Maximizing opportunity: Alumna integrates Western brands into the Chinese market

As a child, Judith Sun had a front row seat to the transformative power of technology during the economic reform in China. She was born in Shanghai in the early 1970s to hard-working and diligent parents. Over time, she watched her home become filled with a television, an air conditioner and more conveniences as technology progressed in the 1980s. 

The exposure to technological advancements also opened Sun’s eyes to the potential of her own future — one shaped by education. And Sun’s parents genuinely encouraged her learning.

“They tried very hard to support my schooling until college as they believed higher education would provide their daughter more opportunities,” says Sun, who has spent 25 years marketing Western brands to China and is now managing director Greater China for Hugo Boss. “And they were absolutely right.”

Sun earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and hospitality management from Shanghai University in 1994. Following graduation, she began working at a four-star hotel for a short time before joining French food group Danone as an assistant to the trade marketing manager. Sun used the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in international marketing. 

In 2001, after five years with the company, Sun left Danone as national key account sales manager and continued to develop her skills in the consumer goods industry.

“When I think back on the years when I was growing up, I think about how everything was just moving, changing and evolving so fast,” she says. “Throughout it all, I continued learning and always stayed on course to maximize every opportunity.”

Sun went on to work at Adidas China for more than 10 years. After her EMBA study, she continued to work for Adidas China for another two years. There, she was nominated to the company’s first cohort of its Accelerated Development Program, which provided her access to structured business management and leadership training with professional trainers, coaches and professors.

“The joint EMBA program got my attention because of the fantastic faculty and international experiences it offered.”

Judith Sun

She was able to apply the work ethic she had developed in her career to her educational endeavors. After searching for MBA programs, Sun decided on Washington University Olin Business School and Fudan University’s joint EMBA program in 2007.

“The joint EMBA program got my attention because of the fantastic faculty and international experiences it offered,” Sun says.

Graduates of the joint EMBA program, which launched in 2002, go on to lead companies from all over the world. Sun was a student in the program’s sixth class.

“I enjoyed many aspects of the program, and I can still remember a lot of class details,” Sun says. “And I will always remember the challenging two weeks’ graduation module — the last module that includes a final business simulation — we had at WashU’s Knight Center in the winter of 2008.”

Sun credits her time in the program for giving her the skills needed to advance in leadership in business. Leaving Adidas China in 2011, Sun joined British denim brand Lee Cooper’s China operation as vice president. In 2013, she joined Levi’s China as general manager, franchise business management. She then went on to become managing director at Swarovski China in 2017. Her experience at Swarovski led to a second managing director role at Hugo Boss Great China in 2021.

“The 18-month EMBA program provided me with holistic business management training during my career acceleration period,” Sun says. “It certainly broadened my perspectives and paved the way to further advance my career all the way to the general management position I hold today.”

Connections

Sun has remained close with connections she developed while in the program. As a WashU alumna, she has hosted corporate visits for new students in the program and shared valuable business insights. 

“Through my 25-plus years of work experience in the China market with mainly multinational companies focusing on the consumer goods industry, I’m so proud of having the chance to be part of the extraordinary China growth stories of many great brands like Danone, Adidas, Levi’s and Swarovski,” she says.

Of course, a true leader leads by example. Her appreciation for her mentors is only matched by her commitment to assist future business leaders.

“Always be grateful,” she says, “to people who support your career advancement, as well as to those who might leave pains on you, because one day when you look back and think through it all, you will discover how worthwhile all the experiences are.”

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