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She is not only a seasoned practitioner in the automotive industry, but also a new player not to be undervalued in the NE (New Energy) vehicle race. She worked in a number of Japanese, German, American and French automobile-related companies for the past more than 10 years, during which she achieved multiple career breakthroughs. From vehicle development to vehicle parts, from procurement and quality inspection to marketing and sales, she knows the ins and outs of automobile business. After successfully finishing the MBA programme, she embarked on the journey of starting her own company. With a wealth of experience under her belt in the traditional manufacturing industry, together with her team, she is now committed to competing in the race of new energy vehicles.
A Committed Player in the Auto Industry: from Honda to Automotive Suppliers
Grace HONG studied Japanese at Shanghai International Studies University for her bachelor’s degree. Thanks to her strong language skills and science and engineering background, she was hired by Honda as a management trainee upon graduation and was dispatched to the R&D department in Japan, where Honda offered her systematic training and guided her into the world of automotive manufacturing. She had the opportunity to learn and participate in the whole development process, ranging from R&D, testing to design and others.
“Honda values the abilities of management trainees to learn and practice. For example, when testing the performance of a vehicle, all of us need to get in the car to carry out different tests such as slalom and emergency braking. Moreover, trainees need to rotate to, in addition to technical positions, other departments such as procurement, quality review, marketing and sales. In other words, the years in Honda have laid a solid foundation for my later development in the automotive industry."
After leaving Honda, Grace HONG worked in many well-known automotive suppliers such as Freudenberg, Delphi, EDAK and Michelin, and her main responsibilities were marketing and sales management. Her rich work experience not only gained her knowledge and skills in metal, chemistry, electronics, industrial design and services, but also contributed to her steady career progression.
Back to Campus: Systematic Management Programme Helps to Make Career Breakthroughs
In previous positions, Grace HONG attended many management training sessions with different focuses, such as Six Sigma, sales negotiation skills, client-oriented thinking, finance and EQ. However, those sessions in general only scratched the surface of management and failed to provide enough depth for real managers. In 2018, encouraged by colleagues, Grace HONG began to look for a systematic MBA programme suitable to her.
To her mind, she had accumulated at that time rich connections and resources, which laid a firm foundation for her to build her own company, and if she didn't make any new plans at that point in life, she would probably stand still and miss precious opportunities. Therefore, her purpose of enrolling into and requirements for a MBA programme are crystal clear, that is, to prepare her for starting her own company.
After careful searching and comparison, Grace HONG set her sights on the SJTU-KEDGE Global MBA programme. She managed to seize the last opportunity of admission that year and became a participant of the 2018 intake. According to Grace HONG, her decision was made because of the following three reasons:
- Lecture Time and Venue: The lecture time of this programme suits managers who have a full-time job. Every month, there are one to two sessions, which take place on a weekend and a workday (Friday or Monday). This arrangement helps maintain study-work balance. In addition, lectures are given in the Xuhui campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which is easy to reach.
- International Faculty: Lectures of this programme come from different countries and have rich practical corporate experience. To build a company in the highly internationalised automotive industry, she must be able to think globally, therefore, lecturers with international backgrounds can be very helpful.
- International Business Seminar: The programme provides international study opportunities in multiple locations. As she wants to promote international cooperation and exchanges in the automotive industry and create overseas branches, on-site visits during study tours could help her understand local business realities.
MBA Empowers Entrepreneurship: Breaking Industry Boundaries and Focusing on Effective Innovation
Grace HONG successfully graduated from the SJTU-KEDGE Global MBA programme in 2020 and founded her own company, Shanghai Lynn-Glvck Technology Co., Ltd, in the same year. In her view, the two-year MBA programme has significantly boosted her personal abilities and empowered her entrepreneurship.
First and foremost, this MBA programme brings together managers from different industries. Different from her own background of traditional manufacturing, many of her classmates are elites from various fields, such as IT, FMCG, healthcare or new energy, and they inspired her to think in new ways. Cross-sectoral interactions, resource exchanges and project cooperation among classmates provided her with strong support when she started her own company.
