Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Gloria Guan

Class of 2014

Gloria Guan

"I look back on the adversity I faced—growing up in poverty and working impossibly hard to bring my later advantages to others—as the key motivating experience in my life. It gave me pride in myself and where I came from, and helped me break down stubbornness to build teams, work alongside others, and keep an important goal beyond myself in mind."

My Background

I was born in a small village, Guangebu, in China. After living in Beijing for 8 years and in Shanghai for 3 years, I am really happy to spend 2 years in such a quiet and green environment as Durham.

I studied electronic engineering at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. I have 5 years of work experience in the electronic system and semiconductor industry providing solutions for clients in a variety of industries including energy efficiency, automotive, telecommunication, and healthcare.

My long-term vision is to establish my own company in China, bringing LED lighting—one of the world's most promising energy-saving technologies—to every aspect of people's daily lives. This was inspired by my childhood plight. Growing up, electricity bills were my parents' greatest headache. We had low, flickering lights, and no television, fan, refrigerator or electronic gadgets. Studying under dim lights, I was given the questionable gift of a thick pair of glasses on my thirteenth birthday.

I dream of transforming the world's lighting to ensure that no children have to grow and study under the dim lights of my own childhood. At Duke, I took stock of past experiences and moved beyond just engineering, toward my entrepreneurial goals.

During my spare time, I am a big fan of cycling, hiking, and travelling.

Why I Chose Fuqua

"Hi Gloria, out of the blue, I read an article on the way to Chicago that was all about a non-profit devoted to spreading light around the world. You may be familiar with them but it brought a smile to my face and made me think of your incredible story! …"

This is part of an email I received from my classmate Molly. And this is the reason why I love Fuqua! People here are so nice and supportive, and willing to share whatever they can to help others pursue their dreams.

With an emphasis on diversity, Fuqua has students from more than 40 countries and from any industry and function that you can think of. Every conversation is eye-opening for me. At Fuqua, you can always find people who share your interests, or who had your dream job, or who came from a completely different path that you have never heard about … because of these intensive interactions, you will become more and more clear about what you can do and what you want to do in your future career.

The second reason I chose Fuqua is because of the promising career opportunities. From afar, I began my research into Fuqua—going to info sessions, speaking with current students and alumni, and seeking out research papers written by faculty. It was this exploration that led me to see how Fuqua would be a perfect match of strengths, values, and styles. The journey to my lighting dream unfolded as the school days started. The program's strengths in general management and marketing are a perfect means by which to equip me with a solid business foundation to achieve my career goals. Strong faculty research on the energy sector allows me excellent access to top resources, case analyses, and interactions with industry business leaders.

Leadership Attribute: Impact

Born and raised in rural China, I needed to find a way to fund my college education by myself because my family's annual income of $120 couldn't even make a dent in the $1,100 first-year tuition. Juggling school and 3 jobs was tough physically and mentally. Work took up every free hour that I didn't spend studying, and I missed breaks and even Chinese New Year to remain in Beijing, working for a fast-moving consumer goods company.

I felt exhausted, but my confidence was growing, and I even turned down an educational loan, knowing that I could make up the tuition if I was willing to give up my summers, too. Most importantly, I didn't want others to see me as someone who "needed help." At the time, that would have felt like a failure.

I barely paused until receiving a letter from my village. Several children asked me about my university experience and what the capital city was like. I realized that I was their only link outside of our small village. Unbeknownst to me, I had become a role model to them, and I wondered how I could help them to live their dreams. Part-time jobs wouldn't do it. And the next semester, I finally applied for an educational loan, saving each penny I earned to finance the education of a few children in my village. I wrote letters home each week, talking about the many opportunities they could expect in college. I visited 10 top high schools, speaking with teachers and students, wondering how to bring their educational model to our struggling town. I knew that I would have to get others on board, too, and I shared my dream with a few classmates.

The team that I formed subsequently mentored over 50 students in my village and neighboring towns. The 50 students we have helped so far have encouraged others to join us, and I have made countless friends while serving others.

I look back on the adversity I faced—growing up in poverty and working impossibly hard to bring my later advantages to others—as the key motivating experience in my life. It gave me pride in myself and where I came from, and helped me break down stubbornness to build teams, work alongside others, and keep an important goal beyond myself in mind. I think of what I accomplished in Guangebu, my hometown, and know that no other goal I set is out of reach.

Five Random Things about Me

  1. I like cycling. It allowed me to learn about the far-flung corners of Beijing and Shanghai—tiny restaurants selling delicious food to stores selling homemade soaps and candles. The cities are my oyster. My friends soon joined me on my rides after receiving the surprise gifts I found for them.
  2. I raised all kind of animals when I was young—dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, cows, sheep, rabbits, hedgehogs …
  3. I love to spend time with friends; but I also need to spend some time alone. If I have no personal time for a long period, I begin to feel lost.
  4. I could not drive before I came to Durham. Thanks to a lot of help from my friends, I was able to earn a learner's permit and then a driver's license. (For those of who do not drive in your country, you cannot live without a car here.)
  5. I'm an avid fan of travelling. I enjoy the feeling of putting myself in a completely new place with only a map. It's like an adventure for me to meet new people and learn the culture. I went to Brazil to do my FCCP (Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum) program during spring break. I had great learning experiences involving teamwork, collaborating with the client, and experiencing Brazilian culture.

Advice for Prospective Students

I am not trying to scare you. But the truth is B-school life is really busy—much busier than you can imagine. There are so many amazing things that you can do only as a student—classes, team projects, company treks, corporate presentations, informational interviews with industry people, volunteering at industry conferences, case competitions, etc. The first thing that comes to mind is, I don't want to miss anything, which quickly turns to, oh, gosh, there's no way I can do everything, so what should I choose?!

The most important lesson I've learned here involves time management and prioritization. To take it a step further, it is all about knowing what you really want to do. The good thing is that school starts in August, which is one month earlier than most peer schools and before recruiting starts. My self-introspection and unsolicited advice to you is: start to think about your next step, starting with the one "extra" month or even from the time you decide to pursue an MBA. Try to reach out to current students or alumni—Fuqua people are always willing to share their experiences and insights. You will get clearer and clearer about what you can do and what you want to do in your future career through the intensive interaction with these people. And the 2 years at Fuqua will be a treasure in your life, helping you grow both professionally and personally.