“I’m American-born Chinese,” he explains. “The cultural nickname is ABC among the Chinese American community.”
As the child of immigrant parents in the US city of Boston, David spent his childhood torn between the East and West. At home they ate Chinese food, celebrated Chinese traditions, and spoke in his parents’ local dialect. But as a kid, all he wanted to do was fit in.
“I kind of set aside my Chinese heritage,” he says. “I didn’t want to be Chinese. I wanted to be American.”
There’s an irony to be found in that now, as he speaks from a glittering office in China. It’s the second-largest economy in the world: home to a lucrative career built upon his decision to study an International MBA (Fudan IMBA) at the Fudan University School of Management. But how, after distancing himself from his culture for most of his childhood, did he get there?
Choosing a global MBA in China
Pursuing an MBA wasn’t always on the cards for David. He initially studied for an undergraduate degree in environmental chemistry in Washington, before getting a master’s in biotech. He later found himself in the Californian West Coast, working with medical devices as a product manager.
David says he was content with his marketing role since it involved hopping between some of the world’s most coveted destinations.
“I got a taste of different cultures, different environments,” he says, referring to his experiences travelling on business to Europe and Japan. “I wanted to learn more about [other cultures].”
So, when a family friend suggested the idea of going to China to study for an MBA, David strongly considered it. Since he already had real-world marketing experience, he says it was crucial that the program he chose had an added benefit aside from just simply the degree.
It was only when he came across the Fudan IMBA in Shanghai that the curriculum stood out.
Partnered with the MBA program at the MIT School of Management, the two-year course contains a unique fusion between Eastern and Western business education.
More than 90% of the staff have spent time overseas for further study or training, while members of the US faculty are regularly invited to Fudan to deliver compulsory MIT courses and lectures to the student base.
Another factor that made the program particularly appealing to David was the value for money when considering the cost of tuition compared with other programs. For example, tuition fees at a top US business school can cost as much as $172,000 for the two-year MBA program, while Fudan’s program costs around $50,700 for two years.
“The last thing I wanted to do was take on $100,000 worth of debt,” he admits.
Studying for an international MBA
Before starting the Fudan IMBA, the most experience that David had with mainland China was a childhood vacation with his family. He describes his cultural awareness as being quite low.
A part of the curriculum that appealed to him was the opportunity to take electives that focused on increasing students’ ability to work with people on an international level.
At Fudan, first-year students can choose from subjects designed to improve their cross-cultural competence - such as Transnational Management and Global Strategic Marketing.
In fact, these skills were rated by employers as being among the most desirable skills for business school grads to have in a 2023 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey.
This newfound knowledge is then put into practice through a series of iLab consulting projects, where Fudan partners with top companies such as IBM and LG to encourage students to work together on an artificial business model.
For David, collaborating with his classmates on different assignments proved to be the perfect opportunity to experiment with both Western and Eastern management styles.
“If I landed a job in China and aligned with the Western style of working with people and communicating, I probably would have made various mistakes,” he explains. “In a classroom setting, it's just one project. There's no real career impact.”
But more significantly, it was the experience of living and studying in Shanghai that David found provided a crucial insight into the Chinese mindset.
Launching a global career
David was busy searching for potential jobs and internship opportunities when an unexpected phone call came up.
He received a call from his former marketing employer. They were looking to expand their business into Asia and, given David’s MBA at Fudan, they knew he had experience working in the region.
David says that the IMBA gave him the building blocks necessary to apply his knowledge not just to China, but across other countries in the continent.
Now, over ten years later, he spends his days working as the Asia-Pacific Business Development Manager for a medical device company which has up until recently focused most of their sales in the US.
“It’s life changing,” he says, describing the impact that his MBA in China has had on his global career.
Beyond basic business skills, Fudan’s focus on teaching cross-cultural awareness means that David is better able to communicate with clients from all over the world.
“Part of the communication aspect is just understanding different people's mindsets,” he explains. “Now, I think more about how I should talk to [people].”
One of the biggest things that David encourages people to do now is to make the leap and travel. By exploring his own multicultural identity, David has managed to expand the scope of his entire career.