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Getting An MBA In China: An American In Shanghai

It was going to take some selling to bust into a famed aerospace company as a recently graduated international studies major with a year of work experience in small-potatoes jobs. Shimota found a friend who had a friend who worked in the job Shimota wanted at Boeing, in international supply chain management. In two three-hour meetings, the woman taught him all about the position, told him what skills the company was looking for, and advised him on the interview. Now, for all Shimota’s talking, he can listen, and listen he did. He got the job. It was a giant step for a kid just out of college, but the Fortune 100 firm was for Shimota mostly a platform from which to launch across the Pacific. “In Boeing, I was always trying to get back to China,” he says. “I networked like a maniac but I couldn’t find a gig to get me back to China. I wanted to be in a Chinese company.


“I always wanted the thrill of something totally alien to me. I learn the most in challenging situations, or, like, uncomfortable situations. While you’re acclimating you’re just using all parts of your brain. I want to be somewhere I’m not used to, that’s how I’m going to keep learning.”

While exploring possibilities for returning to Asia, he started thinking seriously about getting an MBA, to help him step out, and up. “It would kind of skyrocket my career in Asia, and it would be a lot better than getting some entry-level job in Asia.”

CEIBS campus

CEIBS campus

He was certain he didn’t want a “face job” in China: one in which a Caucasian does little more than add the appearance of Western involvement to a business. “They’re like, ‘Stick the white guy at the window, he doesn’t really have to do much – we need a white face in this meeting to make it look like we’re more legit.'”

Because he wanted to work in China, getting his MBA there made sense, he says. “You go to Stanford and Harvard and you’re trying to understand international trends. It doesn’t make as much sense as going international and seeing the international trends, and seeing the growth. Everyone wants to go to China now – they’re such a huge player. It’s just not really as useful to study in the U.S. as if you just go straight to the source.”

He applied to three other Chinese schools, plus CEIBS, which is ranked the 13th-best international business school in the world by Poets&Quants; after a six-place rise, the Financial Times puts it at No. 11 in its 2015 global MBA ranking, making CEIBS its highest ranked school in Asia.

CEIBS has two full-time MBA programs: a new 12-month version and the 18-month program with a consulting project and a summer internship that Shimota is in. The school boasts a 92% placement rate within three months of commencement, which occurs in January for the 18-month program. Among its more famous American alumni is Devon Nixon, the grand-nephew of President Richard Nixon, who left California to attend CEIBS and graduated with his MBA in 2010.


CEIBS admissions interviewed Shimota via Skype, and he leaned heavily on his professional background in supply chain and process improvement, and emphasized the transferability of the skills he used in a company known for high quality. “China’s moving from low-technology manufacturing to big, high-technology manufacturing,” he says. “Quality’s going to be so important. This is a trend that China’s moving toward. I had Boeing on my resume, which I knew was going to be such a big wow factor, so I was just trying to focus on that.”

After CEIBS accepted him, Shimota kept a door cracked at Boeing, just in case. “My manager at Boeing really liked me,” Shimota says. His bosses agreed to let him take an unpaid leave of absence for two years, with a guarantee that he could come back to the same job or another with a similar salary. He describes himself as “99% sure” he won’t return to Boeing but “who knows what happens?”

Program administrators at CEIBS made it easy for Shimota to come to China as a foreign student. “They’ve got their shit together,” he says. “They knew what to do.” His international MBA program costs $65,000, and he received a scholarship amounting to 40% of the tuition. He’s one of 11 Americans in his MBA class of 166.

Instruction at CEIBS is in English, and about 35% of the students come from outside China, Shimota says. Although the Chinese students have strong hard skills in areas such as analytics and finance, many struggle with soft skills applicable to marketing and strategy, and the English-language materials make it harder for them. Shimota’s fluency in Mandarin puts him in position to assist and be assisted. “We help each other out,” he says.


Although he benefits greatly from his Chinese classmates’ aid in navigating Chinese culture and business practices, his Mandarin skills put him ahead of his international peers in getting along. School representatives suggest that international students don’t need to know Chinese, which is accurate to a point, Shimota says. “They kind of just want to tell you internationals can survive here, which is true, but Chinese is important,” he says, adding that most of his fellow international students want to work in China after graduating and are trying hard to learn Mandarin.