- What’s it like to study in Hong Kong as an international student?
- How does the work permit process work for students in Hong Kong?
- How difficult is it to get a job in Hong Kong for international students?
Arpit Arora is well-qualified to answer these questions. He completed his MBA from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) with distinction, and was part of the Dean’s list.
Mid-way through the program, he went through a grueling placement process to get a consulting job with Deloitte Strategy & Operations Consulting Services.
After securing his career move from technology to strategy consulting (within 6 months of starting his MBA!), he spent an enriching final term at the prestigious London Business School as an exchange student.
HKU MBA Student Experience Blog
How I got into Deloitte Consulting S&O
by Arpit Arora
I would describe myself as a curious person who is up for trying everything at least once – be it doing the Harlem Shake on video or tasting stinky tofu (which happens to be a Chinese delicacy).
I like being very disciplined and regimented, a trait I am constantly trying to improve, and something that was ingrained in my upbringing with my mother being an Army child.
Growing up, I was always interested in sports and technology, and chose technology as the area I wanted to study further and explore a career in.
After completing my undergrad in Computer Science from Mumbai, India, I worked at Deloitte Consulting as a technology consultant.
Seeing technology being used to solve real-world business problems supplemented the theoretical knowledge I gained as a student.
After living and working in a client-facing role in the US, I got to witness and explore myriad areas where technology was used for the benefit of end-users, the common people.
Looking to apply technology in a similar way in the salon/spa sector in India, I bit the entrepreneurial bullet and started my own venture in India.
As a team, we were trying to leverage technology to streamline operations in salons and also provide customers a platform to book and explore salon services.
Although we couldn’t achieve everything we set out for, I learned a lot of essential skills along the way.
I also realized some gaps, especially finance skills, I needed to address if I were to succeed again as an entrepreneur or become more competent at solving business problems.
An MBA had always been something I peripherally considered as the next step in my career, but my entrepreneurial journey cemented the idea and I sought to look for my destination.
HKU MBA Application
I was going into the application process as a part of the most saturated demographic – Indian male with a technology background.
I knew I needed a 700+ on my GMAT to be competitive with my application and fortunately with access to resources such as Kaplan, Manhattan etc. and guidance from my friends who had previously gone through the process, I was able to score 710.
I made the conscious choice to look at 1-year MBA programs since I was keen to get back to working as soon as possible.
Based on my research, which led me to the forums on MBA Crystal Ball as well on a few occasions, and learning from the experience of my network, I realized that such programs would be intense but I was prepared for the challenge.
I had short-listed some executive programs in the US, INSEAD and HKU, but I soon shifted focus to Hong Kong looking at the trend of western firms shifting focus to Asia and China growth.
The uncertainty in US visa policies at the time of application also helped firm my decision.
My priorities for MBA were experiential learning, close-knit network and ability to tailor the program to bridge the skill gaps I had identified.
The case-based approach, small class size of ~60 students from diverse backgrounds and geographies – my class had 19 nationalities represented (!), and the array of electives ticked all those boxes.
Option to spend a semester at LBS/CBS was another big positive that can offer the essential global touch to the Asia-focused MBA I was going for.
I had attended some webinars facilitated by HKU for prospective students and the passion to grow was visible in my interaction with the admissions team.
The fact that HKU has its own case research centre showed that they give due importance to experiential learning and try to help students relate the class-room concepts to real-life scenarios.
HKU MBA interview experience
I was interviewed by the Director of the admissions team and marketing team. The titles seemed intimidating at first but they put me at ease right from the start and continued with the interview, which was very conversational.
Their questions aimed at understanding my background and motivation to do the MBA.
The focus was on ensuring that I was clear about my goals and that my resume and essays were tied to those post-MBA goals.
I was well-prepared for these questions and the casual approach of the interviewers helped me get my point across properly.
One of the differentiating aspects for me was my entrepreneurial experience that motivated my desire to complete an MBA, and I tried to highlight my learnings/shortcomings as part of the interview.
Experience in the class
My biggest challenge was going back into the classroom as a full-time student after a break of 7 years, and trying to balance multiple activities such as lectures, additional coursework, student clubs etc.
Effective time management was crucial to ensure that I would be, or at least try to be, on top of all activities I participated in.
Some of the apprehensions around being in a completely new environment were put to rest by the orientation program.
We immersed ourselves in the culture, learning Mandarin Chinese and getting to know our classmates and soon to be close friends for the next 1 year.
Apart from the course work, I was keen to learn more about Management Consulting, since it was my goal to enter the industry post MBA.
To help with the goal, I joined the Consulting Club as the President. We tried to provide more background to candidates new to the industry and opportunities for students to refine their skills through case cracking workshops and industry sharing sessions.
Placement process at HKU
Job-hunting usually starts within a few weeks after classes start. One of the first key things that we did was work on our resumes/CVs based on market standards.
The Career Development Office (CDO) helped arrange workshops with external agencies specializing in these services to provide the best support to the students.
They also connected us with industry experts who acted as our mentors. These experts guided us not only through the recruitment process but also on how to make the best use of our time in HK throughout our MBA.
