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‘Follow Your Heart,’ Jing Tells Graduates

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not long after graduating from the Carlson Executive MBA–China Program (CHEMBA) in 2005, Eric Jing found himself faced with an enviable yet difficult choice. He had two job offers—one from a Fortune 500 company, the other from Alibaba.

“One was a safe bet. As for Alibaba, all I knew was that it was a tech company and their mission was to make it easy to do business anywhere—that way, everyone has a chance to succeed,” Jing recalled in his keynote address to graduates at the Carlson School’s commencement ceremonies Monday at Mariucci Arena (watch the full video of his speech below).

After seeking advice from a friend, Jing said he decided to follow his heart.

“I could not have known that Alibaba would grow to today’s scale,” he told the crowd. “But I knew that their mission to help others mattered to me.”

A decade after first joining Alibaba, Jing is now the CEO of Ant Financial Services Group, a spinoff company that manages the digital payment platform Alipay. He said his experience in the CHEMBA Program changed his life.

“We are driven to discover at the University of Minnesota. I discovered a lot here: a wealth of knowledge, a global perspective, and the desire to build more bridges between the Carlson School and China,” said Jing, who has personally supported the Carlson School’s work in China.

“But the most important thing I discovered was that if Carlson could enable me, an ordinary guy from a small town in China, to succeed, then it is my mission to help others to succeed.”

Jing shared several stories of how he believes Ant Financial is doing just that for individual consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises, from a man with a visual impairment using his smartphone to buy groceries to a woman selling homemade beef jerky online. Ant Financial’s goal, Jing said, is “to serve and change the lives” of 2 billion people in the next decade.

He also recalled his CHEMBA admissions interview with Professor Emeritus Mahmood Zaidi, the founding director of the International Program Office. Why do you want to be part of this program? Zaidi asked.

“Dr. Mahmood, I want to know more about the world to interact with the world and to keep learning,” Jing told the professor who would become his mentor.

When Jing visited the Carlson School last year, he said he couldn’t wait to tell Zaidi “that the answer I gave him years ago about having a global vision had become reality.”

“For me, the measure of success is not money. It is whether I have enabled others to reach their dreams and to live fuller and more rewarding lives,” said Jing, who closed by advising graduates to “go out, follow your heart, and empower others in the years to come.”