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Here’s How The HKU MBA Got Me A Top Job At Tencent—The China Tech Giant

Ying Xie made the switch from finance into one of the world’s biggest technology firms straight after an MBA at the University of Hong Kong


By  Breikhna Khan

Tue May 8 2018

Until five years ago, Ying Xie worked as assistant director at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)—the largest bank in the country.

As part of her sought-after role, Ying was required to interact with a multitude of companies operating in diverse industries. During this time, her interest in the technology sector was piqued.

Ying quickly realized that she wanted to make a career switch. "The technology sector has a very bright future," she notes. Ying now works at Facebook-equivalent Tencent—which owns messaging app WeChat—a leading provider of internet services in China and the world's fifth largest internet company by revenue.

In the time between working at ICBC and taking on the position at Tencent, Ying pursued an MBA at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). "Before my MBA, all of my professional experience was in finance," Ying explains, "that's not really a huge advantage when I wanted to work for an internet company."

Ying believed that an MBA would facilitate her transition from finance into the brave new world of technology, and doesn't underestimate the importance of selecting HKU to help in shaping her career.

Ranking consistently as the top school for an MBA in Asia, according to The Economist, the school's motto—global business, regional perspectives—is at the core of its approach.

International students comprise 98% of the MBA cohort, evidencing how important the first half of its motto—global business—is to HKU. It was primarily this factor that drew Ying to the school:

"Working at an international company now, where I'm expected to communicate with executives around the world, really highlights the significance of international exposure," she says.

As part of HKU's unique London track, Ying had the opportunity to spend four months at London Business School. Other candidates could opt for a New York track offering a residency at Columbia.

HKU's location in the heart of Asia's miracle economies provides its students with an increasingly influential regional perspective, combined with Hong Kong's cosmopolitan essence.

China has been 'the largest contributor to world growth since the global financial crisis of 2008', according to The World Bank. The role that the country and its neighbours play in the global economy is undeniable today.

Aside from in-depth knowledge of the region and an emphasis on global perspectives, Ying says that small class sizes at HKU allowed her to meaningfully participate in discussions with around sixty peers, and communicate effectively with her professors.

Students are also assigned a mentor as part of the program. Ying's mentor had extensive experience in consulting which, she explains, helped her greatly in her current role devising strategy at Tencent.

One of the most valuable skills that one can learn in an MBA, according to Ying, is how to be an entrepreneur. "The way of thinking of the entrepreneur and the banker are totally different," Ying explains.

"To be a banker, you care about balance sheets, accounts. Entrepreneurs think about the originality of ideas, and how to be efficient. The MBA completely changed my way of thinking."

Such differing mindsets had implications for organizational culture too. Ying says that when working at the bank, she was instructed to do specified tasks by her bosses. In comparison, at Tencent, she has far more autonomy in her work.

"I'm kind of starting a new business inside the company to do with digital insurance, which is growing bigger and bigger. It's very exciting, and a really interesting work culture."

More autonomy, however, requires a more holistic understanding of the different elements of a business and how these different parts work in harmony.

"At the bank, I needed to be capable in accounting and industry analysis. The job at Tencent is more complicated, I need to know many other areas of knowledge like marketing and sales."

Ying says that the HKU MBA helped her transition from banking to the technology sector by exposing her to these different aspects of business, and providing her with an understanding of how business takes place around the globe.

When asked what advice she would give to those considering an MBA, Ying offered some wise words.

"From my point of view, the biggest problem is that sometimes candidates don't know what they want from the program.

“Some do an MBA to learn and have an interesting experience, or change career direction, or get a higher job position and better pay. Those are all good reasons for doing an MBA. Candidates should always be clear about their aims, and know what they want to achieve from the program."