In July, she made a last minute application to Mannheim Business School, whose MBA program is ranked in the Financial Times’ global top 50. She starts in September.
A multilingual professional with a global perspective, Karen has spent the last decade working at Singapore Airlines’ head office in the thriving Asian business hub. Rotated across a variety of commercial positions, she project managed an overhaul of the Singapore Airlines brand, launched a dedicated website for its Airbus 380 - the world’s largest passenger airliner - and helped raise over $1.3 million for charity through an online auction of seats on its maiden commercial flight.
Born in New Zealand, and raised mainly in Hong Kong, Karen graduated from the prestigious Stanford University in the US. Now, she’s looking to expand her horizons in Europe, with an MBA.
What are you looking to gain from an MBA?
Most employers both inside and outside the aviation industry find my profile niche. I want to further my career in other functional areas, explore working in a different sector, and polish some skill gaps, especially in finance and accounting.
I aspire to work in the field of product innovation and development in the aviation industry. In this area, one is constantly "dreaming" of how to make the experience better for the customer. When the realities of cost or logistics hit you hard in the face, the skill I relish using the most, is negotiating between reality and ideals in order to push the former closer to the latter.
What are the most important factors to you when choosing a business school?
Value for money, strength in marketing of innovations, strong corporate relations and location in a non-English speaking country. I’ve studied and worked in primarily English-speaking countries. I find the challenge of a non-English speaking environment immensely stimulating.
Why did you decide on Mannheim Business School?
Mannheim is known as Germany's best business school and has the best reputation among employers here.
The Mannheim MBA program blends theory, practice and real-world consulting in a single year. And in no other comparable MBA program in Germany is social responsibility a mandatory part of the curriculum, rather than an elective.
How straightforward was the application process?
It took one month. I believe I was the last applicant they were considering.
I sent the admissions manager an exploratory email towards the end of June asking if there were still spots available in the September intake. As I was already living in nearby Heidelberg, we met, she showed me the school and I fell in love with the campus.
The only problem was that I needed to study for and take the GMAT by the end of the month. In early July, I submitted my application. I had two interviews, did the GMAT, and was accepted!
What did they ask you in your admissions interview?
One interview required me to present and analyze a case study on an industry unfamiliar to me. The interviewer then challenged my views from various angles; a good test of my reasoning, presentation skills and ability to respond under pressure.
The school’s criteria are holistic. They are definitely interested in someone with an international outlook, who enjoys sharing their opinions and contributing to a team. Before even applying, one would need to have already reflected on for instance, reasons for wanting to do an MBA and what your career goals are.
How did you prepare for the GMAT?
I would not recommend anyone study for the GMAT for only 3 weeks like I did!
It was nerve-wracking; having to remember how to calculate manually without the magic of Microsoft Excel. I relied on online discussion forums and various online resources to learn specific GMAT-test taking strategies as well as GMAT-specific grammar rules.
What more advice do you have for others considering an MBA?
Contact current students and alumni to get insider views about the program and school before you apply. I started networking early, and am now mentally prepared for what lies ahead.
Additionally, write application essays as if you are writing letters to the love(s) of your life. Prove that you have done your homework to learn about the school, demonstrate explicitly how you would be good for them, and they good for you; how you can add to their future, and how they can add to yours.