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Why I chose a local MBA and how it got me my first finance job in Hong Kong

CHUK MBA

When Nitin Damodaran started researching MBA courses he didn’t limit himself to one country or even one region.

Damodaran was already working successfully as a research associate at S&P Global Market Intelligence in India – and he wanted an MBA that would “provide the platform” for an even better, more global job.

“I considered US programmes and interviewed at some schools in Europe, but I soon realised than an Asia-based MBA would offer a much better return than one in the West. Asian markets were growing, so I was determined to work in Asia when I graduated,” says Damodaran, now a vice president at Citi in Hong Kong.

He looked into MBA courses in Singapore, China and across Asia before making his final choice: the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). “It’s good to be very open minded and do plenty of research before a decision as important as this. I went for CUHK because I think it’s the best MBA in Hong Kong, and because Hong Kong is the leading Asian financial centre and the main gateway to China,” says Damodaran.

Sergio Hidenori Agena also embarked on the CUHK MBA because he wanted to get his first job in Hong Kong’s expansionist finance sector.

But the Brazilian, who graduated in 2015 and now works for financial data company A.M. Best in Hong Kong, says the city itself was also an important drawcard. “I like the fact that Hong Kong is a very diverse city, with people from everywhere. There are lots of events going on here and many different places to visit. It’s both an Asian city and an international city,” says Agena.

Damodaran also loves living in Hong Kong. “A lot of people who come here to study or work are really surprised by how many outdoor activities are open to them – like hiking. There are even great beaches and other hidden gems. And it’s a global and dynamic environment to work in.”

Hong Kong’s global standing as a city is reflected in the CUHK classroom. “You get to work with fellow students from different cultural backgrounds. This builds the skills you need to work across borders in the banking sector,” explains Damodaran.

But while Hong Kong boasts a global finance industry, it can still be challenging for foreign professionals to find a job in the city if they haven’t worked there before.

“This is where the CUHK MBA really helps. Graduating locally in Hong Kong gives you a big edge over foreign job seekers who are still living overseas and want to move here,” says Damodaran.

“It shows you’ve already made a big investment here, and you’re already familiar with Hong Kong and its working culture. I did an internship at Citi while I was at CUHK, which opened up doors to my full-time job in Hong Kong,” he adds.

Completing an MBA in Hong Kong also entitles you to a one-year working visa after you graduate, without the need for employer sponsorship. “This is another huge advantage of studying your MBA in Hong Kong – most other countries don’t offer this,” says Agena.

But as an increasing number of jobs in the Hong Kong finance industry demand knowledge of Mandarin, how should MBA students who don’t speak the language look for work?

“Some roles here do require Mandarin, but you need to seek out those that don’t – and there are still plenty of them,” says Damodaran. “Many of my overseas classmates at CUHK found jobs in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia.”

“As a student from overseas it’s even more important that during the course you network with as many people as possible – including alumni and your classmates – in Hong Kong,” explains Damodaran.

He adds: “For example, I had a senior mentor at CUHK who was very helpful in terms of what kind of role I should aim for and where I could find the right opportunities. He even helped me improve my job interview techniques.”

Importantly, foreign students shouldn’t wait until they’ve graduated to investigate the Hong Kong job market – they should start their research as soon as they move to the city. “Find out what type of skills are in demand and what type of positions are opening up. And be persistent with your research and networking – nothing comes easy,” says Agena.

Damodaran agrees: “The CUHK MBA provides students from all over the world with an excellent platform to find their first job in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia. It’s then up to you, as an overseas student, to put plenty of effort into your job search so you can take full advantage of your new degree.”

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