In 16-plus years since completing an undergraduate degree in Canada, Shanghai-born Craig Chen had risen swiftly through the corporate ranks and, in principle, saw no great obstacle to further advancement.
However, in quieter moments amid the meetings, briefings, deals and big-money decisions, one thought continued to nag away.
'I had been working continuously to get ahead and support my family, but never had the time to enrich myself academically,' says Chen, chief investment officer at HuaAn Asset Management (Hong Kong). 'When promoted to my current position, I also saw that different managerial skills are needed to build a strong team and get the best out of each individual.'
Now in the final few weeks of the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA, Chen is in no doubt that he has gained the self-knowledge and breadth he sensed were missing. Overall, he feels that he is better equipped to deal with the inevitable changes that lie ahead, and has developed the necessary perspective to balance short- and long-term corporate objectives.
'Business leaders must be able to adapt and to look critically at their own company and its competitive strengths. Globalisation is also creating new pressures, so it is essential to know where to look for growth domestically and internationally,' Chen says.
The programme's focus on class participation and group projects meant Chen wasn't just picking up the more academic type of knowledge. He was also gaining a new appreciation of what it takes to analyse unfamiliar problems, persuade effectively, win support, and build consensus.
'These are the skills I used to lack,' he says 'I have realised that leading a team is not just about the end result. The process of involving people as you move towards the final decision also matters a lot, and better communication can lead to better outcomes.'
Already, Chen credits the EMBA for making a quite profound impact on his approach to work and other aspects of his life. For example, he now considers issues from the viewpoint of management and employees, and sees that trust is the key to teamwork.
'For me, the programme has definitely served its purpose,' he says. 'I have a more balanced view of the business world and no longer look purely at numbers.'