Volunteer Spotlight: Ying Pei, M.B.A. ’18
Ying Pei shares her leadership secrets with students through volunteer work

By Eva Richards

ying-pei-2Ying Pei, M.B.A. '18, volunteers at NIU, mentoring students and offering feedback on leadership skills.

When Ying Pei earned her M.B.A. from NIU in 2018, she already had plenty of leadership experience from her time in academia and as an athlete.

While she was growing up in China, she was in rhythmic gymnastics and volleyball teams. In college, she played volleyball and basketball while attaining her bachelor’s degree in physics. 

“Those experiences, including being the captain for some teams, built some leadership foundation for me,” she said.

But the M.B.A. program brought Pei to the next level. 

“The cohort program was perfect for me because I had a chance to work with a group of students collaboratively and grow my professional network," Pei said. "The nine-day international trip to Spain and France really enhanced my global business knowledge, as I led a diverse team supporting business domestically and internationally. The extensive program boosted my time management skills for sure, and I also learned a lot from real-world enterprise executives who came as guest speakers.” 

After taking a course in negotiation and conflict management, Pei says that she has been able to negotiate more often in her work with better results. She has become a better learner, manager and leader at work, and a better person for her family and friends because of her M.B.A. education.

Pei has spent years as a software engineering manager, building and managing a cohesive and high-performing team, as well as delivering innovative, on-time, high quality solutions. She has worked collaboratively with diverse, multi-discipline, and cross-functional teams in global organizations. 

“It turns out that building surprisingly talented teams is my strength as a manager and leader.  I have the innate ability to see the best in people, gain their trust, and provide unwavering support,” she said. “It would be much harder for me to establish/enhance this strength without the NIU M.B.A. education.”

Recently. while Pei was laid off, due to the pandemic, she utilized her skills to help her friends navigate the interviewing process.

“The most rewarding thing in the past few months was actually working with some friends and former colleagues, who were laid off. We worked on resume-editing, mock interviews, and salary negotiation,” she said. “A lot of them have started new jobs. I was grateful that I contributed a bit to their success—I feel successful when I help others feel successful.”

Because of the valuable leadership education, she received at NIU, Pei is eager to mentor current Huskie students in leadership practices. She has participated in “Meet the Alumni: Making Connections through Conversation” and reviewed Honors Program scholarship applications. She received many positive comments from students she has helped, making the volunteer experience even more fulfilling.

“It is very rewarding to see how I may have an impact on a person’s life in a positive way by giving my time, knowledge and support,” she said. “A lot of knowledge I can share now is directly or indirectly related to my M.B.A. The NIU network has provided a good platform for me to influence more people.”

But while she recognizes her many strengths and personal improvements, she is quick to stay grounded.

“I still remember Dean Rajagopalan telling us to ‘be humble’ at our graduation reception,” she said. “Besides all the typical things you can learn from an M.B.A., my takeaway from my coursework is this—it is a privilege and an honor to be a management professional. A good manager desires to serve the best long-term interests of employees, organization and customers.”