CDO also facilitated sessions with firms across industries, and helped students connect with the alum network based on their priorities and goals.
Despite your and the CDO’s best efforts, the recruitment process can be daunting. As an international student not knowing Cantonese/Mandarin, you may find that you aren’t eligible for all the roles you are interested in.
Such difficult situations will require you to be smart and focused, and connect with the right people.
To help students, CDO members often leveraged their personal network. Such instances underscored the importance of a great network – often overlooked but something all of us go to MBA for.
Like most things in an MBA, job hunting is also a highly customized process. Everyone has their own unique goals and will have to follow a different process to achieve those goals.
Students keen on finance had an early start since most firms looking to hire interns start their process in August within a month of classes starting, whereas some students waited for various firms to kickstart the recruitment process with on-campus talks.
Some of my friends had internships in September since they were focused and aggressive in their efforts, while some despite their consistent efforts had a more challenging recruitment journey.
Regardless, I am glad that all my classmates got what they were looking for and are doing well in their respective careers.
One of the firms that came to campus as part of a structured recruitment program was Deloitte S&O.
I was very keen to apply and give this opportunity my best since it was aligned with my post-MBA goals, and Deloitte has a strong brand in Management Consulting.
I had a great experience at Deloitte earlier in my career and knew what to expect in terms of firm culture and ways of working if I were to get an offer from Deloitte.
In my preparation, I leveraged coursework and the case book from HKU to prepare for the case cracking interviews that are usually conducted by consulting firms.
HKU also helped me arrange mock case cracking interviews to give me a better sense of what to expect. I went through 4 rounds of interviews, and I was lucky enough to have a full-time offer by Jan 2018, within 6 months of starting the MBA, making my time at LBS in the last term a bit less stressful.
HK government provides support to local graduates and securing a work permit in Hong Kong is one of the easiest visa processes I have come across. Having completed a Masters in Hong Kong, I am eligible for the IANG visa.
This visa allows me to stay in Hong Kong for 1 year to look for jobs or work full-time if I already have one. Post the 1-year period, the visa can be extended for two spells of 2 and 3 years respectively if I have a full-time job at the time of extension.
Compared to stricter visa situations in other countries, HK visa arrangement makes it easier for students to stay for a longer duration and make the most of their education and recover their investment.
Life after MBA in Hong Kong
I am currently working as a Manager at Deloitte S&O Hong Kong. Since joining the firm in 2018, I have worked on interesting projects across retail, AML and financial services space, and am currently focusing on Investment/Asset Management and Capital Markets.
Consulting as an industry requires a good balance of technical expertise, in my case financial knowledge and ability to maneuver the industry, and finer aspects of communication skills such as stakeholder management, negotiations etc.
Courses on corporate finance taught by renowned faculty such as Prof. Alex Chan and Prof. Maurice Tse helped me understand the nuances that I wasn’t able to before the MBA. They emphasized the need to understand financial aspects and their applications to business – a skill critical for your professional growth.
Courses related to entrepreneurial skills helped me to understand the specifics of setting up projects and teams from scratch, whereas courses on negotiations & bargaining often help me in tricky conversations.
Deloitte’s culture is supportive to your growth and my peers/supervisors are always a message away to offer any guidance.
Working in Hong Kong for the past 3 years has been a great experience.
Apart from being a financial hub for the region, it is also a cultural center, with people from a lot of nationalities calling it home.
You can find brands, cuisines, activities from all over the world, catering to people across demographics and making living in the city quite exciting.
All these positives come with a flipside. While the overall standard of living is quite high, so is the rent.
Life is face-paced but with abundant alternatives for indoor and outdoor activities to do, you can maintain a good work-life balance.
You would be surprised at the number of hiking trails a stone’s throw away from any location in the city – not something that comes to mind when you think of HK.
Tips for MBA applicants
I had an enriching experience completing my MBA at HKU.
It gave me an opportunity to get that much-needed break from work and focus on improving myself.
It was a challenging and intense experience, and offered a lesson in time management and multitasking.
The journey has been great and was enhanced by interactions with my classmates, a lot of whom are still my close friends to date.
You can find me spending my weekends with my friends from MBA, playing golf, trying new places to eat at or having a beer at 7-11 to relive our student days.
Asia, especially Hong Kong, has been the center of growth for the west for a while now and this trend will not slow down in the years to come, making it a very attractive place to be in.
Hong Kong is very international and multicultural, and offers a lot for students in terms of education and post-MBA opportunities.
HKU MBA is following a similar growth trajectory and offers a wide array of opportunities. Although only 17 years old, the MBA program is already on top of all major rankings and continues to grow in stature, and will surpass some of the older MBA programs from the West.
– HKU Business School Admission requirements, Class profile, Ranking, Fees, Placements, Salary
– How our elite team of MBA consultants can help you with MBA abroad admissions
– List of MBA consulting firms and how much they cost
And some related international student tips for various study destinations:
– International student life in Germany
– International student life in France
– International student life in Canada
– International student life in Australia
– International student life in the UK