Uncommon Success: Running One Company While Holding Sway Over Tech at Another

Uncommon Success: Running One Company While Holding Sway Over Tech at Another

This Q&A has been edited and condensed.

What is your job title and where do you work?

I am Chief Technology Officer(CTO) at ZhongAn, the first online property and casualty insurance company in China, and a leading global insurtech firm. I work in Shanghai, where I also serve as CEO of ZhongAn Information and Technology Services, which is a subsidiary of ZhongAn Insurance.

What does a day in your role look like and how do you approach new projects?

I’m in a lot of meetings, both in and out of the office. My team at ZhongAn Online closely works with stakeholders to pinpoint any problems and highlight any new requirements. I spend lots of time talking to existing and potential customers about our tech products. Sometimes, I participate in detailed tech design and review. I also oversee Research and Development.

As CEO for ZhongAn Tech, I lead my team in bringing cutting edge technology to our clients.

Is there something about your professional journey that people would find surprising?

Many years ago, when I was working for Fannie Mae as a software engineer, the business team there hired a very experienced Wall Street consultant to design a new portfolio strategy algorithm. He ended up leaving us with nothing.

It happened a year after I’d received my MBA from Maryland Smith. I volunteered to design the algorithm and did it in about six weeks.

What was your path from graduation to your current job?

After earning my MBA, I was promoted to management at Fannie Mae, then I was hired by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China(ICBC), as a senior business architect. Following my time there, I joined Standard Chartered Group as global head of development in market and liquidity risk management.

Later I joined a start-up as CTO and shortly after that, co-launched a new start-up internet company. It specialized in customer acquisition and risk management. I found my MBA courses useful in running this business, but after some highs and lows, I shut down the firm and joined ZhongAn Online as CTO. A year and a half later, I started as CEO of ZhongAn Tech.

Are you where you thought you would be in your career? What are your goals?

I pretty much followed the career path I planned. My goal is to fully make use of my knowledge and experience and to foster business and social values.

What Smith School resources or relationships did you leverage for your career?

After graduating from Smith I met several Smith alumni, both in the U.S. and China. Some of them helped me with work issues, some offered me jobs and still others connected me with business opportunities.

There is a natural trust among Smith alumni. I’ve been amazed by how much the Smith Alumni Network has grown in China.

How has your Smith education helped you with your career? Were there specific classes, experiential projects, team projects, or internships that have been especially helpful to you?

The communications training I got through the MBA program helped me get promoted to management in a large U.S. company, which wasn’t easy because English is not my first language.

The MBA coursework helped me smoothly transition from a tech role to a business management role. I’m always telling my friends how valuable the Smith MBA program has been to me.

Why did you decide to get a business degree and why did you choose Maryland Smith?

It was two years after I moved to the U.S. to work for Fannie Mae, that I applied to the MBA program. To effectively work there, I needed to beef up my financial know-how and improve my ability to communicate in English. Smith’s was the best part-time MBA program in the Washington, D.C. area, and it had a good reputation among my colleagues. Some of them had graduated from Smith, making the decision to apply to the school a no-brainer.

What about your personal journey has led to your success?

Rather than success, “growth” might be a better word. Gradually I started following some basic personal principles – be curious and diligent, seek out challenges, look for the root cause of problems and have fun along the way.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I like scuba diving and snowboarding and I’m learning surfskating.

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