CEIBS Offers MBA Bootcampers Entry Into Vast China Biz Landscape

CEIBS pre-MBA bootcamp participants Roop Kishore, left, and Alastair Moore enjoy the view from atop Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building. Courtesy Luminary Visuals


Let’s look at the salary question one more way: How do CEIBS’ outcomes compare to those at its peer schools? Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 86% of whose grads stay in Asia, lists its average salary at $82,234, right around CEIBS’ total first-year compensation. But there are variables that may complicate the comparison, not least the question of how, exactly, HKUST arrived at their figure, and whether that figure is total comp or base pay. So let’s consult another metric. The Financial Times makes a salary calculation that sometimes allows for easier comparisons between schools: its “weighted salary” averages alumni salaries three years after graduation and makes some adjustments for variations between sectors. In this way, FT set the salary at CEIBS, its top-ranked 2018 Asian B-school at No. 8 overall, at $162,858. HKUST (No. 14) is not far behind at $158,119, while National University of Singapore Business School (No. 18) is at $143,917, Nanyang Business School in Singapore (No. 22) is at $132,288, and the University of Hong Kong (No. 33) is at $128,245. Meanwhile, grads from the other big B-school in Shanghai, Jiao Tong University’s Antai College of Economics and Management (No. 34), make $121,635.

Without mentioning a handful of Indian schools with comparable weighted salaries — No. 31 IIM-Ahmedabad ($175,801), No. 35 IIM-Bangalore ($166,651), and No. 28 Indian School of Business ($148,974) — CEIBS comes out looking pretty good with the FT metric.

However, it isn’t only Asian schools CEIBS is competing with. Participants in this summer’s bootcamp, which concluded July 2, have a wide array of options and target schools, including many in the U.S. and Europe — in fact, only around one in five bootcamp participants will decide to apply here, if precedent is any guide. That’s not surprising when you consider that besides Chinese, the bootcamp boasts many Indians and a smattering of nationalities from around the globe, from Ghana to Brazil to Romania.

Kavya Thachankary of Kerala, India, doesn’t expect to apply to CEIBS after attending its pre-MBA bootcamp this summer but found the lectures “pretty amazing.” Marc Ethier photo


One of them, Kavya Thachankary of Kerala, India, is an analyst for Cargill in Bangalore, India who is currently studying for the GMAT. She doesn’t expect to apply to CEIBS, however, because she thinks other schools might be better destinations for her interests in digitization and leadership — and, she adds, because she is an international student who doesn’t speak Mandarin. Thachankary, who graduated from PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore, India with a degree in computer engineering, has a couple of U.S. schools on her target list, including NYU Stern School of Business and Duke University Fuqua School of Business. She’s also considering National University of Singapore Business School, and possibly a Canadian B-school. “The difference between doing an MBA in the East and something in the West is something I’m trying to figure out — which one would be better,” she says. “I’m glad I came to China, but multiple people over the last few days have said, ‘International students who don’t know Mandarin — no point in coming here.’

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I came to Shanghai,” Thachankary, 24, tells Poets&Quants. “I thought for the most part the lectures were pretty amazing.”

She has concerns, though, about the level of instruction in digitization, despite the school’s new Digital Business concentration. “I work in the digital space and digitizing in China is pretty far ahead from the rest of the world, which would be a reason to come here. So I was expecting high-end digitization in the session we had on digital business, but basically it was just about e-commerce.”

And she keeps coming back to the language hurdle.

“Coming here if you’re not going to get a job in China doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Thachankary says. “But for someone who doesn’t speak Mandarin, that is going to be very hard. If you love China or you have a family business you have to go back to and you’re just trying to understand something affecting your business that is related to China, those kinds of reasons, yes. But for just a completely independent international student looking at getting an MBA for the experience and exposure and all that, it may not make sense.”

Kwadwo Owusu-Agyeman of Accra, Ghana, was one of 70 participants in the CEIBS pre-MBA bootcamp this year. CEIBS will run a global EMBA program from its facilities in his hometown beginning this fall. Owusu-Agyeman, 26, is more interested in the MBA in Shanghai. Marc Ethier photo


More than lectures, CEIBS’ pre-MBA bootcamp showed potential students some of their potential employers, too: companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Bayer, major multinational corporations with bases in Shanghai, and smaller companies like Naked Hub, a shared workspace network. Students lived on the 7.5 million-square-meter CEIBS campus and heard from top faculty and alumni. And they made field trips, guided and on their own, into the heart of Shanghai, population 24 million, including a trip to the top of Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building. As Thachankary says, her generation is spoiled for options, “and if you want to know what these programs are actually like you can just read about them. But you don’t get the answers you’re looking for, I think, unless you really experience it.”

