“If I hadn’t studied an MBA at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), I wouldn’t have been able to land a consulting position in China,” says Narumi Hashimoto, a Japanese MBA grad now working for IT consulting firm iVision in Shanghai.
iVision is an affiliate of Mitsubishi Corporation—Japan's largest general trading company (Sogo Shosha)—and Nomura Research Institute—Japan’s leading consulting firm—and helps design IT strategy for Chinese and Japanese companies operating in China.
Narumi, a Japanese MBA graduate working in China, is still a rare breed. He was one of four Japanese students in his MBA class of 55-to-60 students. With business between China and Japan booming, more and more Japanese companies are acquiring companies in China, but cultural divides remain.
Narumi, a former associate at PwC in Tokyo, chose the HKU MBA to gain the knowledge to fill that divide. HKU’s unique 14-month MBA program included a month in Beijing, nine months in Hong Kong, and a four-month exchange to Columbia Business School in the US.
For Narumi, the HKU MBA was the gateway to a career in China.
How did your consulting job in China come about?
Originally, I wanted to go back into a consulting company in Tokyo post-MBA. But during my MBA, I got more and more in contact with the overseas desks of Japanese companies in China, including my current company.
The HKU MBA helped me understand what and how Chinese people think. It improved my communication skills and allowed me to pass my interviews. In Tokyo, my clients and senior bosses were typical Japanese; their way of thinking was the same. But when I started working in Shanghai, I was dealing with Japanese clients with Chinese employees—their working styles are very different.
On the HKU MBA, my classmates all handled projects differently. I experienced a lot of different cultures and I learned to adapt and adjust.
What advice do you have for Japanese MBA students looking to do the same?
With an MBA, you can expand your knowledge and get the opportunity to work in another country. The network I developed during my MBA helps my business in China now—one of my former classmates is now my client’s business partner in China!
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at HKU?
I wanted to learn more about Asian business outside Japan. Before the MBA, I was working in Tokyo and many of my colleagues were expanding businesses into China and Singapore.
The HKU MBA was perfect for me. The class size was relatively small, with students coming from all around the world, including Asia, so I could get Asian business experiences every day. It’s an intense 14-month program and I got to study in Beijing, Hong Kong, and New York. Even in a short program, I could experience a lot of different cultures.
If I graduated from Harvard or MIT, I might have got a job at McKinsey. But to get a job at a Japanese company expanding in Asia, studying an Asian MBA was important.
What were the highlights?
My favorite professor at the University of Hong Kong was Bennett Yim and his Strategic Marketing Management course is one of the best courses at the school. On the course, we worked on a project to improve the current marketing strategies of existing companies. We were able to apply our knowledge in a practical way.
HKU MBA program also offers either the London or New York track. For me, the exchange program at Columbia Business School was very exciting! The professors came from a lot of different industries and gave me a lot of practical knowledge to enhance what I’d learned academically at HKU.