Josephine Tumwesige, Kampala, Uganda
For Josephine Tumwesige, an MBA means impactful change. And not just for her, but for her entire country, too. “Whatever knowledge I have, let me take it back to my people and help them gain from a child of their soil having acquired some knowledge,” the 27-year-old says of her native Uganda. “At the end of it, for me, home is home. It’s the place where I want to make my change in this world. The end game is to make a change in my country.”
Specifically, she says, that change will involve bringing renewable energy to Uganda. “I believe we have a lot of solar power,” explains Tumwesige, who says her name means “Trust” in English. “And people still don’t even have power.” Yet it’s reasonable to believe parts of Uganda could bypass traditional forms of electric power for solar — after all, countries like Uganda and neighboring Kenya completely skipped land-lines for phones. Particularly, Tumwesige believes earning an MBA in a country like China will open up doors to contacts and potential suppliers. “You need to get those panels and materials from somewhere,” she says.
The biggest hesitation for Tumwesige, a telecommunications engineer for MTN, is the MBA’s application in Africa. On one hand, the curriculum is broad, which makes the degree an advantage, she says. “But the question still remains, how does it apply to your country?” she says, noting the importance of the degree for career growth in regions like Asia.
“In Africa, I’m not sure that’s the training it takes,” Tumwesige says. “There is no career change,” she adds, speaking of other young professions who have left the continent to pursue MBAs.
AN MBA AS A NEW WAY FOR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL CHANGE
But the trip and boot camp have certainly given her some things to consider. “You begin to wonder if you haven’t seen some opportunities,” Tumwesige says. “Sitting at your desk, you didn’t imagine them before.”
And seeing that potential alter-life might have been what Tumwesige needed to at least throw her name into the mix. “There is a point where you make your own choice, or what you’ve applied to chooses you,” she believes. “At the moment, I’m going to do my part. I’ve applied for a specialist’s degree and I will apply for an MBA.”
Ariel Briskin, Jerusalem, Israel
Not many non-native Chinese boot campers could boast managerial experience in China. But that’s exactly what you get from Ariel Briskin. The Jerusalem native, who says his name is spelled “like the mermaid, unfortunately,” has been managing a team of about six Chinese nationals for more than two years in his role as building material department manager at a plastic recycling company, Cintac Limited in Guangzhou. “I kind of skipped the first working phase,” Briskin, 30, says of his immediate managerial work after undergrad.
After double majoring in political science and Far East studies with an emphasis on China, Briskin bolted Jerusalem for Sichuan University to study Mandarin. After three painstaking years, he’s mastered the language. Briskin, who says he’s still in the “learning phase” of an MBA, is interested in building a network to either push himself into a higher managerial role or to start his own business.
Either way, Briskin plans on staying in China. “Everything about it is fascinating,” he says of the country he’s lived in for the past five years. “It’s easy to see the Chinese and China as one unit. But they are also so different. There are different provinces, different languages, different thinking.”
‘PEOPLE ARE NOW COMPARING IT TO NEW YORK’
But to be sure, being a foreign manager in China has come with challenges. “The whole experience of a foreigner living in China is always challenging and interesting and sometimes hard and frustrating,” Briskin says. “The thinking is still very inside-the-box thinking. Chinese are super-smart people — but not as creative,” he continues, noting that many Chinese companies look for Western managers to help with this problem. “But it’s changing,” he acknowledges. “A lot more Chinese are open-minded, liberal, have studied abroad or lived abroad for a long time, so it’s changing.”
Another factor keeping Briskin in China? “I also have a Chinese girlfriend,” he says, smiling. That, and Shanghai is intriguing, he adds.
“People are now comparing it to New York,” Briskin says. “Some think it will pass it in the future, others say it will not. But it doesn’t matter. Without any doubt, it’s a very big center and a lot of things are happening.”