Summer placements yield invaluable insider's view
For many students, one major plus of the MBA programme at HKUST is the chance to match theory with practice. That comes, in particular, during summer internships with industry-leading companies, which give hands-on involvement in critical projects and an insider's view of how these organisations operate.
'I gained experience in hard analytics, such as business modelling and working with data that is not pre-formatted,' says Venisa Chu, who spent 10 weeks with the services department of GE Healthcare in Singapore.
'But most importantly, I learned how to navigate through an organisation, dealing with many different stakeholders and points of view, to decide what was relevant for my project and how to gain buy-in from everyone involved.'
Chu's basic assignment was to undertake a profitability analysis which was part of a three-tier market research project looking at corporate performance and prospects in the Asia-Pacific region.
Her specific task was to study historical data derived from around 20,000 client contracts and identify the key factors and attributes that make a contract profitable.
One initial surprise was that things were not set out in easy-to-follow steps. The parameters were clear enough, but Chu was expected to use her initiative: no one was going to hold her hand.
'I was used to delivering projects in a systematic way with a main goal and clear deadlines,' says Chu, who worked for a large Canadian telecoms company before starting her MBA.
'This internship pushed me to consider the big picture and become more strategic. I discovered that being open-minded and flexible is the key at the beginning of a project like this. It allows you to take in as much information as possible and start formulating hypotheses.'
However, the realities of the business world meant things were never straightforward. For example, Chu says, colleagues were inevitably busy with their own jobs and priorities, so had limited time to spare. But this actually helped Chu in two ways. It obliged her to be more proactive and persistent, and taught her to juggle resources and deal with constraints, so that minor difficulties did not interfere with the broader goal.
Having taken electives that focused on strategy and consulting, Chu was glad of the chance to apply the relevant skills in a practical setting. 'I was able to utilise strategic frameworks, business modelling and presentation skills I had learned,' she says. 'These helped tremendously, but I also picked up new tools and skills as I dug down and started organising and analysing the actual data.'