Asia is fast becoming a major global player in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
China in particular is prioritizing technological development in its plans for the next few years, with a sophisticated national strategy that will see the country’s AI industry grow to be worth almost $60 billion by 2030.
In this climate of fast-paced growth, opportunities are ripe for MBAs to take advantage of the tech boom—and CUHK Business School in Hong Kong is helping its students do just that.
Kevin Burns is a current CUHK MBA, and he chose CUHK for its proximity to technological change in Asia.
“I love being part of change,” he says. “I’ve been working in change management for quite some time, and I wanted to increase my global experience.”
Close proximity to tech hubs
When initially selecting an MBA, Kevin knew that he didn’t want to dive straight into Chinese business to the exclusion of other parts of the world. Hong Kong as a location seemed like the perfect transitional space—and CUHK Business School in particular what he was looking for.
“CUHK has very strong ties to China and Shenzhen, one of the biggest technology hubs in the world right now,” he explains. “We have great exposure to major tech companies like Tencent and Huawei, and the drone manufacturers DJI are right next door.”
This closeness to cutting-edge businesses has a potent effect on the MBA program. Even traditional core courses such as strategy are invested with an awareness of tech and AI’s influence on the market.
For instance, as a student on the innovation and entrepreneurship concentration, Kevin is focusing on Wal Mart, analysing ways for the company to stay relevant in a competitive digital marketplace.
“I’m studying how they can stay relevant against competitors such as Amazon and Tencent, that are already so digitalized and working with AI and machine learning,” says Kevin. “We have hands-on experience of how to use AI to improve current business processes.”
Exposure to top tech companies
Bintang Mulyasakti is one of Kevin’s colleagues on the MBA program and he describes the same effect.
“Even conventional MBA courses like strategic management and financial reporting are designed to be related to the digital world—for example in strategic management course, my team and I are assigned to work closely with one of the biggest banks in South East Asia to assess its fintech strategy in the region. Because our task is to build an opposition report, we are pushed not only to learn about the strategy but also to learn technical stuff that is related to AI or Machine Learning,” Bintang says.
Another highlight is Kevin was the class trip to Silicon Valley in California.
“We went to Google, Facebook, Oracle…” he lists, “Lots of different design consultancies, Salesforce, venture capitalists that only support tech companies…
“That was a really cool experience, because our main goal was to use the information that we gathered over the week to create a presentation for a Shark Tank-style committee.”
Indeed, the presentation that Kevin developed in the USA has since grown into a business proposal based around machine learning, which he has taken to incubators and investors in Hong Kong.
“Some are willing to sponsor up to $250,000 for 12% or 15% of the company,” he says excitedly.
Post-graduate employment in AI
Evidently, the rewards waiting to be reaped by CUHK Business School grads are plentiful.
Winky Ng is an example of a CUHK grad who has built a career in AI. He is currently working for AI-driven analytics software Hyper Anna in Hong Kong, but he has also worked in data and AI consulting at Microsoft and as a business development lead at an energy technology startup.
“My professors back in the day were teaching venture capital and private equity, and they had a lot more linkage from the business world to innovation and startups and new ventures where technologies like AI were just beginning,” says Winky.
“Because of the strong background of the university, you get exposure to technology—innovation, venture capital, and private equity courses allow students to be involved on a project basis, and learn how you can fundraise and pitch your own company with a tech focus.”
To MBAs considering switching careers into the tech field through a program at CUHK, Winky recommends that they make the most of their professors’ networks and the mentorship programs that are on offer.
“When you go into tech companies that are recruiting, these guys tend to be recruiting people who have strong business sense so that they can bring both technology and business language to their clients,” he says.
“I think that’s quite key—to be able to think deeply about what the industries are [doing] and what the company needs, and to put the technology in place.”
It certainly sounds like CUHK Business School’s MBA program is equipped to help students achieve this.
“It’s funny,” remarks Kevin, “We’re not a technology-led university—however, in every process that we do, at least one focus is on technology and the disruption it's causing, and how we can learn to apply AI and machine learning in tomorrow’s work world.
“That makes our program very special.”