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Real Humans of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class of 2022

Yaxi Sophie Li, Kellogg Two-Year MBA Class of 2022

Age: 29
Hometown: Chengdu, China 
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Macalester College, majors: Mathematics and Economics
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 7 years in investment banking

Why business school? Why now? 
When I embarked on my investment banking career seven years ago, I did not realize that my work could be so close to social impact. The epiphany came after I turned a small printing company into a million-dollar IPO success. The newly listed company created thousands of employment opportunities, accelerated the prosperity of the local market, and alleviated China’s reliance on imported materials. These positive social externalities made me realize the power of using capital to create social value.  I asked myself, ‘how do I use my financial expertise to promote more positive social outcomes?’ The answer to this question sparked me to pivot into impact investing. To make this transition, I ought to acquire in-depth knowledge of social impact, strategic thinking, leadership, and then build a global network.

Why Kellogg? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Academics, experiential learning opportunities, the alumni network, and the culture are the most important factors I considered when looking at business schools.

Kellogg designed a robust social impact pathway for students interested in that career route. There are more than 40 classes to choose from, and Professor David Chen is very well-known in social impact and impact investing. Besides the academic courses, experiential learning opportunities such as Venture Lab will help to hone my investment skills. In addition, Kellogg also provides students the chance to study one semester in San Francisco, a hub for impact investment funds with many internship opportunities.

I put considerable weight into evaluating the school culture while choosing the right MBA program. At Kellogg, there are plenty of peers with whom I can share my passion. Each year, more than 100 students will attend Social Impact Day, an epic event at Kellogg to explore and develop our interests in social impact. Furthermore, the inclusive and collaborative culture is core at Kellogg. Faculty members and second-year students are always there for me if I have any questions.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
My business and industry exposure in China is my most valuable contribution to the class of 2022. I worked closely with some of the largest multinational corporations in China as their financial advisor. The insights I have gained from these experiences will construct valuable conversations with my peers on topics such as how are different firms dealing with the challenges in this increasingly integrated world? How do firms position their businesses in the global market? and how do they leverage the capital market to help them achieve their business purposes?

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I discovered that I am a fantastic chef of Szechuan cuisine during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Post-MBA career interests? 
My long-term career goal is to pursue impact investing. With so many resources I have right now at Kellogg, I am still distilling the strategy to achieve that goal.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would once again reach out to the current students and learn from their experiences. By establishing connections in this process, I received so much constructive feedback on my applications.

–One thing you would change or do differently?        
I would thoroughly reflect on my strengths and weakness before writing the essay. Strengths are my transferrable skills, and weaknesses are what I need to improve through pursuing an MBA. It was tough to build a coherent story without this reflection.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I did not expect the quantitative part of the GMAT to take so much time! Speed is the key while tackling the quantitative section, so I practiced intensively before each of my tests.

What is your initial impression of Kellogg’s students/culture/community?
Everyone is so generous with their time in order to help and create connections.  When I was applying to Kellogg and was located in China, most of the conversations I had with current students and alumni were via Zoom. Although I could not make it to campus or their offices, they were very generous at sparing their time to meet me virtually.

One thing you have learned about Kellogg that has surprised you? 
I was surprised by how many domestic students had long-term international exposure before joining Kellogg. This mirrors the experience of international students. I do not feel like an outlier, but a unique and interesting member of this big family.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
I am anxious about figuring out my recruiting strategy because time goes by so fast after school has started Fortunately, Kellogg’s Career Management Center has a comprehensive roadmap to guide me in each step during the recruiting process. The CMC coaches are extremely helpful in providing me more tailored and detailed advice.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am excited about meeting fellow students who are also passionate about social impact. I am looking forward to learning more about their backgrounds and what has influenced them to enter into the same field!

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2022, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: Northwestern / Kellogg

About the Author

Christina Griffith  

Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.

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