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I Swapped Coal Mining In China For An MBA At The UK's Aston Business School

After 12 years in coal mining, Depeng Li wants to take his career to the next stage. He moved from China for an MBA at Aston Business School, drawn by the school's strength in innovation


Fri Oct 12 2018

Your average MBA applicant might have four years experience in a consulting firm, or in the finance sector, and want to pursue an MBA to boost their managerial skills.

But Depeng Li has come from a less traditional MBA background—the Chinese coal mining industry.

Before starting his MBA at Aston Business School, Depeng had spent 12 years working as a sales executive, accounts manager, and general manager of various mining and engineering corporations in China including China Coal Energy Company, Trelleborg, and ABB.

He earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and Automation in 2003 before entering the workplace—which means he’s also among only 4.8% of worldwide MBA applicants with more than 10 years of business experience.

So, why did Depeng decide to do an MBA? He says it was the promise of in-depth business knowledge that made him pursue graduate management education.

“I wanted to seek professional management knowledge and improve my skills and training, as well as my English proficiency,” Depeng says.

After deciding to go to the UK—“where there are both economical and language advantages,” adds Depeng—the question afterwards was which school to choose.

Ultimately, Depeng decided triple-accredited Aston Business School in Birmingham, UK, was the place to broaden his business horizons.

In 2017, the full-time MBA at Aston was ranked among the best in the UK by Eduniversal in their Best Masters rankings.

“It was the quality of teaching, and student employment rates, that attracted me to Aston,” Depeng explains.

Depeng was also looking for somewhere to experiment with entrepreneurial ideas. Aston offers a core MBA module focused on developing an entrepreneurial mindset. The school supports the creation of businesses through BSEEN, an initiative which gives MBA students access to expertise, funding, and mentoring schemes.

And the entrepreneurial environment isn't just limited to Aston. The city of Birmingham was recently revealed to be the best place in the UK for entrepreneurs, with a more impressive ratio of population to startups than in London. 

Aston's has pioneered a ‘learning by doing’ approach, which is integrated into the MBA program through collaborations with partnered businesses including Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Villa Football Club. 

“Aston’s teaching content is close to the real world,” Depeng notes, “they have links to various well-known companies, and use interactive activities to teach.”

These interactive activities include their Aston Edge program, which teaches MBA students flexible skills like leadership, managing change, and being an influential communicator. This additional program course is taught through workshops, team activities, and networking opportunities.

With so many years spent in China, how is Depeng adjusting to life in the UK?

He says company visits on his MBA program have allowed him the opportunity to experience as much of the country as possible since starting the program in January 2018.

“I’ve had more interactions with local residents, and, through company visits, have been able to learn about the history and culture of the UK,” adds Depeng.

Depeng hopes to use his MBA from Aston Business School to secure a spot at a multinational corporation in China or the UK—and even has hopes to start his own business.

“I look forward to getting a new way of working and thinking from my Aston MBA, in order to find new job opportunities and entrepreneurial ideas.”