A Story of Good Faith

My name is Alex Chang, a student in the CEIBS & Cornell University MBA and Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) Class of 2022 dual degree programme. Born into a hotelier family, with a passion for hotel management and with the expectation of becoming a more professional manager, I have now come to a new turning point in my life.

A love for hotels since birth

As a professional hotel manager, my father (who is a true gentleman in my eyes), has had a profound influence on me. I followed him to different hotels in different places, from Kenting Beach in southern Taiwan to Jiayi Alishan Forest in western China to a hot springs hotel in Yangming Mountain in the north and the pleasant mountains and waters of Hualien in the east. Along the way, I became fascinated by the unique designs and cultures of each one.

In his daily work, my father had many opportunities to meet tourists from all over the world and was very knowledgeable about their different customs. He often shared his experiences with me. Under his influence, I gradually gained an understanding of things such as international etiquette and wine tasting, and developed a broad international viewpoint. Being able to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures and listen to their stories made me fall in love with the hotel industry. So, as an undergraduate, I made a decision to major in hotel management.

An endless exploration of love

After graduating, I started my career in the hotel industry as a receptionist at the Le Méridien Taipei. The opportunity helped cultivate my keen sense of observation. When guests entered the hotel, I could tell why they were there according to their clothing and facial expressions. I would then greet them accordingly. Getting every guest to smile was my motivation and goal every day.

After accumulating some basic work experience, I seized the opportunity to be promoted as an executive butler, responsible for providing high-end services to celebrities and VIP clients. Careful management is one of the most valuable things I have learned from this role. I was responsible for arrangements such as communication with guest’s assistants about their itinerary, confirmation of their preferences and requirements and coordination with various departments. As an executive butler, I also needed different kinds of knowledge, including quick responses and answers to guests’ various questions. Always thinking about guests and their needs as a priority was one of my most important learnings.

As I became more familiar with the hotel industry, I wanted to explore different roles. After seeing the great potential of the market in mainland China, I chose to work for a tourism and convention hotel in Xiamen and was responsible for the formulation of marketing strategy. By learning about various local and global trends in consumer group consumption, I came to understand that hotels couldn’t passively wait for customers to come to their doors, but needed to use appropriate and powerful marketing strategies to form their own customer bases.

With the growth of the middle class, the middle- and high-end hotel market is also growing now. Wanting to enter the high-end hotel industry, I knew I needed to further my expertise in hotel development management and improve my market analysis skills. Hence, I decided to go back to school to continue my studies.

Cornell University’s hotel management programme is a mecca for every hotelier in the world, and it was the only programme I had a desire to be a part of. However, during my application, I realized that soft skills, such as hotel-related knowledge, open thinking and leadership, were also integral parts of the personal growth needed to become a professional manager. So, I shifted my search to MBA programmes related to hotel management. And, that is how I came to find out about the CEIBS & Cornell University MMH dual degree programme.

Rejuvenation underway

The CEIBS MBA is a compact programme and its professors are conscientious and responsible. Of all the courses, I was most impressed by the case teaching-led entrepreneurship management course. First, we had to do personal analysis through pre-class case studies. Students then had discussions about each case from different perspectives in class. Entrepreneurship management is not only for those who want to start a business. It is also for those who want to cultivate their own innovative thinking and become ‘intrapreneurs’ to propose new ideas for their organisations. In addition, we also learned how to create sustainable business models from both our professors and from students with different backgrounds and experience.

The leadership journey has helped me understand what kind of person I am and has shown me how to amplify my strengths and make up for my weaknesses as a leader. After-class panel discussions are also an integral part of my CEIBS life. These discussions not only offer a collision of ideas, but also teach me how to better work with other team members through coordination and communication. I am very grateful for having this opportunity to achieve self-growth and to become a better person at CEIBS.

In closing, I’d like to give some encouragement to those who are from atypical backgrounds like me. Always have faith in yourself. My CEIBS students helped me during my application, and now as a student ambassador, I wish to extend CEIBS’ spirit of mutual assistance and love. Lastly, there are a few more words for future CEIBS MBA applicants from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk: “When you think you’re not good enough, pick up your confidence and pretend you’re so good and keep working until you become a better person.”