Jonathan Patterson is a recent MBA grad from Hong Kong’s HKUST Business School proving popular with global employers.
Why? Among the swarms of MBAs graduating from business schools in the US and Europe, his profile stands out.
Before business school, Jonathan spent the entirety of his early professional life in the UK. He got his first job out of undergrad at information services firm AlphaSights – a 15-person startup at the time – and saw the business transform into a global firm with over 400 employees and seven offices worldwide.
When Jonathan started looking at business schools for his MBA, he knew he wasn’t going to stay in the UK, and he wanted a more unique and affordable experience than traditional two-year MBA programs in the US.
Jonathan joined HKUST in July 2015. Over the next 16 months, he helped start up a global case competition at the school, visited Google’s Californian HQ, and interned at MetLife and Citibank in Hong Kong where he got a full-time job offer.
For his final semester, he went on an international exchange to NYU Stern in the US, and interned at a sports marketing agency in New York.
He graduated in March, and is considering job offers. Employers like Jonathan because, during his MBA, he didn’t just read about global business in a textbook; he lived it.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at HKUST?
I’d always had business school in my mind. My dad had done an MBA and I saw the salary jump and career progression that an MBA could bring. I didn’t want to stay in the UK, so London Business School was off the table for me straight away.
Most people think about going to the US. I didn’t want to do a two-year program because of the financial implications, the time, and the opportunity cost. I looked at the one-year MBA program at Kellogg and the 16-month program at Columbia.
I spoke to one of the guys at Columbia and he said that most people on shorter programs with no internship have generally been sponsored, are going straight into a family business, or are entrepreneurs ready with a business idea.
I had a work colleague starting on a part-time MBA program at HKUST. Once I started looking into HKUST’s full-time MBA, I saw that it was well-ranked globally, it had a shorter 12 or 16-month format, the opportunity for an internship, and an exchange component as well.
With HKUST, I wouldn’t have to pay the exorbitant fees to go to a school in North America but I would still get a chance to see what that world looks like. Hong Kong is a big international hub. And it’s hard to ignore the growth that there is in Asia. The general explosion of industry there – the Alibabas, the Tencents – really excited me.
What stands out from your HKUST MBA experience?
HKUST puts a lot of emphasis on global case competitions. More so than other business schools, there’s an emphasis on public speaking and getting people to come out of their shells.
I went to Google in California for a case competition. And, in our class, we started the first international case competition run by HKUST. We got the founding partnerships and sponsors for that, brought in teams from across the world, and a couple of guys in our class wrote the cases with the professors.
The quality of the teaching at HKUST is also exceptional. With the small class size and a relatively new school, you had so much opportunity to contribute, give back, and challenge the status quo. And through a lot of cultural clubs at the school – the Japan club, the China club – you get to learn more about the different backgrounds of your Asian classmates.
How was your experience as an MBA student living in Hong Kong?
I call it Asia light! I lived off campus. I wanted to make sure that I was seeing Hong Kong for real, not just through the lens of being at business school. I joined the Hong Kong Football Club, a big sports club in the middle of Happy Valley. I played rugby there and met a lot of expats through that. It was a little bit of a hub for me outside university life.
How have you profited from doing an MBA in Asia?
The HKUST MBA has opened doors, not just in Asia, but globally as well. I’m able to apply for jobs globally using both the resources at HKUST and NYU Stern. And the MBA has helped me with get into the interview room with large organizations.
Asia is still a sort of unknown to a lot of people in North America and even in Europe. What I’ve found is whenever I interview with anyone – from Ascendent Sports Group to Deloitte – people are always impressed that I was able to take that step out of my comfort zone and study in Asia.
When you grow up, you have that western mindset. In Hong Kong, I got to understand that the way things are done in the East are different. When I was put into a traditional US business school setting, I found myself thinking differently to a lot of people.
Being European, having the majority of my MBA experience in Asia, but also having that North American component, I think portrays me as a well-rounded candidate. It’s a nice story to tell whenever I interview!
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
It’s about matching your personality type to a business school, as well as where you see your career going. If you’re someone who’s willing to take risks, who’s more entrepreneurial, who wants to be able to implement change and be part of a growing economy, I would say definitely look at Asia.