Sharlyn Leh

Sharlyn Leh, MBA '22

Leading with Empathy

Sharlyn Leh, MBA '22, wanted to pursue higher education as a way to meet other professionals seeking to expand their understanding of leadership. When asked why she wanted to earn an MBA specifically, Sharlyn’s answers always came back to people. For Sharlyn, there is deep value in learning from, and working with, people from diverse backgrounds. “In doing something like an MBA, it gives you the opportunity to interact with like-minded people, who have similar goals  —  but they're not all the same.”

When Sharlyn entered the Executive MBA Program at Michigan Ross, she found a cohort of peers who not only brought their knowledge to the classroom, but led their professional and personal lives with empathy and compassion. Whether it was marketing, finance, or consulting, Sharlyn said she was assured that the people she was learning with, and from, had similar aspirations. 

“The people are my favorite part of the program — my cohort and the professors,” she said.

Perspective, empathy, and leadership are the words that came to mind when Sharlyn describes her time in the program. From meeting for class sessions on the Los Angeles campus to experiencing Ann Arbor and attending football games, Sharlyn said she and her cohort have uplifted each other throughout their 21-month journey together — and helped shape her perspective in her personal and professional life. “They want what’s best for you. They want to help you.” 

From Finance to Leadership

Sharlyn worked in wealth management for over ten years before considering an MBA. When she was promoted from manager of strategy to director of strategy at AssetMark, Sharlyn realized how beneficial a master’s degree could be to refining her leadership style. She was connecting with other corporate leaders more than ever before, and felt honing her ability to communicate her strategies effectively and concisely was essential for her to lead. “I want to make an impact, and I think that was a big part of pursuing an MBA,” she said.

“I firmly believe that in life you just have to keep learning, and that’s how you grow as a person and in your career,” Sharlyn said. Being able to connect with her clients and stakeholders was a skill she looked to sharpen. Not wanting to leave the corporate world to pursue her education, the Executive MBA program gave Sharlyn the flexibility to continue her career while expanding her network. The program would allow Sharlyn to take the knowledge she was getting in the classroom and apply it directly to her professional role, in real time. “I knew it would be challenging but rewarding, which is exactly what I needed.”

Breaking Boundaries  

Sharlyn met with her cohort once a month on the Michigan Ross Los Angeles campus. Sharlyn said she appreciated the thoughtfulness of her classmates and the ability for them to connect. “I love how small our cohort is,” she said. “You get to know people on a much deeper level.” And when her cohort did get to experience the Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Sharlyn says the school always made them feel like a part of the bigger community. 

“We're all part of Michigan. And every chance that we're there, they do everything they can to incorporate the LA campus into the Ann Arbor one.” 

Beyond connecting with her cohort, Sharlyn said her experience with the ExecMAP course strengthened her communication skills. Her team worked closely with an international elevator maintenance company, allowing her to explore an industry new to her and apply classroom frameworks to navigate the company’s needs. “I think the project taught me a lot about how I interact with others,” she said. Coming from a career that focused more heavily on analytical aspects of the job, her ExecMAP project allowed Sharlyn to expand on her communication skills to build genuine bonds with stakeholders. “I think, generally, I have a good understanding of the core classes, but the non-core classes and experiences that Ross offers teach you so much about leadership and empathy,” she said.

Applying Her Education in Real-Time 

As she nears the end of the program, Sharlyn said has already seen the impact her classes have had on her leadership style and work relationships. "You learn throughout the program what you're good at, what you're not good at. You learn how to ask for help from your teams. You learn a lot about yourself. Leadership isn't about being right. It's about listening to people and coming together as a team to maximize success.”  

For those entering the program or thinking about applying, Sharlyn's advice is to make the most of the experience. “The program goes by so quickly,” she said, “so leverage the school for extracurriculars, leverage your teams, and the people, and your cohort.”