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In Asia, You Have To Network To Succeed—An MBA Could Help You Do It

The networks available at CUHK Business School helped these Western MBAs make the move East


Thu Apr 25 2019

This month, Hong Kong’s stock market overtook Japan’s to become the third-most valuable in the world, behind only the United States and China, with the market value of the companies listed in the city totalling almost $6 trillion.

This upswing in investment is a great attraction for aspiring business leaders who want a part to play in the world stage of business.

“I definitely feel like the future is East,” says Vasco van der Flier, associate director at Emerging Markets Capital in Hong Kong. “Looking at [business] growth, looking at investment, it comes a lot from this side of the world, so I believe that the opportunities—especially compared to Europe or the US—lie here.”

Vasco completed an MBA at CUHK Business School in Hong Kong in 2011 after many years working in finance in the US and the Netherlands. According to him, his MBA was pivotal in establishing the career growth he has managed since he made the move overseas.

“It helps you get there a lot faster”

For one thing, Vasco runs a small family office out of Hong Kong and works alongside Emerging Markets Capital  with people he met on the MBA program, through mixers that were organized with businesspeople from throughout the region.

“I doubt I would have had that position or been able to work with them had I not had that exposure through CUHK,” Vasco asserts.

Networking, Vasco explains, is one of the most important things to do when you’re starting a career in Asia, and it’s one of the reasons why an MBA at CUHK was so valuable.

“I can only compare [Hong Kong] to New York and the Netherlands, but I do believe there’s a fundamental difference [in the business approach],” he says.

According to Vasco, European businesses expect people to move through their careers in an established pattern, with little deviation from the norm. To pitch to decision-makers who could take your business idea and make it a hit, you have to have a certain level of experience or education.

In Asia, however, businesspeople use their networks to fast-track this process and get their skills in front of the right people sooner. “It helps you get there a lot faster,” Vasco confirms.

“I met an alum who handed his company over to me”

At CUHK Business School, MBAs are certainly primed for making connections. The MBA program alone has one of the largest alumni networks on Asia, with 6,600 alumni representing more than 40 nationalities, over 1,000 of whom are currently living in China.

This connectivity to local changemakers is essential if you’re starting a career in Asia—particularly if, like Vasco, you are coming from outside the region, from Europe or the US.

In fact, it can even lead to big opportunities.


Anthony “Tony” DeGennaro entered the CUHK MBA from a background in market research in New Jersey, and the alumni connections on the MBA helped him to make a big change in his career.

“I actually met an alum during my MBA who had started two companies,” Tony recalls. “I started interning for one of them, and he ended up handing the company over to me!

“The CUHK MBA gave me the skills to turn what was essentially just a website into a fully-functioning marketing agency with over 20 employees and 3 offices in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.”

This is a staggering career change, but Tony says it’s indicative of the networking support that the MBA program at CUHK Business School provides, particularly to students like himself who were coming from a long way away.

From networking events to the alumni mentorship program, in which Tony was paired with a top Hong Kong CEO, he believes the knowledge and connections he gained via the CUHK MBA have been invaluable.  

“When I started over here, it was very difficult to meet people and get into a conversation with higher-level executives in some of these Asian companies,” he explains.

“People over here tend to get [trapped] in an ex-pat bubble; it was really good for me to go out and meet people—they’ve given me tonnes of great advice, especially for running a company.”

Student Reviews






One of a kind

I studied Bioinformatics at CUHK last year. It was the only Master's degree in Hong Kong in this field. This program developed my analytical skills and equipped me to be a Bioinformatician in a very practical way. I enjoyed my year here and met classmates from different parts of the world. If you are thinking to enhance your profile, this degree program would be a good option.




On Campus

general education courses, unique college system, large campus

The university facilitates multi-dimension and interdisciplinary learning. In social science faculty, we need to choose courses as our faculty package from other departments (architecture, psychology, sociology, etc.) to learn more than our major required courses. We are also required to finish general education courses, which aid our critical thinking and humanistic sensibilities. I do recommend the social science broad-based program, and the professors I met so far are all responsible and erudite.





