After hosting her first book launch at Penn Wharton China Center, Winter Peng, WG’18, talks about how she found new opportunities and connections in the creative world through business school.

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I had a lot of discussions with my family and friends about the decision to go to business school. I knew pure finance wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t sure how to build a career based on my writing hobby either. I was even thinking about getting an MFA degree to focus on writing novels.

“You don’t need a literature degree to be an author,” my mom said.

That was a wake-up call for me, as I realized some of the greatest writers never got a degree in writing. Despite the insecurity about my future and the concern about fitting in, I took the offer from Wharton because I really wanted to find a way to combine my finance background and my passion for storytelling.

The Road to Writing through Business

Born into a family of children’s book authors, I developed a love for writing and storytelling at an early age — but initially, I chose a much different career path for myself. I ended up working in a New York high-rise in the fintech investment world, after graduating with a bachelor’s in entrepreneurial studies and a master’s in public policy and management.

However, writing and reading remained faithful companions and enabled me to stay positive when faced with challenges at work and in life. I continued writing short stories about my adventures in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the U.S., where I met a lot of people with fascinating experiences.

Surprisingly, my friends and family were so drawn to my stories after reading them that they suggested I publish a book. Fortunately, a Chinese publisher, Writers Publishing House, saw the big market potential and wanted to team up to launch the book. That was how we started the two-year journey of publishing The Road to Shine.

It’s a collection of nonfiction stories that take place in multiple countries across four continents, seen through the eyes of a Chinese girl living and thriving in different cultures. It’s meant to encourage more people to find their inner strengths and learn to shine proudly by overcoming challenges and taking risks in their lives.

Finding My Community in Business School

At Wharton, it didn’t take me long to realize that there were a lot of like-minded people. I became friends with a rapper, a songwriter, and a fashion designer during Pre-Term, and we all joined the Wharton Media & Entertainment Club. I was thrilled to find my tribe and became an active member of the community. I also discovered that the creative world is full of business opportunities.

For instance, you could take a strategy role to help steer the company toward the right direction or you could pursue an investment career by deepening your domain knowledge of entertainment and technology.

I gained a lot of hands-on experience by completing two summer internships in Los Angeles — focused on strategic initiatives at Blizzard Entertainment and corporate finance planning and analysis at STX Entertainment.

I have also had the chance to apply the knowledge and theory I’ve been learning in my classes to a real-life project: launching my book. It’s been a fascinating yet challenging experience. I have been involved in every single step of the process — from designing the book cover to seeking sponsorships and managing media relations. The communication courses I took at Wharton definitely prepared me for negotiating and coordinating with different stakeholders.

Wharton’s huge global network was a major asset. I reached out to the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing to talk about a platform for content creators, investors, and researchers to network and discuss about opportunities in the storytelling industry.

PWCC flyer for Winter Peng Book Launch event
A flyer from my book launch event at PWCC.

We coordinated an event to do just that — which doubled as the launch for my new book. My friend and mentor Prof. David Bell even sent us a video from Europe, which made the launch even more special for me. The event was a great success, with more than 100 attendees and 40 mainstream media outlets in China, including Tencent, Sohu, and Sina.

Audience and media outlets at Winter Peng's book launch at the Penn Wharton China Center
Audience and media outlets at my book launch at the Penn Wharton China Center

What’s Next?

The book went on sale in February so I plan to fly back to China this coming summer for media interviews and book signing tours. Many book critics believe The Road to Shine has started a new generation of multicultural literature in China with an original and unique perspective. I’m also working on my second book, which is likely to be adapted into an original web series by a studio in Shanghai.

Winter at the Penn Wharton China Center
Spending some time with Ben on the Bench at Penn Wharton China Center.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial drive so I hope to start a media company with my business school friends in the long term after learning the best practices from successful content creators in Hollywood. In the short run, I will join the business development team of a media startup in L.A.

Posted: April 12, 2018

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