This advantage is also reflected in Professor Michel GUTSATZ’s course on brand management and marketing. In accordance with his analysis of NIO and Tesla, these companies focus on cars themselves, but they promote cars by adopting brand marketing approaches, luxury goods operating models, and partially FMCG marketing strategies. The inspiration for her is that, in the current business environment, while building a company or creating new products, it is necessary to have cross-sectoral interaction, to think out of the box and break industry boundaries.
Second, this MBA programme features high practicality and operability. A case in point is the course on corporate strategy and strategic innovation taught by Professor Roland BEL. Based on practical cases, the professor asks students to use tools such as SWOT analysis to formulate innovation strategies in accordance with pain points of users and come up with ways to persuade difficult investors.
Another example is the course on international geopolitics taught by Professor Yahia H. ZOUBIR. Apart from showing the full impact of current political factors on the business world, this course also provides students with an analysis tool composed of more than 200 questions. For those potential entrepreneurs, this course effectively expands their knowledge, improves their sensitivity to economics and politics, and nurtures their ability to predict the overall trend and respond to crises.
Another highlight is the International Business Seminar provided by the MBA programme. Back then, she travelled to Frankfurt, Moscow and Bordeaux for study tours and paid field visits to places where opportunities of business cooperation exist. A classmate that she met in Frankfurt remains in contact with her and continues to provide her with useful information on trade and vocational training in the German automotive industry.
Future Core Businesses: New Energy Product Development and Engineering Services
In accordance with her own judgment on the prospects of the automotive manufacturing industry, Grace HONG set up her company to focus on three core businesses, namely basic automotive consulting business, new energy product development and engineering services.
With the increasing availability of new energy, the trend of new energy vehicles becomes irreversible. However, traditional 4S shops cannot offer after-sales service and maintenance of such vehicles. At present, many well-known car companies are cooperating with colleges and universities with a view to jointly educate compound talents. The market demand for new energy products will also see significant growth accordingly. At present, Shanghai Lynn-Glvck Technology owns 9 patents, including 7 utility models and 2 inventions. Grace HONG said that the company would continue to apply for patents in the second half of the year, aiming at owning 20-30 patents and becoming a high-tech enterprise.
In terms of engineering services, Grace HONG attaches her attention to the training of engineers and service teams. In her view, with the popularization of digital and information technologies, the traditional manufacturing sector is in dire shortage of compound talents. For example, robots purchased by some customers require operators to have both mechanical troubleshooting skill and programming abilities, but the reality is that neither engineers nor front line operators have both sets of skills.
Therefore, dispatching engineers and service teams with multiple sets of skills to customers is another core business of the company. At present, her company has signed cooperation agreements with many colleges and universities (such as Chang'an University) to establish school-enterprise training bases so as to stay prepared for the future. She looks forward to providing customers and her own company with engineers that are both professional and application-oriented in the future.
Plan of Activities for Automobile and New Tech Club
Grace HONG re-launched the KEDGE Automobile and New Tech Club in 2018 and served as its President. Her original aspiration of relaunching the Club is to pool people and resources in the industry together and share with alumni in the hope that everyone can benefit from this platform. Since Grace HONG assumed the presidency, she has organized many eye-catching events, including a visit to the Porsche Training Center, a visit to the Nio House, and online sharing sessions (on topics such as the automotive industry during the pandemic and new energy development) , all of which were very well received by the participants.
Visiting NIO House
Visiting Porsche Training Center
Coming next, Grace HONG said that she and the board committee members of the Club will plan more visits and activities that are close to life and to the interest of alumni. For example, an event centered on the Huawei Automotive Division is in the planning stage. She believes that cars are no longer products that are hard to access, instead they are more of a mobile consumer product. Through activities of the Club, Grace HONG wants to help more people understand the development of new energy and provide practitioners in the automotive industry with more opportunities of communication and business cooperation.