Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Karen Xi Manqi, CEIBS

Karen Xi Manqi

China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)

“I always manage to surprise everyone – even myself!”

Hometown: Singapore

Fun Fact About Yourself: The longest I’ve stayed in one country in the past 11 years has been 1.5 years – and it was last year during the pandemic, in Mexico.

Undergraduate School and Major: Philosophy, Politics and Economics – University of Oxford

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Business Director, Focus Reports (international publisher of C-level strategic business reports)

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the MBA curriculum that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I would say CEIBS’ case-based approach and the split between Chinese and international cases. I attended the CEIBS MBA summer boot camp in 2019, where I was able to experience a few case study discussions with the professors. That was what really convinced me to apply to CEIBS (and, indeed, CEIBS was the only business school I applied to)! Anyone can listen to lectures online and a lot of business has to be learnt and understood by doing. However, I love the case method in particular because it’s based on real-life situations; you have to use problem-solving and analytic skills, and you get to discuss them with your classmates and professors, who all bring different backgrounds and views. It gives you a little window into that specific industry and that specific business problem or model it is intended to highlight, like a little tantalizing sneak peek.

My work background is in healthcare/pharma/biotech. While I want to continue working in this sector after my MBA, I also really wanted to learn more about other industries. I also particularly wanted to learn more about Chinese business models and practices, because having worked in China for a year in 2019, I know that the Chinese business landscape is extremely unique and has its own dynamics to appreciate, and no other global MBA has this focus on China cases.

CEIBS is known for “China Depth, Global Breadth.” What is the biggest appeal of earning an MBA in China? I would have to say the full immersion into Chinese business culture (especially if you speak fluent Chinese). While the programme is conducted in English, 60% of my classmates are from China and even more are Chinese-speaking, so many informal class discussions, social interactions and campus events do inevitably happen in Chinese, especially those that involve students from the other Chinese-language programs. This is great practice for future business interactions, especially in a culture full of subtleties in terms of communication and body language. At the same time, this is achieved without sacrificing the international element, as so many of my classmates, Chinese or otherwise, have amazing international experience, which bring more unique perspectives onto the campus.

What club, class, or tradition are you most looking forward to at CEIBS? It is definitely the annual TEDx CEIBS event. I am an avid listener of TED Talks and I feel extremely honoured to be part of the organizing team for next year’s event, which will also be the tenth anniversary of TEDx CEIBS! I think it is a great complement to CEIBS’ role as a bridge connecting business ideas and leaders from China with the world.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I can’t say there is a single biggest accomplishment.  Looking back, I am proud of the fact that I chose a highly unconventional job after my undergraduate degree, which led me to living and executing projects on the ground in ten different countries, interviewing and selling to over a thousand CEOs and industry leaders face-to-face, and managing small but diverse teams – all while learning the subtleties of doing business in different cultural contexts.

What do you hope to do after earning your MBA and why will that be significant? Firstly, I hope to develop my career in China’s booming biopharmaceutical industry and eventually transition into a global career, bringing the learnings and experience I acquired in China with me to different countries. The Chinese healthcare industry has advanced incredibly rapidly in the past decade. While technologically, countries like the US, the UK, France and Switzerland are still ahead, in many commercial, operational and delivery aspects, there are many innovations being generated within the Chinese market that could benefit patients and consumers globally, especially with unsustainably ballooning healthcare expenditures in many countries. The speed at which China has provided affordable and accessible basic healthcare to its people is impressive, and many other countries, both developing and developed, could benefit from the adoption of the Chinese model.

At the same time, having spent the last 1.5 years in Mexico, I also hope to work on projects that foster more business and cultural ties between Mexico and China, and more broadly, Latin America and Asia. There are actually a surprising number of similarities between these two regions, with many potential complementary business opportunities. It is a pity that they are not better connected due to their geographic, linguistic and cultural distances. Earlier this year, I started a website, techlatamasia, with a friend in Chile, to start building a dialogue between tech entrepreneurs  and business leaders in both regions.  I hope to continue growing this initiative during and after my MBA.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the CEIBS MBA program? Be extremely clear on why you want to pursue a career in China (at least in the short-term) and how a CEIBS MBA will support your career and personal goals in that direction.


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