MBA can enhance career development

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am

The choice of whether to pursue an MBA, despite knowing that within six months greater responsibilities associated with a promotion will beckon, was one that Jaime Wong pondered long and hard.

Fortunately, she did not take the path of least resistance and is now a 2009 MBA graduate of the Polytechnic University's (PolyU) Graduate School of Business (GSB). She is general manager of Wai Yuen Tong, a purveyor of traditional Chinese medicines and herbs.

Founded in September 2003, the GSB is the first graduate business school in the history of Hong Kong's tertiary education.

It has continuing collaborative efforts with renowned business schools, such as Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development, Canada's Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, and the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester.

Wong manages 450 staff and more than 50 retail stores selling fresh ingredients and packaged goods. Having graduated with a PolyU undergraduate degree in hospitality management in 1994, she recently attained an MBA in general management for the wide range of subjects which would help her in her job and future career, and because of a desire to return to her alma mater. 'It refreshed my mindset and equipped me as a 'value-added person' within the company,' Wong says.

With the pace of change so frenetic in modern business, she felt a PolyU MBA was a prudent investment to 'get some updated theories that practically apply to my job - particularly at management level and also ... expand my connection with fellow classmates working in different industries'.

While Wong does not believe that obtaining an MBA automatically pays monetary dividends, she thinks it 'enhances more opportunities for future career development', particularly for top management positions for which MBAs are desirable.

'I acquired more knowledge in all aspects as the MBA degree was in general management covering relevant subjects which are useful and applicable to my current job. For instance, it is important to acquire ... knowledge of accounting and financial management,' she says, because the upper echelons of a company primarily fixate on profits and losses - what all businesses live and die by.

Being exposed to advanced accounting and financial management concepts sharpened Wong's analytical mind for accounting data, which normally reflects the problems or opportunities for ongoing business.

'Intellectually it helps [develop] positive thinking with more understanding for why and how things happen based on knowledge of ... organisational behaviour management. This enhanced my EQ [emotional intelligence] for handling some difficult situations when dealing with people,' Wong says.

Pursuing an MBA also gave Wong a chance to widen her social and professional circles. 'By sharing ... life experiences with fellow classmates, it helped widen my way of thinking after absorbing their experiences in handling issues, in both work and life,' she says.

Although it was stressful for her to work and study, she had steeled herself to face such challenges and believes prospective applicants should be under no illusions.

'It was so difficult to handle both work and study under time constraints in the first three months, primarily because [you're not] used to the pace.' Although two years of studying and working took a toll on her friendships, she was fortunate to have the support of an understanding employer and colleagues who appreciated her stress when there were deadlines to meet or exams to prepare for.

Wong believes before deciding to undertake postgraduate study, it is advisable to think of the objectives for continued study and to be well-prepared for the related commitments.

'If you haven't prepared for the challenges of intensive coursework and time sacrifices, you may feel frustrated when there isn't sufficient time to handle work, study and family. It's better to have some level of working experience before joining because it benefits more by adopting the theories and knowledge learned in class as connected to the real life situations,' she says.

She implores students not to 'expect an immediate financial improvement and promotion' after getting an MBA, but concedes an MBA equips one with useful tools for moving up the career ladder. But 'there are other factors that bring success, such as common sense, strategic thinking, people skills and business savvy, that some contend can't be taught'.

'No matter what, it is always good to add value to yourself by [getting] an MBA because you never know when the tools you are equipped with may be useful.'