In our earlier post on Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), we had interviewed the Former Head of Admissions of the CUHK MBA Programmes and discussed various aspects of the business school and its flagship MBA programme.
Here’s the link: CUHK Hong Kong class profile, ranking, fees, placements, salary, admissions
This time, we switch perspectives and take a look at an alum’s MBA experience.
Shaarang Begani shares his entire MBA journey including his MBA application experience, why he chose Hong Kong and CUHK as his MBA destination and how he successfully managed a career transition into management consulting in Hong Kong.
How I got into management consulting after my MBA
CUHK MBA Student Review and Experience Blog
by Shaarang Begani
I am a 29-year-old Indian, with a multi linguistic background. My mother was born in Sri Lanka and my father grew up in Bangladesh while I spent all my life in India. If I had to describe myself, I think I would very distinctly say that I am a person who is an extremely hard worker and perseverance is my key.
I strongly believe that hard work and efforts can take you to new heights.
I enjoy visiting new places and am a big connoisseur of exploring new cuisines. Outside work, I was always involved in public speaking and engaged in sports activities such as lawn tennis, table tennis and squash. I am also a big fan of cooking.
While in India, I was working in the assurance service line of one of the Big 4 firms for 3.5 years after which I transitioned to a planning related role for one of the State Governments of India.
I enjoyed my time thoroughly at the Big 4 and was also involved in the ‘Work Life Balance’ social committee that organized various team gatherings, activities, and off sites.
While audit and risk were fun, I was always fascinated by management consulting roles. But however hard I tried, being shortlisted for an interview without an MBA was getting difficult.
To realize my goals, it was quite clear that an MBA is of prime importance – it would help me get the job that I would want to grow in the coming years and upskill myself while learning from my equally good or even better classmates who would come from different parts of the world.
Why MBA in Hong Kong
The pandemic was raging throughout 2020 but the only thing that kept me sailing was that the effects will start to subside by the time I graduate along with vehemently carrying the ‘can do’ spirit.
I was sure that I was looking at the APAC region for my MBA primarily because of 3 reasons:
- The top reason would be the tremendous growth opportunities in the coming decade.
- It was one of the few places that was comparatively less crippled because of the novel coronavirus.
- It was just a single flight back home that would be less than 4 hours.
Keeping all these 3 points in mind, I shortlisted Singapore and Hong Kong as my top destinations for the applications. On further research, I learnt that the work visa process for Singapore is very stringent and difficult to obtain even after graduating from one of their schools and hence dropped the option.
MBA Application Strategy
My main source of shortlisting schools has always been the Global Financial Times (FT) MBA rankings. I was looking at the Global Top 50 ranked colleges only.
For every school that I shortlisted, I would make it a point to talk to at least 10-15 different people who graduated from that specific school.
This helped understand their experiences and the kind of opportunities they received, all of which is not available online as there were personal anecdotes that is not tailored to either sound ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Most of the people replied to my messages and concerns that helped me in shortlisting schools.
I used to prepare for 3 hours religiously after work each day for 4 months to take my GMAT examination. I primarily used the GMAT Official Guide to keep practicing and once I completed it, I switched to the GMAT Club website which had a reservoir of questions for Quant, Verbal, and IR with varying difficulty levels.
CUHK MBA Interview Experience
During my CUHK interview, the panel consisted of a Senior Finance Professor along with the Student Life and Academic Director.
The MBA interview questions were direct and mostly behavioral.
The two were kind enough to listen to all my answers very patiently while providing me with feedback on what their thought process was like for whatever I had to answer. I received my offer within 10 days of interviewing.
Why I chose CUHK
Since Hong Kong was the destination that I had shortlisted, I applied to the 3 top schools there that were also present in the FT Global Top 50 B-Schools. Out of the 3 schools that I had applied to, I got accepted by 2.
After some meticulous research and talking to alumni, I decided that I would be accepting the offer from the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School.
They provided me with the best offer, a sprawling campus along with hostel facilities that was not present in the other school that I was accepted at.
The school had one of the oldest MBA programs across Asia resulting in a rich network of alumni working in different industries.
The school’s excellent campus was the biggest in Hong Kong. The business school building had state-of-the-art facilities that included a mock trading lab for students to unlock their highest potential.
