Sooner the better
Shortly after Laura Jiang started an undergraduate degree in broadcasting and journalism at China’s Nanjing University, she found out she had been accepted to study human resources at the Hong Kong Baptist University. After thorough consideration she decided to take a chance, so she packed her bags and headed to Hong Kong.
The move paid off. After graduating top of her class in 2008, the native of Shandong province joined retailer DFS as a management trainee and is now a product manager in the beauty department.
She recently became a part-time MBA student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and is expecting to graduate in 2014.
What prompted you to pursue an MBA?
Firstly, I wanted to upgrade myself. As I studied human resources for my undergraduate degree, my area of knowledge was concentrated mainly in the human resources field. I thought that studying an MBA would enable me to enhance my knowledge in different areas and see the world from different perspectives. Some of my friends also have MBAs and I found that they had a much more broad and in-depth way of looking at the world.
I also believe that having a master’s degree will become a must sooner or later. As the education level of the general public is getting higher and higher, having a bachelor’s degree is already a basic entry requirement for many jobs. It is possible that in the future, candidates will have to possess at least a master’s degree to be eligible to apply for jobs. If sooner or later I will have to study a master’s degree, why not start studying now?
In addition, I wanted to know more people from different industries and with different backgrounds. I was sure an MBA programme would be able to fulfil this wish, and I was also sure that I would learn a lot from talking and sharing experiences with my classmates.
Why did you choose CUHK?
The impression I got from CUHK was that it was very people-orientated and cared about its students, even the applicants. When I was invited to attend an interview, the conversation I had with the interviewers was just like a casual talk. It was nothing like a formal interview. The interviewers mainly asked me personal questions. It made me feel that they would like to get to know me more, and this impressed me a lot.
I also attended a welcome party held by the school. They invited some MBA alumni to share their experiences from studying the programme with us, and they sounded like wonderful and unforgettable experiences.
Are you funding your own studies or is your company subsidising the costs?
I am funding my own studies.
How do you balance the demands of your job and your studies?
Due to my job nature, I have to work shifts. That means I have to work either the morning shift or night shift and take two days off a week. CUHK MBA students can choose to attend either weekday-mode or weekend-mode classes. If I chose weekend-mode classes, I would have to be off duty every weekend, which would be unfair to my colleagues. So I chose weekday-mode instead. Luckily my supervisor is highly supportive. I also let the HR department know my class schedule beforehand so that they can try not to disrupt my class schedule when arranging the work roster. Of course I also need to thank my colleagues for their understanding.
What are the major challenges of your MBA studies?
Being a part-time student, I have to attend classes after work. But normally I am quite tired after work, so forcing myself to concentrate in class is a major challenge.
I also have to frequently go on business trips, which sometimes has an impact on my studies. In October, I had to go to some mainland cities for recruitment talks. However, I was required to sit mid-term exams the night before I left for Beijing and the night I arrived back in Hong Kong. My schedule was very tight and it was a challenge for both my strength and spirit. But I try my best to manage it.
What kind of support are you getting from those around you?
I am getting great support from my work’s HR department. Whenever I need to attend classes at night, they will let me work morning shift or have a day off. I really have to thank them for their help. I also need to thank my colleagues for their understanding as well.
I also have to thank my husband for his support. We got married just last year. I should spend more time with him, but since I need to study for my MBA, I am not able to do so. But he is supportive and understands the pressure I am facing as he has just finished a master’s degree himself. So he gives me his full support and I’ve gained a lot of strength from him.
How do you expect your MBA to help you with your career and personal life?
For my personal life, the MBA programme enables me to have a group of friends who come from different industries. Interestingly, one of my classmates is even supposed to be my opponent at work because he is from the other side of my company’s negotiating table. I truly believe that only an MBA programme can help me build up such a strong and broad network.
For my career, I hope that the MBA can help me go up to a next level. I also believe that the degree will help me better equip myself for future opportunities. When these opportunities come, I will be able to grasp them.
How do you think your MBA will help with your career?
There won’t be any swift changes after graduation. A few years down the road, with the help of my broader network, enhanced interpersonal skills and in-depth knowledge of the business field, I hope the MBA can help me get closer to fulfilling my career goals.