MBAs seek action. They pursue promise and possibilities. It is part of their DNA. They don’t just want to watch history – they plan to be part of it.
These days, the action – and the capabilities and fortunes that come with it – has increasingly shifted to China. The world’s largest exporter, China’s GDP rose to $22.5 trillion dollars in 2019 – nearly $2 trillion more than the United States. More impressive, according to the World Bank, the nation has lifted nearly 850 million people out of poverty over the past 40 years. This growth has captured the imagination of talented young professionals. Home to 1.4 billion people, China is the world’s largest consumer market. When you combine its deep natural resources and technological prowess with its sheer size and growth trajectory, China becomes the perfect place for business school graduates to launch their careers.
A FRONT ROW SEAT TO HISTORY
“In China’s early growth years, entrepreneurs and companies were looking at bringing mature business models and ideas from the West to China, where the market was less developed,” explains Priyesh Patel, a mechanical engineer and software developer from the United Kingdom. “We are starting to see reversals of this trend, with Western companies now looking to the East for ideas. Additionally, as Chinese companies look outwards to expand to nearby markets like Southeast Asia and India, you are presented with employment opportunities in this region that you could not find as easily while based in Europe.”
To truly understand China, you need to live there. That is one of the attractions of CEIBS – the China Europe International Business School. The MBA program is located in Shanghai, home to 720 multinational companies and 461 foreign R&D centers. More than location, CEIBS is known for its rigorous business programming. According to The Financial Times, it consistently ranks among the top ten MBA programs in the world – and the top business school in Asia. Perhaps the program’s distinguishing feature is its focus on how to do business in China.
“At CEIBS, we have the opportunity not only to gain first-hand in-depth knowledge about China, but also to visit giants such as Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba, and other well-known Chinese companies,” explains Dong Chen, an investment manager who previously studied at Ivy League Columbia University. “Earning an MBA in China also enables us to better pursue potential China-specific growth opportunities.”
“CHINA DEPTH, GLOBAL BREADTH”
In particular, students can immerse themselves in Chinese culture, customs, language, and perspectives. For one, classes are tailored to Asia in general and China in particular. “CEIBS’ faculty is international, yet so adept in their knowledge and understanding of China” writes Priyesh Patel. “At CEIBS, you study the same case studies taught at other top MBA schools, but we benefit from the addition of Chinese cases that give us that added Asian perspective.”
This China experience is deepened through daily interactions with classmates. Traditionally, two-thirds of CEIBS MBAs hail from the mainland and Hong Kong. Despite this, classes are taught in English (with some proficiency in Mandarin required). Even more, the program is designed to help MBAs tap deeply into the country’s professional network. Notably, the program boasts its Integrated China Strategy Project (ICSP), a critical opportunity for a student body that historically consists of 80% or more career changers.
“The [ICSP] module is unique to the CEIBS curriculum, where you engage with a real international company operating in China,” writes Priyesh Patel. “It is a great opportunity to get hands-on momentum in a new functional role, industry, and location.”
LOOKING AT THE WORLD A NEW WAY
Daniel Amorim de Paiva joins the Class of 2022 from Brazil, where he was constantly reading about China’s ascension in the newspapers. Such stories gave him an epiphany: to prepare for the coming decades in the West, he needed to become fluent in the East. Thus far, his CEIBS experience has exposed him to just that.
“It has been being able to open my mind and to see the world from new angles, as I’m interacting daily with dozens of different cultures,” he tells P&Q. “It has only been three months and I can already tell how much I have changed, being much more conscious about how different cultures have different approaches for solving the same problem.”
In contrast, Sila Beste Tekin boils the CEIBS value proposition down to one sentence: “It is the best b-school in Asia, located in the heart of an economic megalopolis and it has the most sophisticated industry knowledge and network of world’s fastest-growing economy.”
A 5 BILLION DOLLAR IDEA
This year’s class boasts students who’ve studied at Oxford, Wharton, and New York University. They include entrepreneurs and financiers, Blockchain analysts and country managers. Antoine Millot, for one, describes himself as a “French manager who studied in Chile and China, who worked in West Africa and India.” At Nanyang Technological University – Asia’s top engineering school according to QS World – Alan LIU earned a Lee Kuan Yew gold medal as the top student in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Looking for adventure? Eric Duan once cycled 2,500 KM from Chenghu to Lhasa in Tibet. He is also a scuba diver who has turned his passion into a platform that connects an impressive segment of divers across the world.
