable and content with the way the tasks are moving forward.
6. Participating in a HEC EXED program involves working with a diverse group of individuals (nationalities, industries, job functions, etc). What will you be able to contribute to such a group?
Diverse groups are incredibly positive for development of new ideas and concepts, but they can be incredibly difficult to work in if the individual has little experience. The newness of cultural differences can be uncomfortable and lead to stress and misunderstandings. However, I have extensive international business experience, and have worked in diverse groups extensively throughout my years in the business world. It is something I enjoy and something I excel at; I will bring this understanding of how to cooperate and how to work in a diverse group to the HEC EXED program. In addition, I am a Psychology Major with a deep understanding of how people think, feel and behave. When combined with the practical experience I mentioned above, I can provide keen insight regarding situations and people that may have escaped others' notice.
I have applied this skill time and time again in my previous jobs. For instance, I sold cruise packages to potential clients of Cruiseweb, Inc. and worked with project managers and development teams during my time with Get There/ Sabre Holdings, Inc. Both of these jobs demanded a good understanding of the human mind and how it works. My theoretical background in psychology coupled with the experience to back it up is something that I can offer the team and the group as a whole.
In my time in the workforce, I have obtained specialized knowledge that I can share with my peers and colleagues. For instance, I have received training and certifications with respect to different global distribution systems such as Amadeus, WorldSpan, Apollo and Sabre. I am also a Certified Travel Agent. Furthermore, I am adept at various types of management and other related fields: integration processes aimed at tweaking technology system efficiency, crisis management vis-à-vis clients' needs, infrastructure setup and compliance standards, data analysis and project lifecycle management. This variation in training gives me the background to work with a number of different types of people who think entirely differently about problems. I have experience in a number of different business realms, and as a result, I have a good understanding of the mentality of people in different business niches. My biggest strengths are my experiences, and the changes those experiences wrought on me. I consider myself to be a worldly, understanding, and likeable person, all of which are qualities that will serve me well in the HEC EXEC program.
7. Please describe any significant international exposure you have experienced (long / short term residence, including childhood, professional assignments etc.) excluding vacations.
I’m humbled by the life experience my families success in business has afforded me. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, all owning various types of businesses around the globe, has exposed me to my fair share of global markets over the years. As such I’ve been blessed to have lived in 11 countries as these businesses grew. Each country offered a new level of insight into how global economies work and how these individual countries thrive. From their local customs to their struggling demand for innovation and the implementation of newer technologies I’ve experienced quite a bit. As a child my families business was primarily concentrated in Asia.
I was first exposed to markets such as Hong Kong, Bali, and Bangkok at a relatively young age; I loved the culture and the business, and I worked hard to succeed. As the business progressed I was later introduced to markets such as Japan, Pakistan, UAE and Egypt. Most of my families companies have been sold off at this point. However the global exposure and hands on business knowledge I acquired has proven to be priceless and fairly beneficial for me over the years. We still do business in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Spain, and Canada but of what’s left primarily focuses on North America. My family is no stranger to entrepreneurship. I owe a lot of my international exposure to the fact that my family's businesses have expanded to areas around the globe. This has presented me with an abundance of opportunities to garner firsthand experience, learn the ropes of different markets, grow in terms of skill and competence.
My mentors in the business world walked me through the process every step of the way. It is one thing to be thrown into the middle of the sea and learn how to swim or sink. It is quite another thing to be taught how to swim by an experienced professional who is in the water with you. My family did the latter for me. They taught me everything I needed to know, guided me and showed me tough love—not once did I feel spoiled or smothered by them. As previously stated, my family still does business in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Spain, Canada and North America, which means I have plenty of reasons to put my experience to good use for my good and the good of my family. Since one of the keys of any good business lies in duplication, it is also my responsibility to help train the next generation of business leaders to continue our family enterprises and keep moving them forward.
These international experiences formed me and changed me in very significant ways. Although I remain down-to-earth, I recognize that I would not be half the businessperson I am today without these international experiences. Traveling, living, and working abroad brings a whole new color of complexity to the process of business, and it is something that I enjoy greatly and hope to continue in the future.
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1. Why are you applying for this Executive degree program? How will it contribute to the achievement of your professional objectives?
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