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Embracing Change & Navigating Uncertainties

 

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw

 

If you had asked me five years ago, where I saw myself five years down the line, I would’ve probably said that I’d love nothing more than to continue working in the investment banking sector. Life seemed pretty sorted back then – an attractive industry, good job and a fairly comfortable life. There have been multiple times that I have looked back and wondered, what changed? I think of myself as someone who preferred not taking unnecessary risks and therefore I find it quite intriguing myself that I opted to take on the challenge of studying in China in one of the best schools in the world and starting afresh.

What’s my story you ask? I’m a Thai citizen, of Chinese descent, who did part of her schooling in India. I finished my schooling and moved back to Thailand to study Economics at Thammasat University, graduated with top honours and then realised I had no idea what to do with life. I had a slight inclination towards finance and realised I’d be better off trying to make a career in something I do find interesting, and that is how investment banking happened. Five years, a few IPOs, multiple M&A deals and a CFA certification later I felt like I was back to square one. I liked my job and the life that came with it but I felt I’d hit a wall in terms of being enthusiastic about learning and lost some of the ambition I had when I graduated. I realised that in the comfort and security of the job, I was gradually typecasting myself into a very specific function in a specific industry, and I needed to explore, learn and experience a lot more before I settled down into the life I wanted.

 

CEIBS – How & Why?

Deciding to do an MBA was amongst the easier choices I’ve had to make. Selecting a school where you would invest a good part of two years and a significant portion of your life savings was the hard part. I did what most aspirants do, Googled for the best schools, drew up a list and started reaching out to students and alumni. I’d heard about CEIBS being the school in Asia, but I was initially apprehensive about doing an MBA in China. I talked to acquaintances who had graduated in recent years, and also reached out to my father’s business network in China to get industry feedback about the school. I only heard great things about the school, but I still needed to see it to believe it and therefore I chose to have an on-campus admissions interview and travelled to Shanghai. I was quite impressed by the infrastructure, the faculty and the vision of CEIBS, and I decided that I would pursue my master’s degree at CEIBS (if I got in).


Life at CEIBS begins

 

Life @ CEIBS

B-schools can be intimidating, even more so if you’re thrown into the deep end with 170 experienced, intelligent and supremely confident bunch of people handpicked from around the world. I’m a quintessential introvert – my idea of a “happening” weekend would involve going shopping, checking out the better restaurants in town, visit a nearby museum, doing all this and more, BUT ALONE. Entering into this colosseum of extremely confident individuals was terrifying initially, I forgot the number of times I questioned my decision to spend my life savings to be trampled over by people who seemed to know everything about everything. But as a great man (I’m pretty sure it was a woman) once said, “every cloud has a silver lining”, and I found my silver lining in a bunch of people who could not be farther away from how I am as a person, both personally and professionally. The one thing most people don’t tell you about b-schools is that time and sleep are absolute luxuries and you simply cannot afford them, and stress is an inferior good, available in plenty. The academic life hits you hard, and after over half a decade of sitting behind a desk, I was not prepared for the intensity. And it is in these times that you need people around you the most – people who you can look to for advice, to share a glass of wine with at the end of the day or to make impromptu weekend plans with. Surrounding yourself with the right people not only takes away the stress and pressure that is synonymous with CEIBS, but also helps you grow tremendously as an individual. At the midway point of my MBA journey, I can confidently say that I’ve learnt as much from my peers as I have from my faculty.

  

One of the professors during the orientation said that, “the MBA is a place where you can experiment all you want, make mistakes and fail with minimal consequences,” and that has stayed with me throughout my journey so far. I came here for a change, and hence I’ve tried my hand at everything I wasn’t particularly comfortable with or confident about. For example, if I had to choose between eating only tofu for the rest of my life and presenting before a class of 50, eating tofu would be an absolute no-brainer. But I’ve tried to overcome these fears by reluctantly volunteering for presentations, taking part in case-competitions, and being part of the leadership team in student clubs (albeit with varying levels of success). These experiences have added so much my growth as a professional, something that would be unfathomable if I’d decided against coming to CEIBS. The competition is intense, make no mistake about it, it is unforgiving at times, but I think we’ve all come out of this experience wiser and smarter.


Roland Berger Case Competition - Internal selection

 

Wait… Who ordered chaos?

Just when all of us were getting done with the grind of the first three terms and looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our hard labour, something struck. Something struck and the world as we know it changed completely in a matter of weeks. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have lost their jobs, billions of dollars wiped off the market and hundreds of companies shutting shop, and we’re now looking at the biggest humanitarian and economic challenge mankind has faced in modern history. I know it’s hard to stay optimistic in these times, but it also presents us with some of the biggest problems for us to solve as managers.

As another great woman once said, “With great rankings, comes great responsibilities.” We often take pride being amongst the top b-schools in the world, and I strongly believe that it is our responsibility to step forward and proactively support countries, citizens and corporations in rebuilding the world together. I don’t know when this will be over, but I know one day it will be and we will have played our part in making the world a better place.


Getting through this chaotic period with my favorite people

 

Conclusion

If you had to take anything away from my experience so far at CEIBS, they’d be:

  1. An MBA can be a scary proposition, but you need to back yourself and your strengths. Everyone around you is good, but so are you.
  2. Surround yourself with good people. You learn as much over coffees and beers as you do in classrooms.
  3. Wear a mask, wash your hands and don’t sneeze into people’s faces.

Hope this help!