How My MBA Helped Me Make A Career Switch

Hugo Tapia Frade went from finance in Spain to retail in London after his MBA from HKUST Business School—here’s how he managed it

Making the leap into a new industry can be one of the most daunting moments of your career. You spend years building up experience in one specialism, progressing further up your own path; contemplating the leap sideways into another can feel like blind faith.

However, with the right transferable skills, your existing experience can take on a new meaning in a different industry, and the shift can broaden your horizons.

This is the goal of many who are looking to make a switch in their careers, and one reason why they may turn to an MBA.

For Hugo Tapia Frade, head of consumer strategy and planning at Hackett London, his MBA at HKUST Business School was an opportunity to supplement his background in finance with broader business knowledge.

He’d previously worked in financial audit at Deloitte in Spain, so he’d had exposure to the products and services industry before, but he wanted to look at the bigger picture around corporate strategy, supply chain management, and marketing.

Perhaps most importantly, he wanted to get outside of his comfort zone.

“I chose HKUST in part because, as well as being one of the top programs in the world at the time, from a personal point of view I thought it would be much better for me to go to Asia and leave with that experience, rather than going to Europe or the US,” he says.


Global insight

Hugo knew that broadening his experience from finance in Spain with a generalist education on the other side of the world would set him up perfectly to pivot his career after the degree, as experiencing business in another culture would open his eyes to new ways of communicating and managing a team.

Hong Kong, as a business hub on the boundary between China and the West with strong connections to tech and finance, was the clear choice.

As for HKUST Business School in particular, it was the quality of the professors’ professional backgrounds that swung it for Hugo, alongside the international character of the MBA cohort.

“I thought it would be an opportunity for me to get to know people from different parts of the world,” Hugo recalls.

“For me, it’s been a great journey, honestly,” he says now. “It was a great experience, very intense, and I got to know Asia from a cultural point of view, which opened my mindset quite a lot.

“When I came back to Spain, I saw that I was a much more open-minded person than before.”


Strategic training

As well as the personal development that Hugo experienced on the MBA, he also enlarged his professional skillset with strategy training.

“I chose the strategy track, so of course it was very finance-orientated, but I chose to study a lot of marketing,” he says.

This was instrumental in switching the track of his career once he returned to Europe.

“When I came to London and found the job I have now, it turned out to be a perfect match, because of my industry background plus the mix with the finance and strategy teaching from the MBA,” he says.

In more ways than one, Hugo’s time at HKUST Business School broadened his horizons, and he has been reaping the benefits since graduating.

“As a whole, your mindset changes completely, and the way I approach things has nothing to do with the way I did it before,” he says.

“I’m able to see a far bigger picture—before I was very into numbers and accounting, and now I can see business issues I wouldn’t have been able to see previously.

“Basically, I was able to add a layer on top, which is more valuable and influential.”

For European students like him who are hoping to make the leap in their careers and try something new, HKUST Business School comes highly recommended from Hugo. Indeed, in his cohort, 68% of students managed to switch job functions after the MBA, with 47% switching industries entirely.

“I would recommend Hong Kong to any Western student, because of the mix of cultures that you get there, as well as the quality of the MBA” Hugo confirms. “I don’t think you can get that in any other place in the world.”

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