The story of Nancy Yao's career is a classic case of finding a niche and exploiting it. Nancy came upon a fresh demand for a special type of training service that has transformed the course of her career. After an MBA from the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), she's ready to take her startup to the next level.
Educated in the US and China, Nancy first found work at the consultancy Deloitte in Los Angeles. But after two years, she quit her job, pivoted her career, and took to the skies as a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines.
Over the next 18 months working for Emirates, she visited more than 200 cities in 40 countries, and worked with colleagues from over 130 countries.
In 2015, Nancy settled in Beijing to pursue an MBA at CKGSB, determined to enhance her skills in entrepreneurship. She then began receiving hundreds of messages on her social media accounts – from young professionals determined to break into the aviation industry. As she responded to each of them, she discovered that she could make a career out of training prospective cabin crew members.
That was three years ago. Now, Nancy is looking to widen the scope of her coaching business beyond the aviation sector and provide interview training for Chinese applicants applying to work at multinational companies across the board.
Already, her candidates' success rate has been markedly high - normally fewer than 5% of cabin crew prospects receive offers, but 30% of Nancy's trainees have landed new jobs.
How would you define your dream job?
We often don’t know what we want to do until we’ve tried a few things. And even then, what we love can transform over time. For some people, a dream job might mean a big title, huge compensation or a fantastic work-life balance. But I find fulfilment in motivating and inspiring people.
Starting my own company was challenging, but very rewarding. I have been able to influence many students in a positive way and help change their lives by showing them new possibilities in both their personal lives and in their careers. It’s hard to define a dream job, but I feel proud every time a student thanks me for making their dreams come true!
Why did you decide to quit a stable job at Deloitte and become a cabin crew member at Emirates Airlines?
I felt my career was lacking in direction. On the surface, I had a great job in a well-known company, acquired my CPA license and was promoted several times. But, deep down, I knew that my passion didn't lie in accounting. So, I decided to spend a year as a cabin crew member while I figured out my next step.
I had a relatively international upbringing, but seeing so many other places in such a short space of time gave me the ability to look inside myself, and gave me enough distance to look at the countries I was most familiar with a new-found perspective.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at CKGSB?
Sometimes a career change is essential for personal growth and development and it requires a lot of courage. But once you decide what to do, it’s important to make that commitment. It could take months, years, or even longer to achieve results, but I learned to stay patient.
I decided to return to China, not just to come 'home', but also to be part of an unprecedented era of economic development that was full of opportunities.
CKGSB was the perfect integrated solution for a ‘soft landing’ for young professionals like me, who have been away from China for a number of years. I chose to do the CKGSB MBA because I needed to gain a broader understanding of business and I wanted to sharpen my entrepreneurial skills.
What skills did CKGSB give you that made you a valuable hire after graduation?
CKGSB’s premier faculty and top-notch curriculum armed me with the necessary knowledge and practical know-how to develop my start-up business. The entire classroom experience, interaction with faculty and peers, student activities, and case studies - all these radically changed my perspective, both personally and professionally.
What advice do you have for prospective MBAs?
Making time for classes and coursework can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to balance a start-up business with your education. It is essential that you incorporate networking into your schedule. The contacts you meet at business school can last a lifetime and may help you with your business. The first few months can be particularly overwhelming, but establishing a schedule early on can help you to stay on top of everything.