In 2003, I graduated from business school in France and was immediately lured to the dynamism of Asia as the engine of the world’s economy. The following 10 years were dedicated to engaging equity investors across the globe looking for liquidity in Asia-based securities. Whilst I was fortunate enough to work for tier-1 institutions and be surrounded with extremely interesting and talented people, I found myself in need for a new challenge.
Several months of reflection took me to a crossroads where I either needed to make a 180-degree career change, or eventually evolve to a position where I could leverage my professional experience but to a more challenging degree. I chased the latter, and decided to pursue a path to become an Equity Portfolio Manager.
While I was fairly knowledgeable of the markets, I was lacking a broad vision of the overarching factors of what it would take to be successful in my chosen path. I believed the best way was to distance myself from the narrow focus of the equity sales job and obtain a wider array of tools to enter this new world of investment management, thus the most logical route would be an MBA program.
With this decision came the next question “Which MBA?”. The recent years have seen a surge in the marketing across all tiers of universities in order to attract MBA candidates, all claiming to have innovative programs, extensive alumni networks, and flexible programs for part-time executives. With a young career mostly in Asia, it was obvious that a local university would be the best choice. After exhaustive Internet research and polling of my peers, I realized that in Hong Kong the most successful corporations where highly staffed with HKU graduates. As the deadline for application submission was nearing, I put together a file in record time, passed the required tests, and was ultimately invited for an interview that landed me in the program.
Firstly after joining the program, unlike the stock stories you read on the Internet, I quickly realized that every single candidate had his/her very unique story and his/her unique destination. There were those looking for a career change, those preparing for a promotion, those who simply like to continuously educate themselves and a whole host of other stories. Some of us had struggle in our current position, while others were right at an acceleration point. Our needs were different, therefore our centers of interest in the program would be different, and the result would have only one common point: broader knowledge.
Secondly, the variety of courses in the program and the ability to customize nearly 70% of it (if not 100%) would make it a very personal experience. We were about to choose between a wide array of elective courses, and to pick up case studies from some of the world’s best business schools. It was all about what we were looking to learn, what interested us and how much effort we were willing to commit to the program.
Thirdly, our professional and cultural background, specialization and job conditioning were about to be tested continuously for 24 months. The first module of accounting put me in the same group as people from the law industry, architecture, technology, professional sports, the auto sector and others. And despite our difference of knowledge in the subject, our respective busy schedules at work, we were about to, within 1.5 month long of intensive education, make a proper presentation that would reflect our understanding of the subject matter and our ability to adapt to different team members. I was about to learn the tools to become an all-weather leader in some settings, or function in a differing role in other settings.
The fourth point that became obvious after a few months in was the opportunity that the program gave us to immediately apply what we learn to our everyday job. Modules such as Leadership, Creativity & Business Innovation and Corporate Networking were reshaping our soft-skill on the go and with almost immediate results.
Last but not least, the 24-month long program appeared to me like the ideal playground to test my communication and interaction skills, in order to gain further confidence, and be able to deliver clear and flawless messages tailored to the audience and the subject matter being discussed.
After 12 months in the program, I laid out my job search plan, assumed a lead time of 8-12 months to find a new role, and targeted a new role for when I was graduating from the program and ready to apply my newfound knowledge and skills. Luckily I had strong relationships with former clients and relied on some networking discussions to find out which fund would have a seat available, and more importantly, which firm was run by someone who is open-minded enough to support this career change. It was then another opportunity to apply the fresh knowledge from the HKU MBA program in term of project management, communication optimization and targeting in order to avoid mass mailing like most job applicants would do.
With my MBA in hand, a 12-month long interview process loaded with financial analysis assignments, and a dollop of personal dedication, I landed a pan-Asia equity analyst job at XXXX, which evolved very quickly into a risk-taking role as portfolio manager. I used much of the knowledge learned in finance, marketing, data science, and strategy amongst others in my day-to-day challenges. I aim at smoothly balancing my professional interaction with target companies, with financial analysis, trading and risk management responsibilities on a day to day basis.
Whilst the word “network” sounds like a commoditized version of “relationships”, it would be incomplete to describe this program without highlighting the extensive group of close friends and relationships that emerged from the late evenings on campus, that helped make it a transformational experience for me at both the professional and personal level.