UTA Recognizes Walmart Executive with Distinguished International Alumni Award
October 18, 2012—Baker Jiang ('12 EMBA) will be honored with the University’s Distinguished International Alumni Award at the 47th annual Distinguished Alumni Gala Saturday, Oct. 20 on the UT Arlington main campus.
Jiang, one of seven alums to be honored this year, earned an Executive Master of Business Administration degree after working with Walmart China for more than 15 years.
The UTA Asia Executive MBA is one of the largest of its kind in China. In partnership with several leading Chinese universities, UT Arlington’s EMBA curriculum prepares business and state enterprise leaders for the rapidly changing business environment of 21st century Asia. Graduates of the program earn a UT Arlington EMBA degree. To date, there are more than 1,800 graduates of the Asia EMBA program.
Jiang visited the UT Arlington campus for the first time last May to attend commencement ceremonies. During his brief visit, we sat down with Jiang to learn more about his experience as a leader at one of the world’s largest companies and about his feelings for his alma mater.
UTA Business: For starters, we’re very happy you and your family could join us for commencement ceremonies in May.
Baker Jiang: “It was my honor to be a part of this big celebration. My wife, my three-year-old son, and my sister came to the ceremony and were very moved. My son was so excited; he spoke about it for hours after. It was clear the University has made a great effort for the students. It makes me feel that I’m a part of the University and I’m very proud of that. We’ve enjoyed visiting the UTA campus. I loved the older buildings. In China it’s hard to find a university that’s more than 100 years old.
As students in the China EMBA program, we know we’re UTA students but we’ve never been to the UTA campus. After the commencement ceremony, my family and several classmates travelled to Dallas to visit the Sixth Floor Museum and have dinner. At the restaurant, the Rangers game was on and I met a gentleman who was also a UTA alumnus. It was a very nice feeling, watching the Texas Rangers play, and meeting other people who went to UTA. It made me proud to feel part of it all.”
UTA: You’ve been with Walmart in China for more than 15 years. What attracted you to the company?
Baker: “Before I came to Walmart, I worked at Intercontinental Hotel for six years. In 1997, Walmart brought its first store to Shenzhen. I heard the company offered great value to its customers. I recognized how it would change the industry. I went to the library and learned everything I could about Walmart before I sent a letter of interest to the company. It was a very challenging process and I went through eight interviews before I was hired.
I joined Walmart as an assistant manager in 1997 when I was a young man. It was one of the smartest decisions I made in my career. Working in Walmart Western China for almost ten years, starting from one store to 17 stores, I led my Western region team to become the most profitable and most successful region in China. Due to the good sales performance and talent development, I was promoted as director of this region. Then my company asked me to go to the northern region around Beijing, which was the most difficult region in China for the company. From 2007 to 2011, I led my Northern team to turn around the performance and made the cities like Beijing to be one of the most successful markets of Walmart China. All the Beijing stores have been turned around and are now very profitable.
Last year, I was promoted to be the Vice President of Hypermarket Operations immediately. Now I am in charge of all 361 Walmart and Trust-Mart stores in China that are located in over 140 cities and create over $10 billion (USD) in profit every year. And there are over 100,000 associates on my team to serve over 700 million customers annually in China.”
UTA: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Baker: “I grew up in Chongqing in the China countryside. As a boy, I was not focused on studies and my family was very worried about me. In fact, my father once purchased a very expensive camera from Japan so that I could make money photographing tourists who would visit a beautiful bridge in my hometown.
I told my family not to worry and I began to take my studies more seriously in high school. I was the only person from my school to attend university.
For all that I’ve accomplished, it’s just the beginning. I believe it’s better to be humble, to continue to work hard and it will be possible to reach even higher.”
UTA: What are you most proud of?
Baker: “No other foreign company has grown its China market with local executives like Walmart. No foreign-owned company has recruited executives locally in China.
I am very proud that my company employs more than 100,000 locals. We contribute so much to our country and to this great enterprise. We set the examples for all retailers though our honesty, integrity, and technological abilities. I tell my associates that I’ll always focus on the business but I’ll also focus on the community because this is Walmart’s way.
I am very proud that citizens trust our company. We provide great value and we are committed to doing more for our community. Returning to community and society is one of the most important things to our company.”
UTA: What has changed most about China in the last 10-20 years?
Baker: “I am from the same country town as Deng Xiaopeng, who brought on China’s 30-year reform. I greatly appreciate his leadership. Our nation has totally changed but we can still improve. Today, China is very open for business. UT Arlington’s China EMBA plays a great role in building a bridge between our two countries.
I’m a benefiter of my country’s change. When I was young, almost everyone in my town was poor. Most of us couldn’t afford to attend university. In ‘old’ China, we couldn’t afford to eat pork or other meat more than once or twice per month. Now, for most people, we can have it anytime.”
UTA: Can you tell me something about China today that would surprise most Americans?
Baker: “China is changing quickly and for the better. More and more, we are a middle class society. It is great companies that build the middle class and Walmart is a good example.
I think most Americans know China and the Chinese want to know the U.S. more. American products and its education system are very desirable. Many Chinese want to send their children to the U.S. for their education because it is the best in the world.
One thing that may surprise Americans is that China is rapidly urbanizing. It was not long ago that only 20 percent of Chinese lived in cities. Today, more than 50 percent of the population lives in urban areas.”
UTA: Where will the future take you?
Baker: “Walmart has a great future in China. We are at $10 Billion in annual income but there is still a long way to go compared to the U.S. Walmart. Our C.E.O. has said that Walmart in China can be the next miracle of growth for the company with potential to be as successful as it is in America.
For me, it’s very important that we continue to do more for our country, our company, and for our universities. UTA is my university and it is my honor to promote it and support it.”