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Friday, September 15, 2017

Investment Banking to a NY Startup, via Shanghai

- CEIBS MBA 2014 alumnus Eric Powlick shares how his China experience was perceived back home in New York

September 15, 2017. Shanghai – MBA Admissions last caught up with MBA 2014 alumnus Eric Powlick at Ford Motor Company’s Asia Pacific Headquarters in Shanghai as part of CEIBS annual Pre-MBA Summer Boot Camp in 2016 that provided future MBA students with a look behind the scenes at graduate opportunities at the US automotive giant.  At that time, Eric was Finance Manager within Ford’s product development department, but has since returned to his native New York.  Eric took the time to sit down with CEIBS MBA Admissions to reflect on his MBA journey.

What is your current job?

I work at Blue Apron, the largest provider of meal kits in the U.S., as a Senior Manager in the Financial Planning & Analysis team. I partner with the Operations and Fulfilment teams to set financial plans for operating costs and support capital investment decisions in capacity and automation. Given the company's current phase, my job is much more strategic compared to a typical FP&A role. We are the thought partners for the business and provide direction driven by financial analytics to support critical decisions.   

How did employers react to your experience of working in China when you were applying for jobs back in New York?

My working experience in China was very well received. Employers liked the fact I had managed teams in China and understood how to perform in a high growth environment. International experience itself is viewed very highly, but experience in China is even more so. Most businesses I spoke with had operations or supply chains based in China, so our conversations were very relevant to how business is done in China.       

Having moved from investment banking to automotive and now an online startup, what advise do you have for MBAs seeking an industry switch?

I've been able to leverage my transferrable skills that apply across all industries. Being in finance, revenue is still revenue and costs are still costs no matter what industry you're trying to break into. I've always emphasized my analytical, leadership and collaborative abilities when embarking on a new career opportunity. The ability to apply those same skills to a new industry will take practice, but if you do your homework, you can get there. Being current on the industry you want to break into and 'speaking the language' will indicate your strong interest level and show that you can ramp up quickly.

Which takeaway from an MBA faculty member still informs your work today?

I still remember during the orientation session when Professor of Marketing Dr. Lydia Price gave her introduction lecture. The point she made was to never stop asking questions to get a deeper understanding of the customer. I also enjoyed Professor of Economics Dr. Bala Ramasamy’s lectures on Economics. He said that we should always question the norm and not accept things as they are. I try to use these behaviours in my work today.  

What advice do you have for Americans looking to study an MBA overseas, particularly in China?

My advice is pretty simple. China will continue to grow in importance as a consumer market and a hub for future innovation. Learning and working in China will give you a big advantage over your peers. Being on the ground, you'll be able to build important local relationships and gain lots of insights. So if you’re considering a career that’s in some way connected to China, the CEIBS MBA is a great bridge that will ease the transition and set you up with opportunities if you put in the effort.   

Have valuable was your prior experience studying Chinese before enrolling at CEIBS?

Having a foundational level of Chinese prior to starting the MBA provides an advantage. It depends on your time management and language abilities, but getting a head start on your Chinese will pay off as you begin the MBA. The programme is intense in the first 2 terms, which means you’ll have less time to improve your Chinese. Even having a very basic conversational level of Chinese will serve you well and open up doors, so it’s worth the time to invest in it.   

What is your fondest memory of campus life?

I didn’t live on campus as I commuted from Jing’an district via the metro Line 2. During rush hour, Line 2 is one of the busiest in the city, so it was an interesting experience. The time I did spend on campus outside of lectures and group projects was usually at the gym playing basketball. Basketball is really popular in China, so the level of play was pretty good. I had a lot of fun getting to know my classmates during our pick-up games, with the occasional trash talk mixed in.   

What do you miss most about from Shanghai?

My wife and I miss Shanghai a lot. We have so many great memories from nearly five years there. There are a lot of things I personally miss about Shanghai: the convenience of WeChat, the local xiaolongbao shop, the nightlife, Pudong views from The Bund and biking in the FFC. Most of all, I miss the friends, colleagues and classmates that I had the pleasure to know and are forever connected to my time there.

If you are interested in hearing more about the role that CEIBS MBA and life in Shanghai played in his career development, please click here to register your interest and contact our MBA Admissions team.


James Kent
Janine M. Coughlin