“Dive+ has 1 million users from more than 200 countries. We have 120,000 monthly active users, covering 35% of active divers in China, 80% of the instructors, and 15% of the overall divers in the world. The Dive+ is a comprehensive vertical platform for enthusiastic divers. It provides a diving community with more than 6 million user-generated pieces of content in the form of photos and videos.”
Duan isn’t the only builder in the Class of 2022. Ivy Fang Wu created a consumer brand with over 1,000 products that made their way to over 50 countries. In finance, Dong Chen shepherded an investment project worth $65 million RMB with a medical company. At the same time, Alan LIU pitched an idea that helped save his company.
“In 2018, HNA Group was facing a huge liquidity crisis and everyone in the company was in panic. As a senior supervisor in the investment banking division back at that time, I initiated a deal to sell an A-share listed company. After several rounds of analyzing and verifying, we closed the sale of a listed company worth 5.3 billion RMB.”
TAKING CHINA ON THE ROAD
Indeed, you’ll find a certain creative energy among CEIBS first-years. As a trainee at USA Toyota, Ken Shimizu implemented a new factory engine line – a project that required working across various departments. Sila Beste Tekin masterminded the concept of a new chain hotel brand, while Priyanka Menon developed a CRM platform that reads consumer behavior patterns. At a boutique M&A investment bank, Iris Yeqing LU organized an “Explore China” roadshow that connected Chinese investment firms with prospective foreign companies.
“We managed to present more than 180 target companies from the US, UK, Italy, France, Germany, and Switzerland to 12 acquisitive Chinese enterprises, two of which successfully transitioned into buy-side mandates,” Yeqing LU shares. “This very first Explore China Roadshow was so successful that it has become an annual event hosted by Oaklins HFG China afterwards.”
This momentum has carried forward onto campus at CEIBS. For example, Yeqing LU has organized visits to manufacturing plants and signed up guest speakers in the chemical industry space. Priyesh Patel advanced mixed gender participation in campus sports as Lily Lyu co-founded a new music club. Perhaps the class’ biggest accomplishment this fall can be summed in two words:
“Surviving it,” jokes Sila Beste Tekin.
That process was furthered by classmates that Antoine Millot said were equal parts competitive and helpful. “I cannot put into words the respect that I have for some of my classmates who stayed up late on nights to help the cohort grasping the technical concepts of data analytics and financial accounting,” he tells P&Q.
Iris Yeqing LU shared a similar experience when it comes to classmates being supportive. “During the exam weeks, my classmates are very willing to help others with questions in different courses, and share with each other reviewing notes and mind map that help fellow classmates learn more effectively and efficiently. Moreover, all of my classmates are very willing to help each other in terms of job and intern searching. Many are willing to make the reference calls or introduce new opportunities to other classmates.”
With the advent of COVID, the Class of 2022 didn’t start their MBA in ideal circumstances. To prepare for the fall semester, CEIBS adopted a “Twin City” model where a fourth of the class completed coursework and activities on the school’s campus in Zurich, Switzerland. Despite this hurdle, the class simply worked harder to make it work.
“My MBA classmates, both in Switzerland and China, give me so much power and energy and I always get motivated from them,” asserts Ken Shimizu. “Even under this situation, they demonstrate passion, enthusiasm, strong-driving force and active participation in class and group projects and focus on what we can do for now.”
And they had some fun along the way too, adds Daniel Amorim de Paiva. “We are all very curious to learn more about our peers’ backgrounds and life lessons. We often have a small party with a specific nationality as a theme to learn about its culture (and food). I seriously need to improve my ability to eat spicy food though, as I’m not quite there yet. One time we had a small Indian party and the food was sooo good, but I couldn’t eat more than two or three bites.”
Page 2: Interview with Shameen Prashantham, the Associate Dean and MBA Director.
Page 3: Profiles of 12 Full-Time MBA Students.