Gordon Lee is on the path to a truly glittering career at Swarovski with the help of his OneMBA from CUHK
An old Chinese proverb says that you will only discover your knowledge is lacking when you need to apply it.
This was the case for Gordon Lee who, after working in several industries including sales, manufacturing and food packing, joined Swarovski Hong Kong in 2007.
After a year, he felt that to really make progress he had to broaden his management knowledge, so he enrolled on the OneMBA Global Executive MBA (EMBA) programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).
Since graduating in 2010, Lee has put his new skills to good use and moved up to become sales manager of the sales department.
What prompted you to pursue the OneMBA programme?
Having been a part of the workforce for a considerable period of time, I began to think that it was time for me to broaden my social circle and see more things in life. I also thought I needed to broaden my knowledge, so I came up with an idea of studying for an MBA. I researched courses provided by different universities courses and I found that the OneMBA provided by CUHK was quite internationalised. The programme is co-organised by five universities in different countries: the US, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico and Hong Kong. Students are required to attend classes at all the universities and also pay visits to big corporations in those countries, so I thought this would help to really broaden my horizons.
Did you fund your own studies or did your company subsidise the costs?
I was self-financed.
How did you balance your job demands and your studies?
At the start, I was mentally prepared that my lifestyle was going to change as I knew I had to work and study at the same time. I started to learn to manage and allocate my time even better than before. I would decide which task was most important and urgent at work and I would finish that task first. For tasks that were important but not urgent, I would leave them until later. I also pushed myself to be a more efficient worker and finish tasks quicker. Of course, sometimes I needed to sacrifice time I would usually have spent hanging out with my friends in order to get things done.
What were the major challenges of your MBA EMBA studies?
I left school a long time ago and have not been a student for many years, so at first it was difficult to get used to studying again and having to read so much material. It took a semester to get used to but afterwards I started to enjoy my studies a lot.
The workload was also quite challenging. Since we were required to do projects with classmates from overseas universities, sometimes I would have to have a meeting with them via the internet at night after work, and then finish off all of my homework. It was a big challenge in terms of my physical strength.
What kind of support did you get?
I got a lot of support from my family. They knew when I needed to finish my homework and they would try not to disturb me. I appreciated their tolerance because sometimes I needed to do homework during holidays and was not able to spend time with them.
My classmates were also very cooperative. Whenever any one of us faced problems, others offered help. It created strong bonds between us and we still meet up frequently even now. Professors were also a great help. They pointed out things that we might have missed, which enabled us to produce better work. They would also provide us with real-life cases which built on the academic theory, from which we definitely benefited.
How has the EMBA improved your work skills?
What I learned from both the programme and the working style of my classmates has definitely helped me to perform better at work. Take cultural differences for example. People from Western countries tend to speak frankly about problems, while Asians tend to tolerate things and make problems as acceptable to everyone as possible. Learning how to combine the advantages of the two different cultures and transform them into a strength I can use at work is one of the major ways I benefited from the programme.
The programme also taught me to see things from as many perspectives as possible. In the past, I used to see things from three or four perspectives, but now I see things from five or six perspectives.
As for my personal life, I have definitely been able to broaden my network. Now I have friends from different industries and whenever I’ve got a problem that is related to any particular industry, I can just send an email to a relevant classmate and ask them for their advice.
What has happened to your career since graduating?
Since graduating I have taken up more responsibilities at work and am given more opportunities to try new things.