Xuerui Yin, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on overcoming societal norms, creating opportunities for underrepresented groups, and working with compassion.
I grew up in a traditional family in a small town of the Shandong Province, the second most populous province in China. Growing up without the privilege of a stable home, I’ve learned that hard work is the only way to achieve a different life. I was taught that 'a woman’s place is in the home' when I was young, and yet, I chose to stand against societal expectations.
During my undergraduate degree, I volunteered in India and was awarded a tuition-free exchange opportunity to the U.S. Later, I earned my second bachelor degree with honours in the U.K. and gained two chartered accountant memberships.
I’ve always wanted to explore different cultures, so right after graduation, I joined an internship program with Bank of Africa Tanzania. This valuable opportunity led me to stay in the continent for five years working at multinational institutions including Absa Bank Zambia (formally Barclays Bank Zambia).
With extensive first-hand exposure to such a different part of the world, I became more culturally sensitive. I tried my best to bridge any personal or professional divide, whether between two individuals or between organisations, by talking about the issues and by facilitating socially beneficial projects.
The Laidlaw Foundation's work is so inspiring. Its call to reduce poverty deeply resonates with me, and I wish to connect with other extraordinary scholars who are working towards the same goal. After speaking with several scholars at LBS, my desire to be part of this meaningful community continues to grow. I still remember the moment that I received the acceptance email; it was truly one of the best moments of my life.
What is the biggest life challenge you overcame, and what did you learn from it?
Life changes in many unexpected ways. My mom passed away in 2016 from stomach cancer. My dad spent all the family savings out of devastation after a few years alone at home. Meanwhile, my husband became a full-time student. I had to step in to be the sole breadwinner for the family. It was hard for me to transition from enjoying the foreign sunshine and beaches to taking care of debt and savings.
I’ve learned to focus on what I have. Despite the challenges life brings, I’m grateful that I have a supportive and understanding partner, that my dad is still healthy, and that I’m currently studying at a prestigious business school to fulfill my dream.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
'You will shine just the way you are.'
I once asked my direct supervisor for advice, hoping that I could improve. Instead, he told me, 'You will shine just the way you are'. I can’t express how much encouragement this sentence brought me. It made me realise that I need to give myself more credit. People often waste energy imagining what other people think or seeking approval, but we should know that we are perfect exactly as we are, because each individual is unique and worth celebrating.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
- 'Sit at the table.' I got this tip from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Women often think they are a 'fraud' and sit in the corner. Sheryl's book taught me the importance of viewing ourselves as equal and significant.
- Never set the limit. We have so much potential, and what we can do is beyond imagination. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes, take it. You may second-guess your capabilities, but don’t refuse a great opportunity or limit yourself because of your doubt.
- Support each other. Life is already harsh to those who are in the minority. If you find yourself to be one of only a few women in the workplace, be supportive and kind to your peers, especially when others aren’t.
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. People often view her as a lone figure in challenging the status quo and fighting for gender equality, yet she changed many lives with the power of law. Her story motivates me to raise wider awareness for underrepresented groups, fight for equal opportunities, and offer a compassionate heart that does not see gender, race or religion but instead sees hope.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
Being a Laidlaw Scholar means that we are not alone. We tend to always think, 'I’m the only one who can't afford this trip', ' I’m the only one feeling anxious about academics', or 'I’m the only one who has no friends'. But this isn't true. You're never the only one. Being in the Laidlaw community means that we are here for each other, so let’s reach out whenever we have a bad day or just want to chat. If we care and empathise with each other, we will make an impact at our school and beyond.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
While working in banks in emerging markets, I’ve seen the significant impact that funding can make on society. However, there are still many constraints that commercial banks can't tackle. In the future, I hope to transition into impact investing, where by providing funding, we can both bridge the financial gap and generate positive social impact. I envision a space where we all work with the same aim: doing good deeds from the depths of our hearts.
🎵 My quarantine anthem: High by Young Rising Sons
📚 My top book recommendation: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: I travelled to Edinburgh recently, saw the stunning views, and listened to a live band in a cosy whiskey bar.
❤️ A cause I care about: I’m exploring tech entrepreneurship in emerging markets via interning at a Swiss VC fund and partnering with accelerators, especially from Africa. I'm keen to discuss this space with those who have similar interests.
Connect with Xuerui on LinkedIn.
Xuerui is a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school.
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