MBA programs in Asia are experiencing what seems to be an unstoppable rise. With political turmoil in Europe and the USA acting as a deterrent, many students are turning towards China and Hong Kong to get a cutting-edge business education that will afford them global opportunities.
Indeed, although Asian MBAs are often looked upon by Westerners as portals to careers specifically in Asia, this isn’t always the case.
As Asia becomes a bigger and bigger force in business, it pays for students to have experience there—whether they plan on putting their MBA to work in Singapore or Spain.
In fact, for Michele Valente, a consultant at Bain & Company in Milan, his MBA at HKUST Business School in Hong Kong was a key step in pivoting his career within Europe.
“Before my MBA in Hong Kong I worked for two multinational companies in Europe, and I started to specialize in business analytics and strategy,” Michele explains.
“I wanted to deepen these subjects, as they were becoming more relevant for corporations, therefore I decided to look for a program which could give me a good background on these topics.”
Michele was attracted to HKUST by their strong focus on hard skills like analytics and strategy, and when he arrived at the school, he dove right in.
He soon found that one of the best ways to master the topics he was interested in was to go into consulting, and it wasn’t hard to find opportunities to learn.
“From day one I had the chance to network with bright classmates from consulting backgrounds and with industry experts—from companies coming to campus as well as lecturers,” Michele says.
“I learnt about the consulting approach to problem-solving, and I figured this was exactly what I needed to learn in order to become a good strategist.”
This abundance of exposure opportunities is partly thanks to Hong Kong’s strength as a business community, as the city is home to everything from big finance firms to small tech startups.
However, experts coming to campus wasn’t the only way that Michele managed to deepen his knowledge of the consulting field.
On an organized trip to Singapore, students on the HKUST Business School MBA got the chance to meet business leaders in one of Asia’s most buzzing business hubs, and Michele even got to speak to the managing principal of a consulting firm, who advised him about how to move forward in his career.
After that, things moved quickly. Michele applied to a summer internship position to a consulting firm and was accepted.
“The summer internship became a chance for me to learn about consulting projects, and for this company to learn about me,” he says. “At the end of this period I got a full time offer and came back to work for them at the end of my MBA.”
He stayed in that role for two years, before his experience landed him his current role at Bain & Company.
This is much of the value of the MBA in Michele’s eyes: the boost that the program offers to students from any career background, with any career ambitions for the future—even outside of the classroom.
“For example, my MBA program organized a day to create school clubs,” he recalls. “The consulting club was one of the main clubs, and it was led by students. We organized case cracking and practising sessions with experts and with students—this was extremely useful for my preparation for interviews.”
An essential network
For anyone with ambitions in consulting, whether that’s in Asia or abroad, Michele sees an MBA at HKUST Business School as a great opportunity to advance that goal, and recommends that students seize it with both hands.
Though the MBA might be based in Hong Kong, the school and the businesses that move around and through it have connections and challenges that are globally-relevant, and the chance to network in this environment is a clear asset.
“Talk to people from day one,” Michele advises, “especially to those working and coming out of consulting, and find out if consulting is what you really want to do. It's a very interesting job which gives strong basics to problem solving and data analysis, but this often comes with big cons, such as continuous travel and a not-ideal work-life balance.
“Usually if you come from an MBA you are in your 30s, and your priorities may be other than staying in the office until 3am for a due diligence for 3 consecutive weeks...”
For Michele, however, this doesn’t seem to be a problem—now back in Milan, his career is on a steady climb.