How the SSO Immersion Helped Prepare Me to Run My Family Business

by Alex Kyung-Yul Yang, MBA ’13

Alex Kyung-Yul Yang, MBA ’13

Alex learned how to ask the right questions through various performance learning experiences

Before Johnson, I worked for Samyang System Group in South Korea. My grandfather founded the company in 1960, and I am part of the third generation involved in our family business. We manufacture control valves and other essential parts for construction and energy industries.

Early on in my career I understood the importance of leadership and general management. Although I came to Johnson with high expectations of honing my general management skills through the Semester in Strategic Operations (SSO) Immersion, I would have never guessed how much I’d learn and how valuable this entire experience has been.

The program’s focus is divided equally, with us spending 20 percent of our time studying each of the following business functions: strategy, operations, human resources, supply chain, and other business functions, like marketing and finance. As you can see, SSO is not focused solely on operations; it’s actually centered on general management. Also, this immersion is available to graduate students from The School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Engineering Schools, which adds tremendous learning value with students sharing different perspectives from diverse disciplines.

During the immersion, we got to interact with successful companies and witness how theories are put into practice in business. More importantly, through this experience, I learned to ask the right questions. In a competitive business environment, a leader must be able to facilitate the needs of a team as well as draw out knowledge from different people with expertise to be successful. Numerous guest speakers and company visits in different industries, ranging from service to manufacturing goods, provided priceless insights that simply cannot be learned from typical classroom settings and books.

For me, the SSO Immersion was extremely important because it taught me that the best practices and solutions to many challenging business problems are already out there. They may not be available in the industry in which I work, but as long as I have an open mind and willingness to learn from other businesses in different industries, I am confident that I will be able to grow our family business into a global enterprise that can perhaps represent Korea someday.