The world’s finest
All the members of this year’s intake for the Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA are no doubt experiencing a mix of emotions as they contemplate the challenges that await them over the next 18 months.
In common, they have the satisfaction of being admitted to the top-ranked business programme for mid-career professionals, with the chance to learn from leading academics, international experts, and classmates from diverse industries and backgrounds.
But for each individual, there are also all kinds of personal hopes and fears as they embark on an intellectually rigorous course designed to make them better managers, leaders and strategists.
“At this point, I think the most challenging part will be time management because the programme is very intensive in terms of classes and coursework,” says Hong Kong-based Philip Yau, managing director and Group CFO of AMTD Group. “But after working for 20 years, I believe it is the right time to consolidate my knowledge, combine theory and practical experience, and take my career and the company to a new level.”
AMTD Group is looking to maintain rapid expansion in three key areas: capital markets and advisory, asset management, and corporate insurance brokerage and risk solutions. In addition, there are plans to extend the company’s global footprint. However, Yau must now balance these projects with study commitments and spending time with his two young children.
“I may need to rearrange some day-to-day responsibilities and business travel plans,” he says. “But the company is very supportive of professional development, sees the upside of this world-renowned EMBA, and is fully funding my studies.”
While the initial attraction was the prospect of addressing complex business and management issues from a global perspective, Yau is also excited by the chance to extend his personal network through contacts with fellow students and alumni.
“As someone responsible for business strategy, finance, risk management, mergers and acquisitions and business development, I’m hoping to learn the latest and best in terms of management skills and insights,” he says. “But I’m also aware that having a good network will help in developing AMTD’s business and building a global platform.”
For Sophie Gray, Asia-Pacific marketing, communications and operations director for executive search and leadership consulting firm Harvey Nash, starting the EMBA realises a life-long dream. “Financial knowledge is the key area in which I am looking to develop, and I am looking forward to being stretched,” says Gray, who was awarded a special women’s scholarship to help with funding. “The study groups alone will present a series of learning experiences, working with different individuals and characters and with the pressure of delivering projects within short timeframes.”
Gray was first inspired to apply for the EMBA after talking to executives who recommended the programme, and spoke fulsomely about how much they had gained from it. Another positive for her is that the scheduling takes into account the time demands of full-time jobs, with most courses taught over three-day weekends or during block weeks. And as a firm believer in the value of continuous learning, she can see the advantages for personal and professional growth.
“I am sure one key benefit will be the confidence that comes from a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of today’s business issues,” she says. “We are now in the era of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ with all that entails for the changing dynamics of corporate life, the realities of achieving required outcomes, and employee training and development.”
To prepare, Gray has been doing a huge amount of reading around the core subjects. She is also prioritising her commitments for the coming year while deciding how best to manage the workflow. She understands that both family and company support will be crucial, and, in line with the programme director’s advice, she is determined to make the most of the opportunity.
“I see the EMBA as a great chance to work alongside talented individuals, learn from the world’s best professors, and become the executive I have the potential to be,” she says.
Being one of many overseas-based students in the incoming class, Kay Oswald weighed up several options before deciding that the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA would best meet his needs. He checked curricula, assessed electives, considered the rankings, spoke to alumni, and now feels sure he has made the right choice.
“I wanted to catch up with the latest thinking in management and enterprise leadership,” says Oswald, the Australia-based APAC general manager for KitchenAid. “I was especially intrigued by the exposure this programme gives to globally relevant business content seen from an east-meets-west cultural perspective.”
What also convinced him was the prospect of informed debate with classmates from multinationals and big-name finance houses, as well as small family businesses, start-ups and NGOs.
“Apart from basic time constraints, I think the biggest challenge will be getting back into the swing of learning,” Oswald says. “But I see it as an obligation to give my peers my best throughout the programme, which may mean finding new ways to be available and lead my team while also studying.”
In particular, he wants to gain first-hand insights into the fastchanging Asia-Pacific market, and to discuss techniques and approaches which promote efficiencies and encourage an entrepreneurial work environment.
“Just preparing for the course has been a really good exercise in revisiting processes with my staff and questioning their purpose and usefulness,” Oswald says. “Having led growing regional businesses and global product business units, I expect the EMBA will position me to pursue broader roles.”