CARMEN WONG JOINED Principal Pension and Asset Management in 1987 as an administrative manager. She has been with the company ever since. Now director of sales and distribution, she has a joint BA in communications from Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Ohio in the United States. She enrolled in the Executive MBA (EMBA) programme at the University of Iowa last September and will graduate in March next year.
'In 2002 I was transferred from the human resources department to the sales and distribution department,' Ms Wong said. 'At that time, I thought I needed more knowledge to manage the more complex decision-making processes I was handling.'
Despite the dozens of MBA and EMBA programmes on offer in Hong Kong, Ms Wong chose Iowa's distance-learning EMBA programme for a variety of reasons. 'Principal's head office is in Iowa and I used to go there once a year,' she said. 'I had visited the school during trips to the head office and was told that several of our executives in Iowa had graduated from the school, and they said it had a good EMBA programme. I looked at the curriculum and found that it quite closely matched my requirements.'
Modules run for six weeks. During the first two weeks, students go over materials that are sent to them, preparing to attend classes during the third and fourth weeks. Professors are flown in for face-to-face tutorials, which are spread over two consecutive weekends. During the final two weeks, students work on their final papers.
'Over the six-week period we work in groups and have to study cases and prepare for in-class discussions and projects,' Ms Wong said. 'We have to co-ordinate with others in the group and then make presentations in class.'
Studying for an EMBA while holding down a demanding full-time job is not for the faint of heart, but Ms Wong seems up to the challenge. 'It was very challenging at first,' she said. 'You have to have a very disciplined time management technique and, of course, it requires a lot of discipline to get everything done before class.'
Networking with others has been one of the most valuable aspects of her return to the classroom. 'My classmates can provide valuable advice to solve my daily difficulties at work,' Ms Wong said. 'Weeks ago one of my clients in Hong Kong asked me about the pension scheme in Taiwan. I received very detailed information within hours after sending an e-mail to my classmates in Taiwan.'