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How Does An MBA In Southeast Asia Prepare You For The Global Business World?

If you’re looking to launch a global career, what business school destination should you choose? We consider why an MBA in Southeast Asia offers a great launchpad for international careers in business


Thu Feb 2 2023

A global career in business is well-suited to those who want to work in diverse teams, gain opportunities for exposure to international markets, and, most importantly, are hungry for a challenge.

With so many business school destinations out there, it’s tricky to know where in the world will set you up best for the career of your dreams.

Many students look to the fast-moving region of Southeast Asia (SEA) to leverage the career opportunities available in business hubs such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh City.

As Malaysia lies at the heart of SEA, the country offers an attractive starting point to those looking to make the most out of their business school experience. 

What a Global MBA in Malaysia looks like

If you’re looking to get your foot in the door and gain insights into how different companies do business across Asia, joining an MBA program with strong links to a variety of firms is a smart idea.

At the Asia School of Business (ASB), based in Kuala Lumpur, MBA students spend a good amount of their time on experiential learning with ASB’s corporate partners in cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, or Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. 

MBA students at ASB have the opportunity to work on projects that align with their post-MBA career goals, including those in emerging industries such as fintech and blockchain, as well as traditional industries such as FMCG or manufacturing, and across various business functions including operations or marketing.

“We see that employers have a strong preference for MBA talent who have pre-existing exposure to local markets,” says Dong-Wook (DW) Lee, senior director of the Career Development Office (CDO) at ASB.

“The ASB MBA provides students with extensive exposure to projects and treks around the region, which enables them the opportunity to build and project their confidence in respective markets of interest,” he says.

Through these experiential learning opportunities, MBA students at ASB get to strengthen their soft skills in areas such as communication, empathy, and collaboration, while also sharpening their technical expertise in areas such as data analytics and data visualization.

“The Action Learning experience, as well as relevant career development education of ASB, is specifically designed to address both areas by coaching students to reflect on these areas and practice self-awareness, which helps to enhance their teamwork and leadership skills,” says DW.

The CDO curates a series of career and thought leadership talks with industry leaders and hiring managers and offers advanced workshops on how to network and build relationships in a strategic manner.

As evidence of the program’s success, the placement results from the majority of ASB’s graduates continue to show an upward trajectory, with the most recent cohort from the MBA class of 2022 achieving a 90% placement outcome within three months of graduation. 

Job opportunities for MBAs in Southeast Asia and beyond 

Before deciding to apply for an MBA program in a specific location, you’ll want to ensure you’re placing yourself within a growing market with unique opportunities to build your post-MBA career.

“With Asia being one of the fastest growing and dynamic regions in the world, the jobs you may encounter after graduation may not have existed before, requiring you to co-create a job with your prospective employer," says DW.

"For the more established jobs, Asia could provide a wider spectrum of MBA job choices. Along with Web3, metaverse, crypto, fintech, and cyber security proficiency in the tech space, Asian markets continue to show aggressive search for top MBA talent in the professional services domain such as management consulting and financial services."

Many international businesses, including well-known tech giants, manufacturing companies, and consulting firms have regional headquarters in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

In Asia, there is also a growing talent demand for those with expertise in sales, business development, manufacturing, and supply chain management, adds DW.

For students who seek post-MBA careers outside of Asia, the ASB-MIT partnership offers an opportunity for students to get exposure and potential access to the US jobs market.

ASB students get to attend classes at MIT for up to three weeks during their MBA program. They also gain eligibility to apply for the MIT Sloan Master of Science in Management Studies (MSMS) program, which is only offered to graduates of MIT Sloan partner schools, such as ASB.

Flying into a global MBA career at AirAsia

Yizhen Fung joined the ASB MBA after wanting to make a move from the public to the private sector. She was excited by the idea of transitioning to a role that would allow her to experience innovation and disruption. 

“As I was open to exploring various industries and various roles, the AL component was perfect for me, as I was able to validate my passions and strengths over the course of the program,” she says. 

One AL project involved her designing a social commerce strategy for one of Thailand’s largest banks while another entailed designing a go-to-market plan for a Thai beer company, with the aim of entering the competitive Vietnamese beer market.

Using her experience of innovation, Yizhen used her business school knowledge and learnings from her career coaching sessions at ASB to leap into a global career with airasia Super App in Malaysia as the senior executive assistant to the CEO.

“The CEO needed people who were comfortable with constant change, pressure and had the hunger to grow a fledgling business division.”

She’s since moved into the role of head of strategic partnerships.

Discovering the international relevance of an MBA in Malaysia

Rafael de Ory began his MBA journey at ASB as he wanted to benefit from the rich diversity and culture that Malaysia has to offer while accelerating his career in tech.

The ASB MBA program typically attracts up to 30 different nationalities, so it brings people from across the world to work on exciting projects. 

Rafael’s AL project took him to Seoul to work with KTSAT, the leader in satellite communications in Korea, mapping out a strategy to create new revenue streams.

"This was truly a global company, providing satellite communication services across the globe, and it required us to have a global mindset when building out the strategy,” he says.

After completing the Samsung MBA summer internship program, Rafael was invited to apply for the Leadership Development rotational program. While the rest of the applicants applied from US business schools, Rafael quickly stood out from the crowd as he was the only one to apply from a business school in Asia.

“I weaved in my experiences from my various AL projects across Southeast Asia and North Asia, which really impressed the interviewees,” he says.

Not to mention that he leveraged the guidance of the CDO when preparing the assigned presentation for the Samsung interview, which was on the topic of edtech. 

Rafael was able to blend his Eastern and Western business perspective on the topic to provide a truly global picture to the interview team at Samsung, proving the international portability of a global MBA in Malaysia.