For many people, enrolling in an MBA course isn’t so much about moving up their current career ladder. In fact, it’s not so much a vertical jump as a horizontal leap of faith: flinging oneself sideways into a new industry, a new skillset, even a new part of the world.
But as daunting as this sounds, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School is helping students stick the landing.
Many students on the MBA at HKUST use the program to pivot their careers in a new direction.
Bert Li is a prime example. A current student at HKUST, Bert saw the MBA as an opportunity to enhance his strategic thinking and management skills after five years in the automotive industry.
“My previous industry is facing changes now, but I [wasn’t] fully ready and didn’t know how to be involved in this change,” Bert explains.
“The HKUST MBA has attracted students from different backgrounds, and there are alumni working in different countries. [I reasoned that] knowing people from different backgrounds and expanding my network here would help me to find a career path that is suitable for me.”
Bert's decision has paid off. Since starting at HKUST, Bert has developed a burgeoning interest in high-tech development, which he’s had ample opportunity to explore.
“HKUST not only has many high-tech-related events,” Bert says, “but also many entrepreneur-related events. The professors continuously introduce up-to-date industry cases and discuss them with us, which helps us to always be thinking [critically].”
Bert also organized the school’s annual International Career Trek for his classmates, which saw them travel to Beijing to meet and talk with the leaders and hiring managers of many influential companies.
Though the Career Treks are not always industry-specific, they provide ample opportunities for building a network in the technology industry. Companies the Trek groups have visited in the past include Google, Apple, and Tencent.
Bert believes that his experiences on the MBA have set him up for success in his chosen industry, and he’s not the only one—Kyle Hung, another student in the current MBA cohort, is also headed for a career switch thanks to the MBA at HKUST Business School.
Kyle had worked for seven years prior to the MBA, in sales and account management for financial information services. Since interacting with management consultants in his previous line of work, Kyle was fascinated and wanted to get involved, but didn’t know where to start.
“I did not have a background in consulting [before the MBA], and had little experience with resolving business issues through a structured approach,” Kyle says.
“I wanted to get into the field in the driver’s seat—but breaking into consulting, or making a career transition in general, is not easily achieved through lateral career moves,” he continues.
Kyle realized that an MBA would be the ideal way in which to bridge the gap between his experience and his aspirations, and he immediately started looking for high-ranking schools in Hong Kong and Singapore—the areas in which he wanted to develop his career.
When he saw that HKUST was one of the top-15 business schools in the world according to the Financial Times, his fate was sealed.
“As much as many people try to downplay the importance of rankings [in application decisions], at the end of the day rankings do matter, especially in Asia,” says Kyle. “HKUST’s MBA does very well in that regard, which made my decision an easy one.”
Kyle says that there are many avenues for students who want to go into consulting to explore during their MBA at HKUST, including dedicated career coaching; ‘crack-the-case’ workshops led by former consultants and current professors; and sponsored networking events organized by the student-led consulting club.
“Most importantly, though,” Kyle notes, “there are a lot of alumni—current and former consultants—from the HKUST MBA who have shared their experiences with me on how they prepared for the recruitment cycle, and how they made the most out of their experience.”
Kyle is currently working as an intern at BASF Management Consulting, a position he first heard about through the Careers Office at HKUST.
During the application process, he was able to network with a member of staff at BASF who was also an alumnus of HKUST, and this is typical of what Kyle sees as his greatest asset at HKUST Business School: the alumni community.
“HKUST prepared me not only academically, but also provided me with lots of alumni resources,” he says.
“We have alumni who are very successful consultants working in many of the major consultancies, and I’m thrilled to know that I can connect with them to learn about their experience and seek their advice.”