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I Studied For An MBA In China: Here Are 5 Things I Learned

Hear about Pablo Martínez Pallarés’ experience of studying the Chinese business landscape and beyond during his MBA in China


Thu Jun 6 2024

Embarking on an MBA journey in China isn't just about gaining academic knowledge—it's an immersive experience that delves deep into the heart of Chinese business culture. 

Spanish native Pablo Martínez Pallarés shares how studying at CEIBS opened his eyes to the dynamic and innovative landscape of China.

Through experiences both within and outside the MBA program, he gained a strong understanding of the global business environment and China’s role within this context. 

Here are five insights Pablo learned about China’s dynamic business environment during his MBA.

1. An appreciation for China's modern realities

China is the second largest economy in the world and is forecasted to have the largest consumer market by 2030. The country plays a significant role in global trade, acting as a key manufacturing center, making up 28.7% of the total global output. 

Through the CEIBS MBA, Pablo gained the insights he needed to succeed and tap into the wealth of opportunities available in China.

Pablo emphasizes the importance of challenging common stereotypes about China. “Coming to China requires being open-minded to challenge common stereotypes. I've seen coming to China change many people's ideas about the country.” 

His experience on the CEIBS MBA program helped him and others broaden their understanding of Chinese culture, showing that China's cities are vibrant, its economy innovative, and its tech ecosystem advanced.

Through the CEIBS MBA, Pablo gained the insights he needed to succeed and tap into the wealth of opportunities available in China. These opportunities are invaluable for any international student aiming to understand and succeed in this thriving economy.

Pablo highlights how CEIBS's Integrated China Strategy Project (ICSP) allowed him to engage with local companies, providing firsthand experience in navigating the Chinese market. 

“The ICSP is a course where you engage with a company, and undertake a consulting project for them,” he says. “That project helps you understand a lot about the business culture in China.”

Pablo’s team worked with a luxury watch company and devised a customer experience strategy.

“This deepened my understanding of the digital landscape in China.” 

2. The importance of an entrepreneurial mindset in China 

One aspect that Pablo found exceptional about China’s business culture, compared to Western business culture, was China’s strategic approach to entrepreneurship. 

“The Chinese are very entrepreneurial people. As it's such a fast-paced market, you get that feeling that you have to forge your own path.”

Pablo noticed that most of his MBA class wanted to lead businesses or focus on developing industry-specific knowledge within big companies. 

His experience on exchange at INSEAD in France showed a contrast, where his European classmates were mostly interested in consulting careers.

Having experienced both Eastern and Western business perspectives, Pablo notes that the more entrepreneurial environment in China exposes MBA students to fast-paced opportunities, requiring them to embrace agility.

“It’s a very different perspective [in China] than the one I was used to,” he says.

3. Adapting communication styles to suit cultural differences

Adapting to cultural differences is crucial in China. Pablo learned the importance of 'mianzi' (face) and respectful communication, which are pivotal in building strong business relationships. For international students, understanding these nuances is key to integrating and succeeding in the Chinese business environment.

“Coming to China means that you are arriving at a very different culture. For example, in China it’s very important to communicate with respect,” Pablo says. 

Although being married to a Chinese woman gave Pablo some understanding of Chinese communication styles, he still needed to adapt further.

Pablo explains that the concept of 'mianzi' promotes trust and respect within interactions. 

“It's all about being respectful in interactions, whether it’s with your classmates, or business colleagues, or anyone.” 

4. Soft skills including leadership and team management

One of the most beneficial aspects of an MBA degree is the array of transferable skills you can develop, and to succeed in business the soft skills are equally as valuable as ‘hard’ skills. 

CEIBS’s focus on soft skills, such as leadership and team management, equipped Pablo with essential tools for his career. Courses like Leadership and Acting provided practical skills in emotional intelligence and effective communication, crucial for thriving in any business setting.

“An MBA helps you to improve in all aspects of your soft skills,” he says. “Whether it's team management, leadership, awareness, or how to face something in a more structured way.”

The course helped Pablo develop these skills and learn how to behave and handle certain situations effectively.

5. The value of the alumni network for boosting career opportunities in China

An MBA program's alumni network is a powerful resource for career advancement. Pablo leveraged the CEIBS network to connect with industry leaders and explore various sectors. The support from this community can be a significant advantage for international students seeking to establish their careers in China.

“One thing that I very much value from CEIBS is the alumni network, and the events that we hold with alumni,” Pablo says. 

He reflects on the opportunities to listen to roundtable discussions on business topics with people from that sector. 

“Many of our Chinese alumni come so it's an opportunity to engage with the community on various topics. It could be automotive, or energy, or the job market in China,” he says. 

Since his MBA degree in China, Pablo now works at a startup as a consultant who advises on how to use AI in sustainability. He says that the learnings that he’s applying into his current role from his MBA in China stretch far beyond those gained in the classroom.

Pablo's journey at CEIBS is a testament to the transformative power of an MBA in China. His advice to prospective students is to embrace the diversity and opportunities China offers, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking to expand their horizons and advance their careers. 

“An MBA is humbling because you're surrounded by so many great people. You should embrace the difference in backgrounds and focus on advancing your career path,” he concludes.