American Michael Keim is in the final year of his finance undergrad when he travels to Hong Kong for his year abroad. It’s his first foray into business in the east, and he doesn’t look back.
That year was the moment he knew he wanted to pursue a career in China. Fast forward to 2020, and fresh out of the MBA degree at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), he’s now flying in his career with NetEase, a Chinese company that develops PC and mobile games.
Here’s how he launched his career in Chinese tech.
Pursuing an MBA in China
Michael joined JP Morgan straight out of his undergraduate degree. He started as an analyst in the company’s rotational leadership program. He finished his career there as a senior associate for sales and strategy analytics.
Michael knew though that he wanted to work in China and saw an MBA as a means of getting there; he also wanted to switch industry and function.
So why China and CEIBS?
“I absolutely loved the culture, the food, the people, and I saw how quickly the region was growing economically,” Michael says.
He began to take Chinese classes and building connections with people who worked in China. He also knew from conversations with friends that Chinese companies value employees showing their commitment to working in the region.
“I knew CEIBS would allow me to build my network further and show potential employers that I’m dedicated to working in China,” says Michael.
How the CEIBS MBA opened the door to Michael’s career in tech
The CEIBS MBA offered Michael the chance to build his network and develop a strong business acumen. Core modules teach students the business fundamentals with the MBA’s China Modules providing an in depth look at business in China.
A trip to Nanjing teaches students about the globalisation of Chinese companies; a module in Shenzhen shows the rise of a global innovation hub; and in Ningbo MBAs learn about family business and succession in China.
CEIBS’ MBA curriculum also strikes a balance between China and the world. Faculty are both Chinese and international and have worked for companies in and around the country. There’s also the deep China knowledge brought to the class by the strong domestic contingent.
“Teaming up with my Chinese classmates on projects brought out their experience and their point of view on business there,” recalls Michael, “which gave me great insight into the way the Chinese do business.”
Landing an MBA internship
Alongside the classroom experience Michael was able to secure an MBA internship with a local private equity firm in Shanghai, Loyal Valley Capital.
“Getting a feel for the Chinese office culture gave me a lot of insight into how other offices operate and allowed me to get a foot in the door,” Michael says.
“One thing it really did was prove to Chinese employers I’m dedicated to working in China, which comes from learning the language and gaining work experience with Chinese companies.”
Michael’s advice to prospective CEIBS MBA candidates is to learn Chinese. No questions. It’s the number one thing to do, he says.
“You don’t have to be fluent but need to show you’re committed to learning Chinese.
“Now that so many Chinese born students study in US schools then come back to China, Chinese companies don’t need foreigners like they used to. So, if a foreigner wants to compete in this market, they need to take the next step, and the first step is learning Chinese.”
Landing a job with NetEase
One of Michael’s biggest goals was to find something he was passionate about. It had to be tech, and he’d always been a big gamer—NetEase made perfect sense.
He was helped along through his application by his alumni mentor—something available to all CEIBS MBAs. His mentor, Diego Garcia, was there to guide Michael through the ins and outs of launching a career post-graduation.
“He’s an incredible person,” Michael says, “who was always willing to go out of the way to help prepare me for all my applications and interviews.”
Michael identified a role with NetEase—senior investments and partnerships specialist—that fit what he was looking for. His application was successful and he moved into the role in May 2020.
He’s based in China, but for part of this year due to COVID-19 he was back in the US working remotely. This worked, he explains, as one of the companies NetEase was working with were based in Montreal. He was able to put into practice the skills he’d acquired to moderate business connections between east and west.
“Getting to work in teams at CEIBS really prepared me as I got a really good feel for the style of work my Chinese colleagues have,” Michael asserts. CEIBS also teaches students western business cases coupled with eastern cases designed in-house by the school’s Case Development Center.
“We learned how Chinese companies operate and how they’ve overcome business challenges. The MBA explains the company culture and the way everything operates.
“CEIBS definitely prepared me for working for a Chinese company, but also for working in the US.”
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China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)
Shanghai - China