Journey to CUHK
Having braved a 12-hour flight that included 2 changes (ideally 3.5 hour direct flight) along with a 14 day quarantine and 4 Covid tests, I reached the CUHK campus. I managed to reach HK and complete my quarantine by mid-October while my classes had started in September.
For that one month, I hated the online setup as an MBA class without face-to-face interaction meant nothing. One of the major reasons along with the other pros of coming to HK and choosing CUHK was the possibility of face-to-face classes which was not present in the other B-School whose offer I had not accepted.
CUHK MBA Class Experience
Classes in HK were quite different from what I had experienced during my undergraduate days – using a laptop was of prime importance, classes were based on experiential learning and most importantly, the diversity and background of my classmates brought a lot of fresh perspectives into class discussions.
I had classmates ranging from the Finance background to Aerospace Engineering.
The professors were exceptionally learned, their backgrounds and experiences were extremely rich and they were always available for a discussion or any kind of help that was required.
A very important highlight of the program is the Annual Sustainability Conference where leaders deliver talks on how their organizations are making a difference, which indeed serves as an amazing platform for connecting and networking with such influential individuals.
Internship / Job Placement Experience
The Career and Alumni Team organizes a Job Fair presenting an array of companies from different industries, helping students understand the job market and connecting with the HR departments of such organization.
When I was researching about CUHK, I discovered that there were a lot of Indian alumni who I could connect with and learn from their experiences of people interactions and job hunting. I used to make it a point to fix meetings during the weekdays with them for a clearer picture of how realistic my expectations were.
While studying, I managed to grab 3 internships namely in Fintech, Private Equity and General Management all through networking and effective LinkedIn techniques.
CUHK was kind enough to allow me to carry on with part time internships that indeed helped me in building a good network around.
The one thing that I primarily understood while applying to organizations is that the more you apply to jobs, the better are your chances of hearing back from them.
The success rate of receiving an interview call is hardly 2-3%, and so, to increase this number, it is always advisable to have a hefty number of applications.
While applying on the job portal is a good method, job referrals are undoubtedly the most sought-after technique. It is always advisable to look for people you know either on LinkedIn or your personal network and take their help in getting referred to the organization you are looking at applying.
I received an offer from one of the Big 4 companies as a Senior Consultant in their Management Consulting division in the Financial Services industry right after graduation. My role was around the CFO Advisory and Finance Transformation which is a very trending topic these days.
As mentioned in the beginning, the whole idea of pursuing an MBA was to change my job role into management consulting.
Not only did I get the role and function that I wanted, but I was also able to change my industry and location as well. This is what an MBA can do for you.
Tips for MBA Applicants
An international MBA is very little about studying and a lot more about discovering yourself and testing the waters. It is a continuous process of seeing how you react when you step out of your comfort zone.
While most days were sunny and bright, there were also times when I felt dejected due to continuous rejections from my favorite organizations. However, giving up was never really an option for me.
I comprehensively created a MS Excel file of the companies and the roles that I wanted to apply to along with a list of people that I wanted to meet and learn from.
I remember applying to more than 800 companies and receiving innumerable rejections too.
But there will be at least one organization that will like you for who you are and the skills you possess, but for that you need to keep applying and networking.
By the end of my course, I had 3 job offers and picked the one that I liked the most.
Most people pursue an international MBA primarily to upskill and study in a way they have never before, along with trying to attain essentially 3 other things – a change in industry or a change in function or a change in location.
Keep trying smartly, I am sure everyone will succeed because luck might favor you or not, but hard work never goes in vain.
1 thought on “How I used my MBA to become a management consultant in Hong Kong | CUHK MBA review”
As someone who currently studies for their MBA at CUHK I found it very interesting to read the perspective of someone else who went through the same experience as I am now, probably with many of the same professors.
One difference is that I was already working in Hong Kong and attend the part-time course instead. I would say balancing your professional, personal and study lives really forces you to grow as a person! But in my experience the academic staff have all been fantastic so far. Yes they really push you hard but you can feel that they also genuinely want you to succeed and try to give you all the tools to do so.
Thanks a lot for sharing!