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Judy S., Director and General Manager

Judy S., Director and General Manager

A Day in the Life of Judy S., Director and general manager (GM) for a publicly traded distribution company of raw materials, Hong Kong, China

What I Do

I am responsible for managing the operations in Hong Kong. I do almost everything you learn in business school. The most important thing I do is people management, which is about 60% of my time, with more than 200 people here.

What I Enjoy Most

As a GM, the opportunity to help develop people allows me to help the company get better quality and better results.

What I Enjoy Least

Some aspects of human resources are difficult—for example, dealing with compensation and talking with people about money. I am always happy to get past that part and resume working together as a team to produce desired results.

Why I Chose This Career

I have been with this company since graduation from college. It is a 37-year-old company that is a family business. After my Bachelor’s in New York, I relocated to China to join the family business. The benefit of being in a family business—my family’s business—is that more opportunities and more information are open to me. I have had more freedom in terms of what I can do, which accelerated my education as a manager.

Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career

If you are considering a general management career path, you need people skills and an analytical mind. As a GM, I spent more than 10 years working in the business, learning as I progressed, without formal training in some of the basics.

The ability to gather and synthesize information is critical for seeing areas for improvement. The best ways to do this are by rotating through the various departments and acquiring professional training along the way, for example, enrolling in an MBA program.

Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path

The trust you instill in your people and your customers is a prerequisite to success. If you allow anything to damage that trust, you will see the consequences.

In a family business, the flip side of having more access and more freedom is a lot of pressure to do well with the decisions you have the freedom to make. You can’t just think in terms of the money or short-term health of the business for stockholders. The family reputation is at stake and family tradition, as well. You have to think of the long-term consequences of everything you do.

As a GM, I found that I didn’t have the training in finance, accounting, and marketing and would’ve done a lot better with a more formal background in these areas earlier. Some of the other areas are more intuitive. My family didn’t talk about the business at home, so I didn’t learn about it growing up. However, a lot of distribution itself is common sense.

What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)

My first role in the company was as a management trainee circulating through the departments: finance, distribution, customer service, etc. Then I became the personnel manager. I have been general manager since 2002.

Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)

  • MBA, Kellogg-Hong Kong University of Science and Technology executive MBA program, 2012
  • Bachelor of arts, CUNY Baruch College, New York, 1998
  • GED SUNY Manhattan, 1995

In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…

For me, the executive track was important. How does the MBA program schedule match your schedule for work? Ours was two consecutive weekends each month.

I would say to look at the academic quality of the program. You’re spending so much time in whatever program you choose, my personal view is to go to a good program or don’t go at all. With Kellogg’s affiliation at Kellogg-Hong Kong University for Science and Technology, I learned a lot about marketing and business strategy. Also, the alumni network I have built has been very useful.