From reporting on China to doing an MBA: A time and place for everything
Those who know me personally know that I don’t do a good job in hiding my love and fascination for China.
It’s not just my social media (Instagram) posts, but how my face lights up when I get to tell a good Chinese story to others; how I was determined and willing to pull through my previous tough but oh-so-fulfilling job in China; and how I decided to return to China in September 2022 – at a time when getting visas and (reasonably priced) flights were arduous. I hail from Malaysia.
I guess you could say my interest in China started back in 2011 when I was sent to a small city in the Northeast for three months as part of my management trainee rotation in a Malaysian bank. It was then that I got a taste of Chinese hospitality and the efficiency of online shopping and delivery via Taobao.
Several years later, I found myself in China again (an intentional move which deserves a story over whisky sometime). This time, I was working for Chinese media outlet as a broadcast journalist. Yes, I pivoted from commercial banking to the world of journalism.
My work took me to places in China I didn’t think existed, introduced me to people I never thought I’d meet, stretched me beyond my imagination, and gave me what I believe to be some of my most useful life skills: the spirit of resilience and the belief that there are few things that can’t be solved (i.e. anything is possible). Reporting on and from China on TV to the rest of the world was a privilege I did not take lightly.
That said, I’ve always believed that there is a time and place for everything.
After four of my best years thus far as a general reporter in China, I decided to do an MBA here. I picked CEIBS for its compelling ‘Global Breadth, China Depth’ proposition, and what I hoped would be a cohort of intelligent and level-headed classmates.
Many have asked me why I am doing an MBA here when I already have a foothold in the country, and when I don’t need it to achieve me short and medium-term goals.
My answer is simple: It never hurts to learn more.
I’m not doing it for my resume or for validation, but for my own learning. I want to solidify my understanding of China – particularly of its business landscape.
Having already received an ‘on-the-ground’ experience, I hope my knowledge and insights of China can now be supplemented by a classroom experience. This, and the conversations that happen out of classroom, is something that I really treasure.
I’m particularly curious to observe how some of the smartest (young) Chinese approach case discussions, handle stress and solve problems.
If you had asked me a few years ago or even from the beginning if I wanted to do an MBA, I would have said, “No.” But life takes you where you need to go and want to be at just the right time – like how I went from a business degree to banking to print journalism to broadcast journalism and now back to the classroom.
Term One: A time to reflect
We just finished Term One – out of six terms – in December. “Drinking from a fire hose” is exactly what many articles online refer to as how rigorous an MBA is. All I can say is that it is true to the very core.
Our hectic day-to-night schedule is filled with classes, meetings, case discussions, group and individual assignments, career info sessions (which I admittedly haven’t been attending at all), sports and social events. Many have advised that prioritization and time management are the key, and I’m looking forward to personal improvements in these areas.
Classroom and technical knowledge is always welcome, but what really excites me is what I get outside of the textbook.
For example, Professor of Economics Bala Ramasamy – who is also a fellow Malaysian – stressed the “need to transform” in our first class. “If you are already so good, why do an MBA?” he asked, which got me thinking more. “Whether it’s to be more outspoken or be a better listener, you have to transform.”
Towards the end of our term, Professor Bala again reiterated the above and said that who we are goes beyond our CVs and CEIBS – something that has really resonated with me.
Assistant Professor of Accounting Venkat Peddireddy also comforted us during our first class with the message that learning is more important than grades – again, something that I truly believe in. In our final class, he talked to us about the art of not quitting, because “once you quit, it gets easier to just keep quitting.”
Professor of Marketing Hyun Young Park also offered a new perspective on goods and services: It’s ultimately about the value they bring. I also liked how liked how Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour Emily David made me ponder upon how I have been tackling conflicts. There is a thoughtful and pragmatic system to it: It depends on how much we value the relationships involved and the outcomes of disagreements. When it came to data analytics, what Associate Professor of Operations Management Hu Kejia said about “Choosing the right path is better than making (a lot of) effort,” really stood out to me.
Finally, I will not forget what the Mindful EQ session organized by the school’s Career Development Programme taught me: “Many people think success leads to happiness… it should be the other way around,” said Norman Yen.
It’s so true.
I really treasure these nuggets of wisdom. Thank you Professors.
Recognising the fact that doing an MBA might at times leave you (or me) with a fear-of-missing-out feeling or the pressure of fitting in, I remind myself to stay the course of how and what I define as success without losing sight of being kind.
During a video call before I flew to China, Alex Yuen from the school’s Career Development Center posted this question: “What is my culture going to be like in the Class of MBA2024?”
Admittedly, I am only thinking of it now after my first semester. I think “lifelong learning, patience and empathy” is what I wish to see myself practicing during the MBA.
Alex also asked: “There are a lot of things you’re not going to like. How are you going to respond to them?”
Ah, I love this question. Perhaps I’ll get to this in my next article.