I’m a true third-culture child, trying to stay open-minded for all cultural and individual challenges in the international working environment.
Eunsoo Johanna Jeong
Fun fact about yourself
My favorite playlist includes extremely different and diverse genres of music – Classical Opera, Orchestral Music, but a larger contribution comes from HEAVY metal and punk!
Undergraduate School and Degree
Yonsei University, Seoul
Double Major, BA in Psychology and English Linguistics and Literature
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles
In my college years, I worked as German and English interpreter volunteer during the World Cup 2002. On a regular basis, I volunteer and support for abandoned animal shelters. I also do career coaching and offer advice for young women working in cosmetics, retail, and luxury sectors – hoping that we can see more female leaders in this industry.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during your time at INSEAD?
I want to give myself credit for being able to manage the tight study schedule and workload during these difficult times. But I remember also the joy and sense of achievement when our team’s proposal on real-life strategy challenges was ranked first place by the Port of Antwerp. It was a really intense and physically challenging task, and so rewarding after numerous sleep-deprived nights with fellow classmates. Hopefully more of these experiences are to come.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
Overall, I’m proud of having been able to climb up the ladder, starting as a fresh graduate as a product manager in a local market up to where I am now. I learned to be flexible, both in management and communication styles, depending on what role I serve and what the cultural context is.
If I have to call out some points in particular, it would vary from the different experiences across companies and roles. This includes being able to turn around a negative P&L to entering a new market and successfully launching the brand in this market which ranked number one in the year of the launch.
My decision to choose INSEAD did not happen by coincidence – the school has very high reputation within the cosmetics, retail, and luxury sector.
Thus INSEAD was on the final list of schools I considered. I had also met inspirational colleagues and leaders throughout my career who were all INSEAD alumni which further piqued my interest. Finally, I had had an extraordinary experience participating in a General Management Programme with Cedep in Fontainebleau when I was with one of my past employers, L’Oréal. Knowing that Cedep shares not only a part of the campus with INSEAD but also part of the history and teaching fundamentals helped me to make the final decision. I liked everything: the small and cozy residences in the forest, the fresh air, and (of course) the methods of horizontal learning by debating each topic.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your EMBA and how did you apply it at work?
There are many, but being able to meet different professionals with different backgrounds in different industries gives me personally a fresh eye, after spending twenty years in luxury and retail industry. I am inspired by their experiences and different ways of thinking, and that gives me motivation to think out of the box and take a more innovative approach in problem-solving at work.
Give us a story during your time on the programme on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education?
It was harder than I imagined and I was constantly fighting with time. Yes, this also applies to single people like me! I had just signed on at my current company before I was admitted to INSEAD. Therefore, I had to juggle between adapting myself to the new company and leading a new team when I just started the year – and this happened as COVID was seriously hitting the retail industry. Every day was challenging and it could also be painful when financial decisions came with it, particiularly with an ever-changing situation in the 12 different markets I manage. This meant I had to juggle mental pressure to prove myself at the new workplace along with a heavy workload and study schedule.
I was not able to travel for the last 18 months and didn’t see any of my family members or close friends, both in Europe and Korea. It was hard then and now, with the loneliness and fear of the pandemic influencing my levels of motivation and drive. The only way to juggle all these things was really trying to keep faith. I started to enjoy simple things in life such as catching up on sleep during a Sunday – as what I lacked the most while studying at INSEAD was the absolute number of hours of sleep!
What is the biggest myth about going back to school?
I guess the biggest myth would be that going back to school would be like reliving the brightest times of college life, with the only difference being that we would be more diligent in doing all the homework on time and prepare much better for the classes.
After 20 years away from college, I learned that my brain had changed to a more corporate-life brain compared to the academic-nerdy brain I used to have back then! Funny part was, you still need determination to overcome all the temptations in life and push yourself further.
Which classmate do you most admire?
Zachery Brown. Of course, all classmates in our cohort are special and incredibly smart. However, I always felt that Zach has something special. During our short morning catch-ups that the professor facilitated for us, he shared his unconventional background and why he joined the programme. He has deep insights on every topic beyond the surface of the study topics. I truly felt he looks at fundamentals and a sense of purpose in everything we study – which I think comes from real experiences in life, and also something that we also call ‘wisdom’. In addition to these, I admire his openness to things, the pureness of his curiosity on every topic and his friendly approach to everyone.
What was the main reason you chose the INSEAD EMBA programme over part-time or online alternatives?
In fact, I had started an MA programme right after graduating university (and also a regular MBA programme in my mid-twenties). I could not finish it at the time as I wasn't able to manage work and financial challenges. Therefore, an MBA was always sort of a bucket list item or an “unfinished business” on my list. To complete this, I did not want to take compromises to do a part-time or online course.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?
Purely focusing on the career track, I want to keep the vision and ambition of being able to climb to the top of a brand or a company. However, looking at the ‘how’ angle, I want to be an international leader of a business who has not more than just a proven track record of leading financial successes. I want to be someone who has enough human sensitivity to be able to lead a inclusive and diverset culture. On top of this, it would be great to become an inspirational and supportive female leader who opens more gateways fostering more women in business.
This testimonial was originally published on P&Q.