Han Xiang, Jiangsu
University of Wales MBA ’04
Currently: Compliance manager for a joint venture insurance company
I wanted to improve my English, learn some foreign management skills and also get some experience abroad. It was an eye-opening experience. Because the program was so short, it was very intense. The pressure was high because I was paying my own way.
I would stay up till 3 a.m. doing my work. Even though I had studied English and tested high enough on the IELTS, there were some difficulties with writing and communication because it wasn’t my native language. Most of my classmates were from the UK, so it was hard. But after the first semester, things improved.
It was worth it. I learned a lot about Western ways of thinking, and this helps me quite a bit in my current job. My situation is much better than it was before I did the MBA. My English is better and my background is stronger. I found a job within a month of returning.
Honestly, I don’t think that an MBA is a ticket to a higher salary or a better job. My English level and job experience were more important. If you do your MBA in China you have a great alumni network, but doing an MBA abroad left me with very few useful contacts.
James Wemyss, USA
Tsinghua University IMBA ’08
Currently: Investment manager at Millennium Capital Services
I wanted to do a career switch and learn Chinese. Tsinghua is strong in energy, and I wanted to get involved in renewable energy and clean technology here.
To prepare, I took some finance classes and a class or two in Mandarin. I was able to pay for it all. I paid about US$30,000-35,000 for two years, which is almost less than one year of grad school in the US.
If you had thought this would be a typical MBA experience, it’s not. The social atmosphere is going to lunch on Saturday, playing badminton after and then going to the library on Saturday night. I took one-on-one Chinese class four times a week. It took me a year and a summer until I could stand in a Chinese-language business class and really listen.
I was the first foreign intern in a state-owned enterprise. It’s a good experience to see if you’ll actually fit in a Chinese company. Another advantage is the network I have. It’s probably the easiest way for foreigners to make long-term connections. You meet Chinese people on equal ground and you can develop friendship on that plateau.
Tang Jia Yong, Anhui
China University of Mining and Technology MBA ’08
Currently: General Manager, Beijing Wangfawei Interior Decorating
I had already been running my company for six years, but I still didn’t have many business skills. I wanted to learn more entrepreneurial and management skills. Doing an MBA in China was more practical for me because it is more expensive and difficult to study abroad.
I couldn’t leave my company, so I chose a part-time program and paid my own way. It was good to be able to study and also put those skills to use at the same time. I still study the texts I used to help me with my company.
It wasn’t a stressful experience, but it wasn’t easy by any means. We had to spend a lot of our own time to study. On the down side, I have had some problems with things I used to think were easy in the past. So the MBA has changed the way I do my business. Also, some of the things we learned weren’t really relevant to my company. I don’t think it’s realistic to assume you’ll get a job by doing an MBA. If you do an MBA with no work experience, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a job after you graduate.
Andrew C. Johnson, USA
Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business MBA ’06
Currently: Starting up his own consulting firm
I was looking to change jobs. People were always telling me ‘You should open your own company!’ and I would say, "Yeah, but what kind of company exactly?"
I needed a little bit of knowledge in different areas: finance, accounting, economics.
I chose Cheung Kong because I did not expect that Shanghai would have this kind of quality professors teaching here. I was impressed. Many of them are very excited to do research here. You have a very China-centric kind of program. That’s what animates these professors.
It was incredibly intense. I would get home at 9 p.m. after classes and discussions with group members and go immediately to bed, and then get up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for class.
I now have connections in any number of industries. When you need to get good information, you’ve got people to talk to. Those connections are really quite deep in a small class like that.
Higher wages and better opportunities aren’t just going to fall into your lap. If you want to change your industry or your function you may have to take a step back. But if you look at the whole trajectory, there’s no reason that it won’t pay for itself several times over.
Sharron Zhang, Shanghai
University of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA ’07
Currently: Associate at AT Kearney, Hong Kong
It’s common practice after two or three years as an analyst to get a sponsorship to go to do your MBA. I wanted to have a higher education in the US or Europe and I wanted to have international exposure. Also I wanted to have a rest after a hard few years of work.
I never thought to do an MBA in China, because the MBA degree originally came from the US so I thought a US experience would be better. An MBA from the US gives you a much better advantage. Brand name still counts in China. Some people choose a European MBA because they offer year-long programs. But I just wanted to have the experience.
I think two years is also very short, so I chose to spend another year working there. After the program, I applied for an internal transfer to AT Kearney’s Chicago office.
I got a sponsorship from my company. They paid for all of my tuition, about US$90,000, but for living expenses I paid partly from my savings and partly through student loans. I didn’t have as much pressure as my Chinese classmates who paid all on their own. I’m pretty lucky, I have to say.
I wanted a network to meet different people from different industries, especially those with different experiences and goals.
The cultural difference was a challenge. I’m not very aggressive compared to US students.
In Chinese culture people tend to think before they speak, but in the US they encourage a risk-free environment, so sometimes people didn’t think before they spoke. It was a shock! If you have a lot of classmates speaking fast without thinking, it adds to the pressure.
Understanding wasn’t an issue for me, but it was hard to express myself, especially in a group discussion when you have to be spontaneous. Even after the program I still had a problem. In class, if you’re lazy and don’t want to talk no one will bother you. But when you’re working, you have to talk to clients. I had to stretch myself.
I wish I could have put even more pressure on myself to take more chances and challenge myself. If I could have stretched myself more I could have gotten a lot more out of the experience.
Sometimes because of the language I just sat quietly. I wished I could have made more friends with classmates from other countries. If you don’t make an effort you just cannot make many friends.
I haven’t seen any direct benefits yet, but in the future when I consider a job change or a transfer I think I will. It’s more like a long-term investment in people. The alumni network really helps. We have regular alumni activities in every big city in greater China.
The MBA is more like a systematic training in fundamental skills and communication skills. Even though I’m in China, I still have many foreign clients and so this helped me learn how to communicate with them.
And then at my company, if you just get an internal promotion the pay is different. There’s a 20-30% salary difference for a returnee from a foreign program.