Someone who speaks 10 different languages, has lived and worked in three continents and has played ice hockey professionally isn’t your typical MBA candidate. But despite already having a very international background, Mauro Emanuele Buongiovanni says an international MBA in China completely reshaped his outlook on life.
Mauro quit ice hockey in 2007, moved into his family business in his native Italy, and started working his way up the career ladder. For three years, he advised rich Russian investors looking to buy luxury Tuscan real estate. But with the world becoming increasingly inter-connected, he felt he had to look even further afield.
As a self-confessed Sinophile, Mauro looked to an MBA in China to take his career to the next level. His number one option: Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) in Beijing, a school that lists Alibaba founder Jack Ma among its successful alums.
He got admitted. After the 14-month MBA, and a stint at IBM in Beijing, he landed a top management consulting job at KPMG. Now, he works out of KPMG’s Milan and Beijing offices, helping consumer goods companies boost their performance on an international scale.
Mauro doesn’t think he would be where he is today without the CKGSB MBA.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at CKGSB?
My fixation with emerging markets and interest in geopolitics played an important role in my cherry-picking China and CKGSB. In my view, if you want to be a relevant leader, wherever you live, you have to understand what’s going on in China, and have ties to that part of the world.
The reputation CKGSB has in China is incomparable. Beyond that, the culture is just as important. In China, everything revolves around guangxi, the unwritten rule regarding the power of circular relationships. The fact that more than half of CKGSB’s 10,000 plus alumni are at the CEO or Chairman level, and their companies account for one-sixth of China’s GDP, sparked my attention.
How did the job at KPMG come about?
I became familiar with the KPMG network thanks to my role as vice president of the CKGSB MBA consulting club, sitting down with partners and directors from some of the top multinational companies in China. CKGSB was instrumental in allowing me to develop my professional network. By leveraging the school’s alumni, I was able to open many, many doors in China.
How else have you profited from the CKGSB MBA?
I’d say that without CKGSB I would be less of a global citizen. China has utterly reshaped my mindset. CKGSB gave me the chance to meet professors and individuals with deep connections and roles in the Chinese business community, internalizing a knowledge that can’t be imbibed by media or books on China. After an MBA at CKGSB you can confidently rely on a combination of skills, a crisp understanding of China’s economy, and a superior network.
How has a career in sports prepared you for a career in business?
What education will never grant you is resiliency. Resiliency is self-manufactured, painstakingly, over time, by working through your flaws and never giving up. What I can see is a marked overlap between the sport and business worlds. The world is getting flatter and flatter, meaning fierce competition comes from everywhere. Sport has given me the capacity to be self-motivated and endure the difficulties in climbing the career ladder.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
In my personal experience, the students who secured a top job after the MBA were people with a solid sense of purpose. You need to have a clear idea about what you want to do after the MBA, and subsequently, how to fully exploit it. You need to network. You should start creating a personal brand before the MBA, and sell yourself through the school community from day one.