McKinsey & Company – alongside fellow ‘Big Three’ management consulting firms Bain and BCG – is one of the biggest MBA employers in the world. 50% of incoming consultant hires have MBAs.
McKinsey boasts over 14,000 global employees – 15% in the Asia-Pacific. Still, for many MBA students, a post-graduation consulting job at McKinsey is the pinnacle of their career ambitions.
Michael Straub is doing things the other way around. After two years working as a McKinsey consultant in Switzerland, he took a career break and relocated to Asia to pursue a full-time MBA at Hong Kong’s HKUST Business School.
Michael wants to immerse himself in Asia market. He plans to return to McKinsey after graduation, kick-start his career in Southeast Asia, and focus his work on the region. At HKUST, he’s well-placed to do so.
HKUST’s full-time MBA is ranked 15th in the world by the Financial Times. The 120-strong HKUST MBA class is typically 90% international. 70% of HKUST MBAs pursue careers in Asia after graduation.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at HKUST?
I decided to take a leave of absence from McKinsey for an MBA because I wanted to get a deeper understanding of doing business in Asia, gain a broader range of experiences beyond management consulting, and learn Mandarin.
Hong Kong is the perfect place to do that – it’s easy to get to know people doing business all around the region and to travel to nearby countries. I considered other top schools in the region, but found that HKUST, both in terms of location and program structure, provided me with what I was looking for in an MBA.
Why did you decide against pursuing a traditional two-year MBA program in the US?
Having previously studied and worked in Europe and the United States, I felt that being in a completely new environment would allow me to learn more than I would have otherwise. Plus, spending two years in the United States didn’t make sense since I didn’t want to work there after my MBA.
I see a lot of untapped opportunities in consulting in China and Southeast Asia and, already, I feel that the HKUST MBA has equipped me with the skills and network I need to succeed here.
What stands out from your HKUST MBA experience so far?
For me, the biggest highlight of the MBA has definitely been getting to know people in and around the program and learning from their experiences. The HKUST program is small but incredibly diverse, and everyone has been eager to share their pre-MBA experiences.
One of my favorite experiences has been traveling to Japan over the winter break with some of our Japanese classmates who showed us around Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Another highlight has been learning Mandarin as part of my MBA program. Besides the classes, my Chinese classmates are incredibly helpful and supportive. They are happy to practice everyday conversations, help me with all sorts of language questions, and propose interesting places to visit in China.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
The most important thing for me was to really take time to think about what I wanted to get out of an MBA, and then decide on the school that fit my goals the best.
I think it’s extremely helpful to visit the schools you’re thinking of applying to. Visiting the campus and speaking to MBA students on the program you’re interested in gives you a feel for what the experience will really be like, which is something you can’t get in any brochures or websites.