Meet Lingling Yuan - we call her "KK"
KK interned with us last summer as an MBA intern within our World Wide Procurement team and will return to Dell this summer as a full-time employee.
I caught up with KK on the Campus of Penn State, in State College Pa in February.
KK, Tell me your philosophy on why the Penn State Smeal Supply Chain concentration prepares their MBA students so well?
Answer: To play on a computer analogy, our Supply Chain program can be divided up into hardware and software. On the hardware side, we have a very solid program in that we have world-class professors and facilities. We also have big-player corporate partners who allow access for research real-world learning. In addition, the small class environment provides us a more intimate interaction with the material, a stronger bond with colleagues and professors, and therefore a stronger support base. On the software side, Penn State MBAs have a reputation of being “Blue-collar MBAs” meaning we accept projects without pretention, and we are always ready to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work, which in Supply Chain means doing the due diligence of analysis needed to develop forecasts and strong supply chain systems.
I am sure you've told this story many times but share with us what you enjoyed most about your assigned projects last summer.
Answer: I would have to start with the people – my recruiter, manager, buddy, teammates, mentors, even the chef at the cafeteria – they were all very nice, approachable, supportive and collaborative. They helped me by providing me insightful information and sharing their experiences, introducing me to resourceful people, and helping me navigate the organization. I wouldn’t have been able to complete three projects in 12 weeks without their help.
Second, I appreciated the process, which really allowed autonomy in completing the projects. All of my three projects were one-line projects when I started my internship—basically I got to define my own projects in terms of scale, timeline, deliverables, and recommendations, and I had full control of their development. I gave an update to my manager once a week, and asked for her advice and made sure I was on the right track. Meanwhile, my teammates and colleagues from WWP and other areas made themselves available to provide me timely assistance to help me succeed.
Third, the results—I felt that I could make a real impact to the company. The projects I worked on were real projects, and my recommendations got implemented right away where they could do good for the company, whether it be in the area of cost savings, efficiency improvement, or process change. Dell takes interns seriously!
Lastly, the networking opportunities were just more than amazing! Thanks to the UR team, we got to meet with Michael and his crew, as well as a lot of VPs and Directors from different areas. It was an awesome opportunity to help us understand Dell’s strategic initiatives, learn from their successful stories, and absorb valuable advice to progress our personal development and growth. Meanwhile, internally, I got to set up more than 80 one-on-ones with people from WWP, Marketing, PG because of Dell’s open door policy; I was also connected with WWP Shanghai and Taiwan office. Externally, I got to work with the McKinsey Consulting team closely, and interviewed more than 20 suppliers.
What did you like about Austin Texas? Answer: Austin has been ranked one of the top cities to live in the U.S. for many years. I like Austin because it combines the urban atmosphere from big cities and the convenience and easy-navigation from small cities. The city is very live and energetic, I guess it’s because of the young crowd from UT Austin and professionals from high-tech companies like Dell. I really enjoyed the nice views from the lakes, exciting live music, and tasty Tex-Mex food last summer. Compared to many cities on the same scale, the cost of living is pretty low- which means I would have more disposable income. Julia Lu from the team I interned with last summer told me I should return to Dell so that I can take advantage of the year-round warm weather, which means I can wear more dresses – yet another great reason to love Austin and a welcome break from Penn State weather.
Where did you go to Undergrad? Answer: I went to Zhengzhou University in China for my undergraduate and majored in Business Administration from 1999 to 2003. Meanwhile, I obtained a Bachelor in General Studies from Fort Hays State University, Kansas through a cooperative program from my university. That’s where I got exposure to American people, culture, business practices, and practiced my English. Thus, I started to have a dream to come to the U.S. for my MBA and then work for a prestigious company with a significant global footprint.
Where is home and often do you get home to visit everyone? Answer: I grew up in Changsha, China, which has developed a lot of powerful political figures in Chinese history. I also consider Wuxi, a beautiful city in the Yangtze Delta Zone with very strong economy, as my home since I spent four years working there before I came to the States. I went back to China the past two Christmases to visit my family and friends, shop, and enjoy real Chinese food. Since more than 70% of Dell’s supply base is in China, I am sure I will have opportunities to visit the Chinese suppliers when I return to Dell full-time.
I hear that you're a speed racer around the town of State College, when did you get the Mini Cooper and what color is it?
Answer: I bought the MINI Cooper right before I started my internship at Dell last summer from a 1966 Penn State alumnus, what a small world! It’s yellow which makes it very easy for me to find it in the parking lot. It’s a small and cute car, and I enjoy it very much. By the way, I decorated it with a lot of pink Hello Kitties - all my girlfriends think it’s cute and they love it while my guy friends feel embarrassed to drive it. It’s very funny that I had a reputation of being a slow driver when I first started to drive, and now I’ve become impatient when somebody drives slowly in front of me. I guess people change.
Share with us the famous meeting you had with Warren Buffett. Answer: I was so lucky to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Omaha, Nebraska on Feb. 6th to meet with Mr. Warren Buffett along with 26 colleagues from Penn State. The trip included tours of two Berkshire subsidiary companies—the 500,000-square-foot America’s biggest furniture store Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheim's jewelry store, a two-hour Q&A session with Mr. Buffett, then a lunch with the world's richest man at his favorite Omaha steakhouse Piccolo's, and he picked up the tab! The trip was part of a regular routine for Mr. Buffett, who occasionally hosts groups of MBA students from the country's leading business schools.
During the Q&A session, we asked him questions ranging from his experiences in business, how he plays bridge with Bill Gates, his attitude towards wealth and the state of the global economy. It was a tremendous opportunity for me to learn from one of the greatest business leaders, especially considering the current state of the global economy. He helped soothe anxious nerves, showed confidence in the government, the FED’s anti-depression tactics, and the economic stimulus package and said that the economy would bounce back slowly but surely.
Some takeaways from the meeting with Mr. Buffett: don’t do business if you don’t understand the business, don’t look at the stock price, instead think what the assets will produce, and cost of living doesn’t reflect quality of living. Mr. Buffett also pointed out that his investment philosophy hasn’t changed over 50 years, but he’s gotten smarter in evaluating and predicting human behaviors.
Some surprises about Mr. Buffett:
1. He is very approachable and down to earth in spite of being the world’s richest person and the smartest investor, just like a grandpa from next door;
2. He drives his own car, a regular Cadillac, and parks on the street with his doors unlocked;
3. He’s lived in the same house, and the only house he owns, for more than 50 years;
4. He spent time taking pictures with each of us (about 170 MBAs in total from 6 schools). He told us that we can take as many pictures as we want, and he would pose however we wanted.
I was extremely impressed by Mr. Buffett’s humility, simplicity, and honesty. The meeting was short, but his philosophy, attitude, and charisma will remain etched in my being forever, and they will make me a better person and shape my value for wealth.
Thanks KK for your time. Enjoy the Duke MBA games and make sure to give us updates on how the MBA Penn State team does.