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.”


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.”

Ivani, cofounded by EMBA

Justin McKinney, EMBA 45, reports that the company he cofounded, Ivani, has earned a featured spot with a global business partner at the Consumer Electronics Show, which starts today in Las Vegas.

Ivani, which develops technology that links smart devices, allowing them to detect whether people are in the room, will be a featured partner at the booth sponsored by French company Legrand, along with Marriott and Samsung. McKinney reports that he’ll be presenting Ivani’s “network presence sensing” technology and Ivani’s partnership with Legrand, the largest wiring device company in the world.

We caught up with McKinney for a quick Q&A before he headed for Las Vegas.

The news of the moment is Ivani’s featured spot at the Legrand booth at CES. What does that mean to attendees, to our readers—and to Ivani.com?

Legrand is the leader in occupancy sensing technology on a global scale. It speaks volumes that Legrand leadership believes in Ivani’s network presence sensing technology and sees this as a human sensing platform where their users can benefit from and grow with the technology.

To date, there have been few impactful advancements in the “internet of things” (technology that links everyday devices, home appliances, wearable devices, etc., to the internet). One of the primary discussions in IoT right now revolves around autonomous buildings or buildings that respond to people rather than the opposite.

This is where Ivani’s network presence sensing (NPS) changes things. NPS technology is a set of custom firmware and software packages which turns groups of wirelessly connected IoT devices like Legrand’s smart switches and outlets into advanced occupancy sensing systems without adding to or changing their hardware. Along with Ivani’s partners like Legrand, the data NPS provides can enable autonomous lighting, advanced physical security, optimized HVAC, proximity marketing and more.

What exactly does it mean to be an “occupancy sensing system”?

For the first time, occupancy sensing will be a software solution rather than a solution limited to a traditional hardware sensor, which will enable new business models like occupancy as a service. This allows the user to experience new functionalities over time through over-the-air updates.

For instance, a homeowner who has a group of NPS-enabled smart switches and outlets in their home could, with a simple update, enable motion sensing without having to add new hardware. A month later, another update could allow that homeowner to experience presence sensing (a valuable sensing capability currently not yet available on the market).

Beyond this, NPS holds the promise of counting and locating people all through software updates. These new functionalities would elevate their lighting experience, save them money on their energy bills and insurance, make their home more secure, and more.

Ivani’s partners could simply place a button in their app to activate these updates, allowing their customers to add functionality to their existing devices. This means customers can activate the functionality they want, and Ivani and its partners can share in the revenue generated by those activations.

Something else this news speaks to is the level of tech coming out of the greater St. Louis area. There is a myth that disruptive tech only comes from the coasts. Along with many other extraordinary tech companies in the area, we are hopefully changing this stereotype.

How does the company affect the everyday lives of its customers?

Ivani provides the world with innovative solutions to foster everyday sustainability. As a technology and intellectual property development company, Ivani focuses on providing our partners with cost-effective market-leading solutions to human presence detection for IoT applications. Along with my fellow co-founders, we started the company in 2014 and went through two important pivots that set us on the path we’re on now. We’ve been focused on our current technology—network presence sensing—since 2015, and we haven’t looked back.

Being a startup, we all wear many hats. The Ivani cofounders together determine strategy. As COO, I’m generally responsible for the company’s budget, marketing, business development, and overall operations. That said, I do nothing by myself and lean heavily on my co-founders and the Ivani team.

Using analytics and machine learning, Ivani turns groups of wirelessly communicating IoT products like smart switches, outlets, and lamps into advanced occupancy sensing systems without adding to or changing the hardware.

Why is NPS technology so significant? Don’t we already have things like motion detectors?

As the number of IoT devices grows exponentially, we see NPS becoming a standard because of its cost-effectiveness and the impact it can have on so many people’s lives at home, work, and in public spaces.

Occupancy data is key to making IoT devices smart. They need to sense people to respond to people. While this seems simple, it is often overlooked by many manufacturers of these products. With NPS technology, many of these devices can become truly smart, saving energy and significantly improving their user experience.

How did the name “Ivani” come about?

This is a fun story. One of our cofounders loves creative word games. After playing around with the word innovation, he came up with something we all loved as a name. Remove the words “no” and “not” from “Innovation,” shift a couple letters and voila! IVANI!

In what ways did your WashU Executive MBA influence your path toward cofounding the company?

