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British TV executive was going to invade Shanghai whether he got in or not

By  Sunny Li

Sat Nov 7 2009

Drew Bates came to Asia’s best business school looking for a career in emerging markets, but other than applying to China's CEIBS he had no back-up plans.

“I just had the feeling that I would get in,” says the former TV executive. “I wanted to come here so badly that I would still move to Shanghai to try my luck [if I hadn't got in].”

Bates, who was born in Doncaster in the United Kingdom, sent his application in January. A place in CEIBS’ MBA class of 2010 was confirmed six months later.

Other reputable Asian b-schools, such as Hong Kong UST, Indian School of Business and Singapore’s Nanyang were eliminated from his list as the 28-year-old is “sold to China's booming economy”.

According to a recent Tsinghua University report, China's annual GDP growth rate is widely expected to hit eight per cent this year.

Flying over to join his architect girlfriend, who is currently working in Shanghai, Bates says his MBA dream has been alive for a while: “The idea came to my attention two or three years ago. I wanted to shift careers, taking on a new challenge.

“I had success in my previous job and wanted to solidify my knowledge and apply it on a bigger scale,” he adds.

After two years as a software developer for London-based BEAM TV, a firm specializing in distributing marketing campaigns digitally around the world, Bates was promoted to head of creative services in 2004, where he helped to form multi-year agreements with clients in 20 countries.

Prior to making up his mind though, Bates visited CEIBS last year on a business trip to Beijing. He was very impressed by the campus, designed by New York architects Pei Cobb Freed and Partners.


Bates at CEIBS

Bates says life on the FT’s eighth best global MBA program “pretty much” meets his expectations, though he did underestimate how hard the classes would be.

“Everyone in my class has been in industry for a long time,” he says. “They (CEIBS faculty) know they are teaching highly experienced people so not everything is explained from the beginning."

Bates enjoys organisational behaviour and marketing classes “a lot” but subjects such as statistics and accounting are challenging: “It makes me realize that university was a long time ago!” he says.

Outside of school there’s a lot to keep him busy. “To my surprise, there are more things to do than I can imagine. The life here is intense but I really enjoy it,” says Bates, who next month will run the Shanghai Marathon.

With his digital background, Bates has also taken on the role of student director of online communications, helping CEIBS to embrace online social tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and to build more interactive channels with the student body.

He is also taking regular Mandarin classes. The “secret ingredients” for foreigners to succeed in China are, according to Bates, an MBA and fluent Mandarin: “They will be enough for you to pass the first round of the interviews,” he jokes. 

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