Sam Dash, Executive Assistant to the Group CEO at animal healthcare company Bimeda, was keen to change careers after spending seven years working in corporate finance, covering mergers and acquisitions.
His Master of Business Administration (MBA) from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) helped him land a role in a management position in a new industry.
Dash says: “I wanted to make a step change. I enjoyed corporate finance but I decided for my long-term career path, it made sense to move into management.”
He thinks the skills he learned doing his MBA were key to enabling him to make this career change.
“In my current role, I assist the CEO with everything that comes across his desk. I have to be able to switch from thinking about finance to operations to long term strategy very quickly in order to provide the CEO with the best advice as possible.
“I think if I had come straight from finance into this role that kind of broad thinking would be very hard to do, as I would be considering everything through a corporate finance lens. I definitely think having an MBA will accelerate my progress in future.”
Having already spent two years working in Hong Kong, Dash was keen that his future career should be in Asia, and this was a key factors in his decision to do an MBA in the region. HKUST’s programme stood out from the competition for a number of reasons.
Not only did it have strong academic credentials, ranking as the leading global business school in Asia and making it into the Financial Times’ top 20 MBA programmes in the world for 12 consecutive years, but it was also very multi-cultural. When he attended an open day, he was impressed by the international mix of students.
“There were students from South East Asia, India, Korea, Japan, China and Europe.
“One of the things you realise very quickly in Asia is that it is a large place with many different cultures.
“Because HKUST has such a diverse class, you are networking with people from a variety of countries, and you get to understand their way of thinking, which is hugely important.”
He was also attracted by the flexibility of HKUST’s MBA programme, which offers students the chance to specialise in six career tracks, such as finance, consulting or entrepreneurship, or to customise the programme to meet their own career goals, choosing from more than 70 different electives.
Dash says: “From my point of view, the whole idea of doing an MBA is to get a broad management education, so I did subjects ranging from digital marketing to social entrepreneurship.”
The programme also offers language support for students who want to learn Mandarin.
“I would say if you do want to work in China or Hong Kong, having Mandarin to a conversational level is really key, especially if you want to be client facing” Dash says.
The MBA is taught through a mixture of lectures and seminars, case studies, simulations and individual and group projects.
Dash says: “Case studies are great because you get to cover a wide variety of industries and understand some of the problems that other leaders and managers are facing at those businesses.”
The university also encourages students to enter business case competitions at different business schools around the world.
Dash explains: “You get given a business problem and you have to come up with a solution and then present it to the company’s executives. With my team, I completed a marketing focused case study at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
“It was a great experience and a really good way to apply what you have learnt in the classroom through an active scenario, and then have company executives grill you.”
Dash was particularly impressed by HKUST’s faculty, which included lecturers who had previously led a venture capital firm and been head of strategy at a major company.
“The faculty were very impressive and diverse. It was a really good mix of academics and industry professionals, which provides you with a good all-round point of view.”
He also thinks he learned a lot from his fellow students, who not only came from diverse countries, but were also from a range of different industries, including finance, accountancy, real estate and engineering.
“You learn so much from your peers when you are discussing case studies. You rely on each other’s previous work experience and knowledge to help you learn,” he says.
When it comes to finding a job, Dash says MBA students receive support from HKUST’s Career and Professional Development (CPD) team.
“They teach you how to get a job, working on things such as how to grow and develop a network, how to interview well, and how to find the right role for you, rather than just applying for every job.”
He adds that the CPD team also put together a list of jobs and internships on an internal portal, which is how he heard about his current position.
To anyone in Europe who is thinking of coming to Asia to do an MBA, Dash says: “Doing an MBA at HKUST is a great way to get your foot in the door and make that transition.
“HKUST is a great school and offers a lot of opportunities to be able to network and develop your career in Asia.”
He adds that Asia is a fascinating place to work, with huge amounts of growth.
“One of the reasons I moved to Hong Kong in 2013 was that I looked at growth in South East Asia and China, and thought, I really ought to be part of that.”