Network building and bodybuilding in the CEIBS MBA

MBA 2019 Pre-course classmates

I spent my early years in the Philippines then moved to the US when I was 10. I went to college in Seattle, WA, then worked in the finance industry in the US until I was 25 years old, when sadly, my mother developed a recurrence of her breast cancer. Family has always been very important to me, and being the eldest sibling in my family, I moved back to the Philippines in 2014. Pivoting from the finance industry, I joined my family’s business there, DMCI Holdings.  We are an engineering conglomerate focusing on construction, real estate, mining, power generation and agriculture.

The move wasn’t easy. Apart from my family situation, the culture and pace of life in the Philippines was quite different to that in the US.  Eventually I learned to be more adaptable and patient, and soon I saw how much more Asia could offer me. Many of the markets here are less mature, and I felt I could do more and achieve more here, so I made up my mind that Asia is where I want to be, and more importantly where I want to call home.

Riding the local shared bikes at night with my groupmates

My application journey

I still vividly remember the stress and anxiety of applying for my MBA; there was studying for the GMAT, taking the test multiples times, and then anxiously hoping my score was good enough. I thought that studying for the GMAT would be the hardest part of the application process, but as it turned out, choosing the right school was a lot harder than I had imagined.

Given my long term plan, it seemed the logical choice was to do an Asia-focused MBA. I had narrowed my choices to two of the top schools in Asia. While at first it was difficult to choose, the decision became easier after I visited both schools. When I came to Shanghai for my interview at CEIBS, I was very drawn to the energy and pace of the city and China.

My Term 1 groupmates, SUPERB 28!

Arriving at CEIBS

One concept that has always stuck with me is that growth only happens when we are uncomfortable and pushed to experience new things. I arrived in Shanghai in June 2017 to learn Mandarin before the start of the term. The initial move was difficult. Having no ability to speak or understand Mandarin, I felt lost and helpless. Through the programme I was able to meet most of my foreign classmates; they were studying Chinese, just like me. They became my first friends at CEIBS and we bonded through experiencing the same struggles. It was fun to explore the city together and see what Shanghai has to offer. The pre-course went by so fast, before I knew it, it was time to begin the MBA for real.

Surviving term one

I had heard many horror stories about how an MBA takes over your life, but I never really understood how this happens until I was actually in it. I was determined to set myself three clear goals that I could always refer back to when the workload got particularly heavy:

  1. Learn Chinese

  2. Build my network

  3. Join a bodybuilding competition while doing the MBA

My last goal may sound crazy, but fitness has always been important me and a healthy lifestyle wasn’t something that I was prepared to sacrifice. The competition idea was just taking this goal one step further; I wanted to have something to work towards and that would keep me motivated to go to the gym. Unfortunately I was unable to complete this goal by the end of Term 1; the hectic test load has put this on hold for now.

Practice posing with my trainer in early October, 2017

Sticking with these goals was more difficult than I expected. We were busy with cases, student-led activities, and networking events. It became a juggling act of how to properly manage your time, let alone manage having time for sleep and the gym. Fortunately, I was put with a wonderful group of hardworking and talented classmates who are a pleasure to work with. SUPERB 28 was our group name and without the help and support of my groupmates, I would not have been able to survive the term.  I am aiming to join a bodybuilding show in either China or the Philippines next year, hopefully cheered on by my groupmates.

As for the goal of expanding my network, this I am accomplishing by starting the Family Business Club with my classmates. Coming from a family business background myself, I think this is a good platform for me to build my network within China, and to learn from my fellow classmates about the struggles and challenges they face being a part of their family’s business.

Late night case prep

Overall, my time at CEIBS has been very positive. CEIBS offers a lot of opportunities to take advantage of, but the trickiest part is knowing how to properly manage your time, and how to effectively navigate through all the different choices. Talking about my Mandarin for example, I can now get by and take three classes a week to improve further.  Luckily if you need help with anything, there is always someone — either a fellow classmate, or friendly CEIBS staff and faculty — willing to help. Knowing this, and being able to experience life so far at CEIBS, I know I have made the right choice and am excited for more adventures to come!