The faculty of law is relatively new. You do not need to have a LLB to pursue a LLM, which is special. The taught programme is great for mature students who want to obtain legal knowledge. CUHK has good teaching staff too.




Amazing Campus and Great Educational Environment

Not only is CUHK's main campus breathtaking, it provides for a good educational environment for students. The university is well-equipped with modern and up-to-date facilities to help students with their study. We have 8 libraries in total around the campus; one for media, one for architectural studies, the medical library and the law library. The Professors are always helpful and are happy to talk to students when needed. Moreover, the college system within the university brings forth the uniqueness of CUHK. Each student belongs to a different college, and in that students are able to meet different peoples from different countries and students from different faculties. I think CUHK provides for a well-rounded university life for all students.





One of the most down to earth places in HK. A great opportunity to learn and embody the local culture. Also had one the most beautiful campus in Hong Kong up on the hillside. Glad to have graduated here.




Innovative and Supportive

My university provided me with all the support I needed, and encouraged me to be up to date with all the new developments in the world. They also provided me with the incentive to excel at what I do, and they take much pride in my achievements. I have had a very rewarding university experience.




Small, New But Friendly Law School

To being with, I think the campus of CUHK is the best and the biggest in Hong Kong, with fresh air and trees everywhere. I am an undergraduate Law student at CUHK and I think the teaching here is great, with very friendly and nice professors and the new Lee Shau Kee Building. In terms of the courses offered by CUHK, as one of the largest universities in Hong Kong, CUHK is an all-rounded university, offering a wide range of courses to students. Students may take the introductory courses of discipline other than their own major, or even declare a minor. For law electives, due to the small amount of intake, the variety of law electives are not that huge. However, the Faculty is offering some international programmes, which can be treated as law electives, but at the same time, provide us with an opportunity to travel and know more about the legal system of another country. The career support from the Faculty of Law is also amazing. The Faculty will organise CV Sessions and talks on how to get an internship from law firms or mini-pupillage from barrister's chambers. Each student will also have a Distinguished Professional Mentor, which is a current legal profession, providing us with practical advices and updates of the legal field. Finally, from my personal experience, I think the students in CUHK are friendly and genuine. As Law students, competition is inevitable for grades, GPAs, vacation schemes and training contract. However, I think the competition in CUHK Law School is a positive one, in a sense that help us grow together, instead of fighting with each other no matter what. That is the biggest reason why I am having a very good time here in CUHK Law School.




A place to explore your interests

As a law graduate from CUHK (both undergrad and post-grad), I realise that I had many opportunities to explore my areas of interests (legal and non-legal both). The faculty/university requires us to take a certain number of non-law electives, and offers a plethora of courses to choose from. Personally, I took 3 modules in Korean --I can't say it's made me highly proficient, but it's definitely given me a good foundation (I can walk into a Korean restaurant and confidently order food, at the very least). The fact that language courses are offered also provides students who are more financially constrained an opportunity to learn a language without having to shell out a premium for a decent language course. On top of that, we have a range of law electives as well. I know of classmates who have developed lasting interest in different areas of law because of the electives they took in school. The two electives that I would say have changed me is (i) mooting and (ii) family law. I think my experience in an international commercial arbitration moot competition has helped tremendously in formulating legal arguments and legal writing. On the other hand, taking a family law elective has made me very interested in the family law practice, especially in terms of child rights. For these experiences which I have gained, I'm grateful for the opportunities provided by the school. One main issue most students I know have is with the way our GPA is calculated and the lack of transparency in terms of how the honours system works. As our GPA is marked on a curve. it's highly unrepresentative of what we have achieved as individuals. Given that our GPA is the only criteria that is looked at when we apply for the compulsory post-graduate law course (mandatory should we want to practise law and/or be trainees in Hong Kong), it will put our own students at a distinct disadvantage when we compete for limited spaces with students from schools where GPA is not on a bell curve.




On Campus

Valuable time in CUHK

I like the learning environment and people at CUHK. Surrounded by hills and Tolo Harbour, CUHK provides a balance between nature and hustle. You can always escape from the busy study life and meet your friend around the big campus for different activities.