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Going From Engineering To An MBA

Engineer Peter Melrose is looking to branch out with a part-time MBA. He explains why he chose the MBA at HKU and how his experience is helping him develop

What can an MBA do for an experienced engineer? Engineering skills and an MBA degree work well together. The majority of MBA employers actively seek business school graduates with engineering capabilities, made up of technical and quantitative skills.

An MBA can give an engineer a broader understanding of how business works, the skills to advance to leadership positions, and an international outlook. It can also guide an engineer towards a career change if, and when, they see fit.

The latter is exactly the reason why Peter Melrose decided to pursue a part-time MBA. After five years of working in London, the New Zealand-born engineer decided that he wanted to discover business in Asia and joined the MBA at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in 2019.

Several months in and Peter has already developed a new perspective on his career.


Why HKU?

When choosing a business school, Peter was drawn to the flexibility of HKU’s part-time course. The MBA is offered in both weekday and weekend modes, with each module lasting around five weeks.

Peter attends classes twice a week on weekday evenings, and works as a senior consultant with Command, a Hong Kong recruitment firm, during the day, which he says gives him enough time to keep active with sporting activities during the weekend. 

The experience is not dissimilar to night school, providing Peter with a concentrated schedule every day.

As one of the top MBAs in Asia, the part-time course has a strong focus on preparing professionals for senior careers in the region.

It does this by recognising five key themes which are critical to the success of Asian firms today: entrepreneurship, innovation & operations management, financial management, managing in China & Asia, and marketing & services management.

HKU students are taught the management skills and analytical tools related to these themes through business scenarios and case studies based on real situations at well-known Asian and global companies.

While he values this curriculum, Peter says he’s gained much more than knowledge from the MBA experience.

“The friendships and networking that you build are worth as much as what you gain from the syllabus itself,” he says. “I feel we have a strong connection that will continue to grow over the next two years.”


Changing skillset

Peter initially joined the HKU Part-Time MBA as an engineer, uncertain about which industry he wanted to move into, but he says the program has given him a window into numerous professions and industries.

He works on his teamwork, problem solving, communication, and interpersonal skills both in and outside of the course curriculum.

As the representative for his class, Peter frequently acts as the liaison, connecting his classmates and faculty members to correspond on class scheduling, location, and teaching methods.

These factors have improved Peter’s approach to his consulting work too. Every day, he is learning from mistakes and identifying where improvements could have been made when working on projects. He says the communication skills he's gained from the MBA have helped him in his role, giving expert advice to senior business people in Hong Kong.

“In addition to a wider network, experience in handling difficult situations and learning new skills, I now find myself more engaged at work,” Peter says. “I question why things are the way they are, rather than simply accepting the status quo.”

An MBA, he says, is the perfect way for an engineer to broaden their skillset and their career options.