Among other things, I was inspired by my fellow cofounders to step up my game to go for my Executive MBA at WashU. The EMBA experience has been invaluable for both myself and Ivani. It has influenced my decision making in all areas of the company, like strategy, marketing, operations, negotiations, and leadership—just to name a few. Additionally, the contacts I made during my time at WashU, both fellow students and faculty, have been very helpful with key advice when needed.

Pictured above: Ivani, cofounded by EMBA ’16 graduate Justin McKinney (inset), develops technology that can detect human presence by linking internet-connected smart devices.

Transitioning from the military into a civilian business career means learning how to adapt your passion and apply existing skills in a new way, according to three Olin Executive MBA graduates who highlighted their own transition in a recent piece published by U.S. Veterans Magazine.

“In the military, you’re always looking for ways to become more efficient to provide the highest level of service to your country,” said Don Halpin, who served in the US Air Force for 20 years before earning his EMBA in 2016 and becoming healthcare systems engineer at Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center in Peoria.

“In healthcare, it’s a similar situation,” he said. “I love that I’m able to aid in bettering the lives of our patients, and the EMBA played a large part in that.”

Eric Maddox, who served in the US Army as an interrogator, found he could make connections between his experience and his business savvy now as a motivational and keynote speaker who tailors his talks to his audience, reflecting business trends he mastered in the classroom.

“I quickly realized how my experience in the intel world and war zone can directly apply to businesses and private organizations,” said Maddox, a 2016 EMBA alumnus.

“The EMBA program provided the perfect forum to tie together and finish off the leadership, strategic thinking, and management skills I developed through my years of experience in the military,” said Harry Schmidt, a 20-plus-year veteran of the US Air Force and Air Force Academy who is now president and CEO of Passavant Area Hospital in Springfield, Illinois. He also earned his degree in 2016.

Read the full story in U.S. Veterans Magazine online.


On November 30, four Executive MBA alumni and students—all leading Chief Financial Officers representing a variety of industries—gathered to discuss the challenges and ever-changing roles of CFOs.

Rebecca Boyer, of KellyMitchell Group, Charles Kim, of Commerce BancShares Inc., and Jim McCool, of Bunzl Distribution Co., discussed the influence, evolution, and expansion of the CFO role in a roundtable moderated by EMBA student Laura Carel, Manager of Complience at Emerson Automation Solutions.

Over the past decade, the role of CFO has extended well beyond the key functions of financial reporting, forecasting, auditing, and structure. CFOs are often the voice of the company within investor relations and communications to the board, as well as leaders of key strategic and operations initiatives. Despite the rapid rise of the CFO, studies show that less than 15% of CEOs moved into their role from CFO.

Jim, Rebecca, and Chuck each shared how their respective companies are shaping the role of CFO to meet today’s demands. They discussed ways they continue to evolve as professionals, including the development of soft skills, to prepare themselves for the next step. All three agreed that having a strong operations background (rather than purely financial) was a huge asset, providing a deep understanding of the business. Rebecca also emphasized the importance of strong communication skills in the role of CFO.

The next Olin roundtable event, a discussion on the role of operations executives, will take place on January 17, 2018. Check out Olin’s upcoming events for more.

Olin Business School’s Executive MBA program in partnership with Fudan University in China is number seven in the 2017 Financial Times’ annual ranking of the world’s top 100 EMBA programs.This survey marks the sixth consecutive year that the Olin-Fudan EMBA has been ranked in the FT’s top ten global programs.

Alumni of the Olin-Fudan program reported gains in the important areas of salary increase, career progress, and work experience. Olin-Fudan EMBA graduates are among the top earners of the schools in the ranking with an average salary of $360,250, the third highest globally.

“Olin’s partnership with Fudan University pioneered the executive MBA in China in 2002 and has consistently been a leader,” said Mark Taylor, dean of Olin Business School. “The large number of top American and European business schools that have followed us to Asia in recent years are a testament to our successful program and our outstanding alumni who have propelled their global careers to new heights after earning the Olin-Fudan EMBA degree.”

The Financial Times ranking is based on two surveys: one of business schools and one of their alumni who graduated in 2014. Criteria in 16 categories are weighted for the overall ranking. For more on the FT ranking methodology and details of this year’s survey, link to the Oct. 16 edition of the FT.