How Kellogg-HKUST EMBA programme fast-tracked Nike’s Angela Dong
Nike’s global vice-president and general manager of Greater China was drawn to the programme’s global mindset, scope and network, and its alumni events broadened her customer-service strategies
One year stands out in the career story of Angela Dong, Nike’s global vice-president and general manager of Greater China. That year was 2008, when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing, and Dong was studying on the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA programme. “That was an amazing year,” she recalls.
Dong was drawn to the programme’s global mindset and scope, and its sharp focus on Asia. Once her studies had begun, the relationships she developed with the other members of the KH10 cohort stood out as particular highlights.
“I got to know my classmates very well during the programme, both through working and socialising with them,” Dong says. The way in which she and her classmates collaborated on projects demonstrated what could be achieved when people with different areas of expertise work together as a team, she adds.
“I’ll also never forget the time I spent with my classmates during our overseas elective,” Dong says. She chose the course at Evanston in Chicago, which she describes as “unforgettable”. The programme was “a sort of melting pot, where people from different cultural, educational and professional backgrounds all got together to achieve common goals”, Dong says. “It was inspirational to see how the intersection of these different perspectives generates the most innovative ideas.”
The long-term friendships and partnerships formed on the programme have been maintained over the years. Dong says that although work pressures often restrict opportunities to chat, her classmates try to meet whenever they are in the same city. They always look forward to these opportunities to find out about each others’ progress and thoughts, Dong explains.
“I occasionally attend alumni events, and I find them a very useful way to meet old classmates, and see how we can form new partnerships,” she says. “I have met more and more alumni, and I am always impressed by how large the alumni network is.”
Dong says that the varied and inclusive nature of the programme exposed her to – and enabled her to learn about – topics outside her own area of expertise. Such knowledge has been extremely helpful to her career, she adds. “We were able to cultivate a global mindset by learning together within such a diverse group, and the coursework helped us to pinpoint our learning, so it was locally relevant and applicable in our own areas of expertise,” Dong explains.
Now another of the programme’s distinguished alumni, Dong chose “Leading in an Age of Disruption” as the theme of her presentation to the programme’s management conference.
“Disruption is the essence of what we do at Nike,” she says. “To us, disruption is not only good, it is also necessary. It’s necessary so we can redefine what’s best. It’s necessary for us to reinvent ourselves, to always stay ahead.”
With the nation inspired by the skill and athleticism of the Beijing Games’ competitors, the challenge for Nike and Dong was to then sustain this passion for the culture of sport.
One way the company could help achieve this was through a change in its approach to its customers, she explains. “Instead of treating them as a shopper, we now serve them with a completely innovative approach, with everything centred on the sports they feel passionate about,” Dong says.
The increasing use of digital and mobile technology is another form of disruption embraced by Nike, “as a service company, as a sports company, and as a product company”, Dong says. The technology offers an opportunity to create a direct and personal connection with customers on multiple levels, and has speeded up Nike’s entire design-to-shop process. “All these new ideas, and all this openness to disruption enables us to be able to put our Nike ecosystem into the new, broader retail system,” Dong says.
As with her own connections to fellow Kellogg-HKUST alumni, Dong sees no end to this system of innovation and change. “As we say in Nike, there’s no finish line.”