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Switched on

Published on Friday, 07 Sep 2012
Sean Wang likens doing an MBA course to running up an escalator.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

The Student

Born and raised in China’s Jiangsu province, Sean Wang was working in IT for Towngas in Hong Kong when he realised that his engineering background was not enough for him to fully understand the business side of the company. He decided that in order to better develop his career, he needed some form of systematic training and exposure to the business world.

He graduated from a full-time MBA course at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in 2011 and has since made a successful career switch to the finance industry.

What is your academic background?
In 2003 I was offered the UGC Scholarship for Outstanding Mainland Students and moved to Hong Kong to start my undergraduate study at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In 2007 I graduated with a BA (Hons) in computing. My research-orientated final-year project paper, written together with three professors, was published in ScienceDirect, one of the largest online collections of published scientific research.

What prompted you to pursue an MBA?
At Towngas, while I was gaining lots of knowledge from other departments like accounting, finance and sales, I realised that in order to elevate my personal and professional skills, I had to pursue a decent MBA programme. While climbing stairs is fast, climbing an escalator is even faster.

Why did you choose HKU?
I came to Hong Kong for my undergraduate and postgraduate education for several reasons. Firstly, qualifications from Hong Kong’s universities are internationally recognised. Secondly, life in this vibrant international metropolis is extremely convenient, thanks to, among other things, its superb transport and communications infrastructure, sophisticated support services and well-educated citizens. Last but not least, since Hong Kong is an international financial centre and a link between mainland China and the rest of the world, many institutions set-up their regional headquarters and operations here. I decided that attending a Hong Kong university for MBA study would enable me to establish a good social network and prepare myself for a career and business opportunities here. To sum up, Hong Kong is the place to be.

HKU’s MBA programme has attracted a tremendous amount of attention in just a few years and is well recognised around the world. While Hong Kong is known as a place where East “meets” West, HKU provides a platform where East and West can proactively “seek” each other through its partnerships with London Business School, Columbia Business School and Fudan University. These collaborations with some of the world’s leading schools provide opportunities and flexibility for students with different expectations, whether they are overseas students looking to enter China or local students who want to broaden their horizons.

Did you fund your own studies or did your company subsidise the costs?
I was self-financed.

How did your studies affect your personal or social life?
I managed the study load by working late, having team meetings on weekends and even staying overnight in the study room. An MBA, however, is not all about coursework, but also networking and reaching out. In terms of social life, we students organised and attended countless professional gatherings, career treks and parties. Therefore while I was mostly very busy, my social life got better as I met more people and made more friends.

What were the major challenges of your MBA studies?
The biggest challenge was to gain as much understanding of finance as possible and to then secure a related internship in order to switch from IT to the financial-services industry. On top of the tight course schedule mentioned above, I had to squeeze my study into a smaller time frame to accommodate a three-month window for an internship. Thanks to both the MBA Office and Career Development Office at HKU, it was made possible and I interned at Oppenheimer, an investment bank. This internship helped me get a foot into the finance industry and has proved a significant factor in helping me switch careers.

During your studies, what kind of support did you get?

My family and friends gave me huge support financially and in every other way. The MBA office also did a great job throughout the whole program. They helped me on issues of course exemption and liaising with Columbia Business School to facilitate travelling and studying in New York, and supported work on a successful government education fund and a Hang Seng bank scholarship.

How did you expect your MBA to help you with your career? Were these expectations met?
I wanted to switch careers into finance and thanks to the HKU MBA I am now doing venture capital investments.

How has your career developed since graduating? Where do you see yourself in three years?

Since I have just switched careers, I started from a junior position in order to get a full grasp of what this job entails. I am in absolutely no doubt, though, that I am on a fast track given the training in related courses and communication skills I received from the MBA, as well as the growing alumni community I am now a part of.

In three years I see myself leading a team of investment professionals and doing more and more business with my old classmates and alumni network.

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