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MA Program Alumni Profile and Spotlight: Sean Xiang

"It's All About Developing Knowledge and Finding Your Direction"

Sean Xiang

Sean Xiang, MA '09
Shanghai, China

Sean Xiang has worked across countries, companies and cultures in the eight years since he completed his studies at Brandeis International Business School (IBS) – and he’s certainly not finished exploring the world of opportunities available to him. Xiang grew up in China and attended Xiamen University before shifting his education to the United States. 

After graduating from the Brandeis IBS MA program in international economics and finance, he worked for two hedge funds in Stamford, Conn., before returning to China to work for the joint venture of Deutsche Bank in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Xiang is currently the chief strategy officer at Yongning Pharmaceuticals, where he is in charge of investments, strategy planning and cross-border M&A deals.  Sean is also an active and instrumental alumni volunteer in China, where he helps to coordinate alumni events and host visiting faculty members. 

What motivated you to pursue your master’s degree in international economics and finance?

I am always looking for opportunities to try different things, to understand and get close to what my passion is. I studied finance as an undergraduate and liked the idea of getting my graduate degree right away. At Brandeis IBS specifically, the rankings were great and many people I spoke with recommended the professors, whose resumes were outstanding. The international environment opened my eyes; it was the first time that I could meet people from such different, diverse cultures.

Tell us about your transition to graduate school in the U.S. 

It wasn’t always easy. Particularly in classes that required participation, I was always trying to organize my sentences to join in while keeping up with the conversation. Although I had studied similar theories and principles in China, those courses involved a lot of reading and writing. Speaking and listening is different, and it takes time to adjust. I am proud of the courage I had in those years to try to stand up and participate. I took classes that put more emphasis on participation even though I didn’t have to, and it helped me in the end as I developed my career in the U.S. That notion of adaptation has been critical for me to tap into again now, as I adjust to the reverse culture shock of working in China after many years in the States.   

What led you to a career in investment banking?

While in school, I was always focused on what I would do after graduation. I joined clubs that focused on emerging markets and consulting, talked to alumni and worked with the career team to gain guidance and information. I graduated in 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis but was lucky to find a job at a hedge fund through a Brandeis alum. Once I developed experience in the financial markets, I knew that work in investment banking – getting more involved in deals and talking with clients – would further develop my career. It’s all about developing knowledge and finding your next, but not necessarily final, direction.  

What does your work entail?

My job is very global, and so having learned to respect and communicate with people of different perspectives at Brandeis IBS has been really important. In my job I meet with heads of companies and use research, conversations and colleague collaboration to provide investment advice. There’s also the procedural side for each deal that we make – handling confidentiality, due diligence and financial issues – as well as understanding how to help that company grow while supporting my company’s bottom line. It’s about creating a synergy. 

What advice do you have for current students at Brandeis IBS? 

Think about what you really like and then what you are going to do with that passion. Gain experience at an early age, but don’t settle too fast. You need time to find out what you like, which is a risk, but doing what you enjoy and doing a good job at it is important. That’s how I define success.