Anferny Chen

Dataraction, CEO

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background.

I was a student entrepreneur in the web design and technology space during my university years and moved into asset management and private equity for about five years after that.

After I went back to school for my MBA in 2010, I got back into tech entrepreneurship with a focus on working with universities, governments, and incubators globally.

In 2017, I started to work with Ph.D. holders and data scientists on various startups and consulting projects. As a Distinguished Research Fellow at Tsinghua University, I have worked with faculty and industry partners on applied analytics and blockchain projects.

Why did you choose the Harvard Business Analytics Program? How is this program different from other, similar programs?

The more I learn, the hungrier I am to learn more about the future of analytics.

Analytics is not a single skill set. It’s not just learning technical knowledge and skills. It’s impacting business and our future from all angles, and we have been learning those—digital transformation, change management, etc.—with faculties and classmates who are leaders and practitioners from various fields.

How has what you’ve learned in the program impacted the work you are currently doing?

The things we have been learning are very practical and up to date, so I have been able to apply a lot of it to my life. For example, I work with many startups and SMEs, and the knowledge I took from the program allowed me to help them to improve their business strategy and tech/data system design, which was something I did not expect I would be doing before this program.

What has been your greatest takeaway from the program?

There are a lot of takeaways because the things we have been learning are so practical. If I really needed to name one, I would say observing how the interaction between classmates could be so engaging. We are a group of people who have busy careers and have achieved a lot in our lives, but everyone always tries to come up with new ways to be more engaged and to learn more, regardless their professional background and where they are in the world. People are in the program to learn, to explore, and to be inspired.

How will what you’ve learned make you a leader in your industry? Or, how has it made you a better leader in your industry?

The professors are not just teaching us concrete knowledge, but teaching us how to think. To me, being a good leader in this era is not about what we already know about analytics and technology. It’s more about exploring future trends and understanding the impact across industries—and this program has helped me do that.

Is there a moment—either as part of a course, with a professor, or with a peer—that stands out to you as particularly influential?

This is a difficult question to answer, because the whole experience has been a “wow.” If I had to pick one, I would say it was having the CEO of the company in our case study appearing in our virtual class—and a character in the case showing up in person during the on-campus immersion. I heard about these kinds of things happening at Harvard Business School, but it still feels very amazing to experience it.

What advice do you have for others considering this program?

Be curious, because the faculty and classmates all carry a great deal of wisdom and experience. Be ready, because this program covers much more than just business analytics. Be open, so you can utilize the digital tools to enhance your virtual learning experience.

What was it like meeting and connecting with your classmates in person? Did you make any professional connections?

Meetings were very effective because we already got to know each other ahead of time via program learning and other interactions outside of the program. In terms of professional connections, I would say that I had already made quite a few prior to the immersion. My immersion experience has been more about engaging with my fellow classmates on a personal level—including having the 5 a.m. morning run with classmates alongside the river prior to our busy program schedule starting at 7:30 a.m.