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A beautiful mind

Published on Friday, 04 May 2012
Sharon Lee’s HKUST Business School team – with (from left) Michael Han, Lars Rinne and Andy Leelahakorm – was a runner-up at the Roland Berger International Case Competition, held in Barcelona in March.
Photo: Jun Ma/HKUST

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Sharon Lee went to Diocesan Girls’ School for her primary and secondary education, and then attended Northwestern University in the United States, majoring in learning and organisational change. Upon graduation, she   returned to Hong Kong and worked at Citibank as a management associate for six years. In 2011, she decided to pursue a full-time MBA at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School. She expects to graduate at the end of 2012.

What prompted you to pursue an MBA?
It is mainly to round out my business skills. In my past career, I was exposed to mostly qualitative jobs, such as a relationship manager or marketing manager. After equipping myself with qualitative skills, I was enthusiastic at learning quantitative skills, such as financial accounting and operations. I am sure these skills will help me along my career path.

Why did you choose HKUST?
According to the Financial Times, HKUST ranked sixth in the world. It also enjoys a good reputation among Northwestern [University] graduates who returned to Hong Kong and studied the same course. Staying in Hong Kong to pursue my studies would also allow me to maintain my network easier than if I had done my MBA overseas.

Are you funding your own studies?
I am self-financed.

How have your studies affected your personal or social life?
It was very intense when the course started. To fit in everything – classes, projects, club events as well as social events and sleeping – I decided to move to the Clearwater Bay [campus] dormitory to save travel time.

It no doubt allowed me to see my classmates more often and get to know them better. We had meals together and took walks around campus occasionally.  

Due to the busy schedule of the course, I needed to scale back some of my hobbies such as cooking, playing squash and singing. And I got less time to spend with my family and friends. However, I learned a lot at the same time. I made many new friends and attended many events that I had no idea about before, such as those held by the American Chamber of Commerce, a TEDx conference, inter-school MBA drinks, career treks to Shanghai and Singapore, MBA sailing trip in Phuket. In terms of career-related events, I’d even got the chance to visit Shui On Group and meet [its chairman] Vincent Lo, one of the most significant businessmen in Hong Kong.

What are the major challenges of your MBA studies?
Undoubtedly, it’s balancing the many aspects of life – schoolwork, career planning and development, social events and club events. All MBA students are very ambitious and want to do everything and to do it well. But it is really not easy to juggle so many things as we only have limited time.

Another challenge is taking what we learned in class, and digesting or assimilating it, then making it our own. We took 10 core classes during the first four months and learned about the various building blocks of running a business, including accounting, operations, marketing. That was a lot of information to read, yet the information does not become our own true knowledge until we digest it and are able to apply it. That is always a challenge when there is limited time.

Are you getting any kind of support?
My friends are so happy for me when they saw the fun photos I posted on my Facebook account, as they realise that I gained so much exposure from the MBA programme. For example, I was part of a four-person team for the Roland Berger Consulting Case Competition held in Barcelona in March this year. It was a three-day competition where we recommended business development strategies to an apparel chain in Spain. And we ended up being the runner-up. Of course, the valuable advice we got from our professors did help a lot.

How will an MBA help you with your career or personal life?
My MBA studies have enabled me to learn how to think from a higher-level perspective – as in a helicopter view – so that I can approach problems from a more holistic point of view. And the course has also made me aware of the importance of innovating and being creative when it comes to problem-solving.

A professor once told us that we are all “frogs at the bottom of a well” – that is, we only see a small part of the sky. The difference lies on how wide the mouth of the well is, and the location of the well. For us to get new ideas and be innovative, we have to invite frogs from other wells every now and then, which means to expose ourselves to people outside our own industry or background.

How do you see yourself after graduation?   
Influenced by my father, a dermatologist, I would like to work in the anti-ageing and wellness industry as I wish to help those around me look good and feel good both inside and out. Three to five years down the road, I believe I will still be enjoying working in the anti-ageing industry as I truly believe in its mission.

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