Eddie Ma

December 06, 2010

Eddie Ma (FEMBA '09) was born in China and moved with his parents to the United States as a teenager. He enrolled in UCLA Anderson's Fully Employed MBA Program in 2006 while working as a systems analyst for the County of Los Angeles. Eddie found his FEMBA coursework to be a great complement to the management experience he had gained in recent years, but he found the Global Access Program (GAP) truly transformational. GAP is a unique educational program that matches a team of students with an international technology company to develop a comprehensive business strategy.

"My team worked with a Finnish company called Mylab that develops laboratory information systems (LIS)," he said. "I remember being advised to think of GAP from the perspective of a CEO, and that's what I did. GAP came at a time in my career when I was ready for that kind of challenge."

Mylab was originally interested in entering the U.S. market but, after extensive primary research, Eddie and his teammates advised against it. "It was clear to us that the U.S. market was saturated," he said. But the team did discover market expansion opportunities in other parts of the world - especially China. The GAP team recommended that MyLab enter China.

"In the spring of 2009, I was asked to go to Finland to provide additional consulting and present a plan for Mylab to enter China," Eddie explained. "We felt this was a much better opportunity and they became very interested." Mylab's senior executives then asked Eddie to visit China in August. There, he toured existing laboratories and met prospective customers.

"Based on all of our analysis, China clearly offered a great opportunity for Mylab," he recalled. And it was clear to Mylab's leadership that Eddie would be a valuable part of the management team. On the last day of his trip, he received an offer to join Mylab as vice president of operations in China.

"I moved to China on October 17, 2009," he remembered. Having become accustomed to the United States, it was difficult moving back to China but he knew this was an opportunity he had to take.

"I had very mixed feelings," he said. "My parents worked hard to move to the United States. And my daughter had just started kindergarten. But I knew I would regret passing up this offer." So he settled in Beijing and brought his family over in January, 2010.

Mylab purchased a small Chinese firm that supplied hospital laboratories so Eddie started with an established sales force and a few existing customers. He quickly developed a production facility and began blending western business practices with Chinese values. He has since been named CEO of Mylab's China operations and has a staff of 20 employees.

"The culture is obviously very different," he said, "and our customers really wanted to check us out even though we had an experienced sales channel. It took months to get our first sale. Since then, we have had several more. It's tough being a foreign company in China. It takes time to get in the circle."

The Chinese National Army is among Mylab's customers. The world's largest employer, the Chinese National Army has more than 1000 hospitals -- of which over 100 are research hospitals.

"Fifty years ago," he said, "medical labs were part of hospitals in the United States. Then they grew out of hospitals to become regional facilities. We are positioning ourselves to do the same thing in China. But people will resist if you move too fast. We are trying to educate customers."

Eddie also had to educate his own workforce. "I think our greatest accomplishment so far has been to build a team environment," he said. "Based on my experience at Anderson, I placed a heavy emphasis on team building. They have been allowed to speak freely and feel they're part of the company. I have told them that my office is always open and they are welcome to speak their mind."

Eddie has asked his employees to model professional business practices. "When someone thinks of Mylab, I want them to think of three things - professional, dedicated and hard-working. Everything we do should convey those qualities. Even small things like sending e-mail."

After his first year, Eddie is energized by the opportunity to bring an important area of technical advancement to China. "My personal goal is to bring Mylab China to a level where it's genuinely respected by hospitals and the healthcare industry. I want to show that western thinking can harmonize with Chinese values. I think the United States and China have much to learn from each other."

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