Kwadwo Owusu-Agyeman of Accra, Ghana, was one of the 70 participants in the CEIBS pre-MBA bootcamp this year. He knows the school well: CEIBS has facilities in Accra, where the school runs executive education and women’s entrepreneurship programs. It’s through that campus that Owusu-Agyeman learned about the CEIBS MBA in Shanghai, a program he intends to apply for admission to in fall 2019.

“I spend my time researching fintech and the type of financial technology in China is light years ahead,” says Owusu-Agyeman, 26, an investment banking analyst for IC Securities who studied computer engineering at the University of Ghana. “When I found out there was a CEIBS bootcamp, I knew I had to come, to see the school, see the city, see if it’s something I can experience.”

A few months after joining IC Securities as a tech analyst in 2015, Owusu-Agyeman made the switch to finance, working in capital markets and mergers and acquisitions, serving both institutional and corporate clients. Among other achievements, he helped manage two of the largest IPOs in the history of Ghana’s stock exchange. He likes the work — but tech is not entirely in his rearview. “The reason why I wanted to go into finance is that I wanted to understand how to run a place and what goes into raising money,” he says. “I’m a tech guy, actually, but I wanted to understand finance and investment banking.”

In that space, he spotted a big opportunity. Ghana is a country with bad banking penetration — “people don’t use banks,” Owusu-Agyeman says. “Insurance, pensions, it’s very bad — the population is informal and uneducated, so they don’t use banks. But there’s a new phenomenon, mobile banking — not smartphone banking, but a very rudimentary type of application. But that technology, as basic as it is, is revolutionizing financial services in Ghana.” But it can be much more, he adds. “And when I started reading about stuff like that, it got me really excited because the next stage is probably smartphones for the people in Africa. They don’t trust banks, but if they can understand how to bank on their phones, it will really grow. Fintech is going to skyrocket in sub-Saharan Africa.”

That’s his plan, and with the “right mix of tech and finance background,” Owusu-Agyeman hopes get into CEIBS. “The innovation is what really draws me here,” he says, but he also expects to apply to some U.S. and European schools, particularly Stanford and INSEAD.

Tony Hsieh at Naked Hub in Shanghai. Hsieh expects to apply to CEIBS with an eye to start his MBA journey in 2020 or 2021. Marc Ethier photo


Bala Ramasamy, CEIBS professor, was just one of several people to reinforce to 2018 bootcamp participants that if they want to find jobs in China post-graduation, they had better learn Mandarin. This helps explain why CEIBS offers Mandarin classes in the first term.

For Tony Hsieh, the classes aren’t necessary. Like most bootcamp participants this year — and like around two-thirds of MBA students at CEIBS every year — Hsieh speaks Chinese, though he is not from the China mainland but from Taiwan. He’s a division head of marketing for the health care and life science business group of Foxconn, an IT services firm based in Shenzhen with more than a million employees. Hsieh earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from National Taiwan University in 2011; just a year into his current role, he came to Shanghai with a plan to learn more management skills.

“I’m currently leading a small team of five, and that is a little bit challenging for me,” Hsieh, 29, tells P&Q.

His first interaction with CEIBS was a couple years ago when he accompanied a colleague on a visit to Shanghai. Besides touring some locally based companies, Hsieh also got a view of the CEIBS campus. Back then he had no plans to pursue an MBA degree, because he never thought he’d need one. But that soon changed. 

“I remember being told that the best best way to learn more about the CEIBS MBA program was to join the bootcamp, and I remembered that,” Hsieh says. “Last year in my new job, the idea popped into my mind: Maybe I need MBA training. And because I plan to have my career here in China, I think CEIBS would be the best choice for me.”

Hsieh’s timeline is longer than most bootcampers: Unsure about the wisdom of quitting right now, he is eyeing 2020 or 2021 to start his MBA journey. But the bootcamp has given him a good taste of what life at CEIBS will be like, and he likes all of it: the lectures, the campus life, the possible future classmates. Of course, Shanghai itself remained a major selling point, as well, one that Hsieh — like all bootcampers, even those not new to China or the city — was duly impressed with.

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