WashU-Fudan EMBA Alumnus Judith Sun: 12 Years Later, Still Benefiting from an 18 Month-Course
"A tough mind and a tender heart" is the current Swarovski Crystal China Managing Director Judith Sun’s signature message on her WeChat, which has also been her professional motto. A brilliant summary and inspired by what she heard 12 years ago in a lecture given by Professor Stuart Bunderson from the Washington University-Fudan University EMBA program.
Her stories and fond memories with the WashU-Fudan EMBA program go further than her professional motto. For Judith Sun, the 18-month course still benefits her even today, and her feelings about her alma mater run deep.
12 years later, she hosted the program's Industry Insight Roundtable Forum at the beautiful new Swarovski China headquarters, and told 37 program alumni about the past and future of the centennial international fashion brand.
Transform, Transform, Transform
Everyone is amazed by Swarovski's advanced precision-cutting technologies, its sophisticated products, and always trendy designs, which have made this fashion brand founded in 1895 in Austria become a legendary name. With its unique brand concept, Swarovski has been the leading industry in fashion jewelry, home decorations, and imitation crystal manufacturing among other sectors. Most people don’t know the legendary brand has also been subtlety making its own changes as the retail market has been changing rapidly.
18 months ago, Judith Sun took on the mission of leading the fashion oligarch and stepped into the crystal kingdom herself, infusing the heritage brand with a new and youthful perspective. At the roundtable, she shared insights into market changes, the strategy of development plans, and key tactics and architecture of the company’s human resource department. Admittedly, organizational changes are usually the most painful process, and many people found it hard to adapt during the process of transformation.
However, Judith was able to push through the transformation smoothly. From not being understood to seeing the results, the secret behind her success was having: "A tough mind and a tender heart." Determination and gentleness must go together.
Determination is the ability to repeatedly communicate with everyone who has doubts, telling them that change is the only way to win the future. Gentleness is being sincere and transparent, and Judith relies on a genuine heart and a ceremonial manner of celebration to reward team members for every progress and achievement of goals. This manner of celebration for every success gradually led her gain more trust and influence, thus bringing everyone closer to success.
Judith shared that this was the true practice of the theoretical knowledge Professor Bunderson's imparted in his leadership course. Leadership is actually an esoteric art of being, and one of the most rewarding courses she has had from the EMBA program. To be a true leader, you need to have many, well-rounded skills. But just as Professor Bunderson said, “No skill is as good as being honest.” Honesty is the most powerful force, and "a tender heart" will win you respect and trust.
Step Out of the Comfort Zone and Be Limitless
In fact, "transformation" seems to be something that Judith is particularly skilled at, which is apparent from her rich career experiences. After she left Adidas, where she had served for more than a decade, she then became Levi's distributor channel leader, and later moved on to become a Swarovski executive. This is evidence of her “never satisfied with the status quo” and resolve to evolve, especially 12 years ago when she chose to attend an EMBA program.
Judith started her career as a sales manager and worked at Adidas for more than a decade. She was very pleased to witness the rapid development of Adidas in China, and she vividly recalled the company having several years of unbeatable performance growth of 100%. However, it was during time when the projects gained tremendous results that Judith felt as if she was missing something.
As luck would have it, during a corporate training session, she suddenly realized she had actual practical experience and was lacking the support of business theory. So, she decidedly chose to attend the WashU-Fudan EMBA at the age of 34 and became one of the earliest students to receive a structured classical business theory education. The goal was to use theory to improve herself, to be a better version of herself, and pave the way for future career growth.
Choosing to attend the EMBA program was another new challenge for Sun, who changed four to five positions at Adidas previously. "I've always felt that people should remain curious, embrace changes with an open heart, and come out of their comfort zones so [they can see personal] potential is limitless!" With a clear purpose and constant challenges, Judith has been practicing the secret of success and has not set limits for herself.
"My feeling is that every time you make it to the next level, you will see a different landscape and reap what you could never have," Ms. Sun said. “With every step up, you will have a chance to meet greater people, and that is going to be very helpful.” In the same spirit, this Industry Insight Roundtable Forum has given her a good chance to learn with many industry leaders as well as from each other.
She believes that success does not have an end; challenge is endless, and learning is a lifelong pursuit. Therefore, one must not set limits in life. The value of lifelong learning also coincides with the value of the WashU-Fudan EMBA program. It is the right of every alumnus to return to their alma mater to review the classic courses. Judith mentioned it was a great pity to miss Professor Bunderson's leadership course due to being busy with work.
"Looking back at the EMBA experience, I can say that it is a very important cornerstone of my life, or a meaningful milestone." The 18-month course which included corporate finance, people management, leadership and corporate strategy, has not only opened her eyes but also built a solid foundation for her future career as a senior executive.
"A tough mind and a tender heart," will also continue to inspire Judith, leading Swarovski to a new peak in China. Through this process, Swarovski, a 100-year-old fashion brand, will conform to new retail trends, further integrate its channels, merge online and offline sales, and bring more impactful experiences to Chinese consumers.