A good scientist, much like an inspirational leader, dares to challenge the status quo, is willing to ask difficult questions, and is determined to push the boundaries of knowledge for the greater good.

These are all qualities that Wenwen Zhu exemplified while studying novel drug discovery. Outside of the laboratory, she demonstrated the same tenacity as she pursued internships at healthcare companies Novartis and Roche—all in the name of knowledge.

During these internships, she was awakened to the realities of the business world.

“I realized that to make products reachable was not the quality alone, but the strategy put in place to promote it and connections in the field,” Wenwen recalls. “This surprised me because I thought the best drugs would naturally reach the patients; I didn’t realize it was all about selling.”

Acknowledging that there was still far more to learn, in 2015, she embarked on ESSEC’s Master in Management (MiM). The decision led her to where she is today—driving digital transformation at BNP Paribas in London.

Flexibility to Explore, Freedom to Choose

The openness of the MiM program meant that Wenwen was not pigeonholed into any single industry. In fact, with over 200 modules and 47 specialization tracks, there were many combinations she could choose to carve out a journey unique to her.

“I can’t imagine any other programs or schools that would allow me to live in three continents in the last three years and, simultaneously, build my experience in finance, strategy, and trendy technologies,” she muses.

The beauty of the MiM was that she could arrange her curriculum to move flexibly between work and school, allowing her to take on two finance internships, one at PwC and another at AXA.

She also joined the BNP Paribas Chair—a professional track sponsored and co-designed by industry leaders. This allowed her to learn everything from the journey of the Airbnb founders to how the Guardian adapted to the digital world and how Tesco reacted to the influx of eCommerce disruptors. This experience led her to discover her calling in strategic digital transformation.

Equipped to Take on the Global Stage

It was also through the BNP Paribas Chair that Wenwen secured her role at the global banking company—starting as a graduate in Paris and then transferring to London.

Taking the job meant uprooting her life from Singapore. Still, she rose to the challenge precisely because “ESSEC taught me a lot about being confident, professional, and agile both in life and at work,” she says.

In part, the intimate-sized and tight-knit community at the ESSEC Singapore campus enabled her to understand different cultural nuances and to build deep connections with people around her.

The empowering environment also allowed her to practice her newfound people skills in different countries—while on exchange at the ESSEC Cergy campus in France and Duke University in the United States.

Almost three years into her role at BNP Paribas, Wenwen has no regrets. She still relishes the challenges that come her way, noting that the calculated risk-taking she honed in her days as a scientist and the wealth of her experiences at ESSEC have more than equipped her to conquer.