Student Stories

19.12.2016

Joseph Albert Lim - Plans may Change, but it's OK

Class of 2013 (Philippines)
Pre-MBA: Associate Project Director, Pacific Strategies & Assessments (China)
Post-MBA: Consultant, McKinsey & Company (Philippines)

1. When you were thinking of doing an MBA, how did you end up choosing HKUST?

I was originally based in Shanghai when I started looking into MBA programs. I really enjoyed living and working in Shanghai and because of this, I initially planned to continue my career in the Greater China market moving forward, so going to a school that could support me in that direction was important. HKUST was therefore at the top of my list given its growing reputation, ranking and strength in the China market. Furthermore, it was also a good opportunity to explore Hong Kong given that I had already lived in Shanghai for several years. As I spoke with some HKUST alumni from the Philippines, I found that they’d all had positive experiences, making it an even easier choice for me.

2. How was your experience at HKUST and in Hong Kong?

Living in Hong Kong and studying in HKUST was an awesome experience. It wasn’t necessarily easy and there were lots of ups and downs, but I feel like I gained a lot out of my experience. In particular,

a.) Great learning – In terms of curriculum/academics, HKUST’s strength lies in its solid base of academic faculty, combined with its adjunct faculty who have very strong industry experience. A particular highlight for me was Prof. Chris Doran’s elective class “Consulting Skills for Managers”. As a former McKinsey EM, Prof. Doran’s ran his class in a way that the elective was structurally similar to an actual consulting engagement. Little did I know that the class would turn out to be a fairly accurate preview of the work that I’ve had to do in McKinsey.

b.) Networking opportunities – Studying at HKUST and living in Hong Kong provided me with a large number of opportunities to network. Learning how to network in a new city is never easy, but I was often surprised by what and who could be most helpful to me in terms of networking. In particular Prof. Veronique Lafon-Vinais was very generous in opening her network to me, despite the fact that I didn’t actually take her classes! In a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, one is never short of networking opportunities. From classmates and faculty, to alumni, interest groups, volunteering opportunities and even random nights out. It was often a surprise where the next connection would come from.

c.) Personal Development – Going through the MBA program and living in Hong Kong was a challenging experience, but because of this challenge, it was a great opportunity for personal development. Everyone will look at their own learning experience in different way, but in general I believe that many of my classmates have learned and developed resiliency and resourcefulness; two traits that are very valuable both personally and professionally.

3. You did an exchange at London Business School, what was that experience like?

Going on exchange to LBS was a great opportunity to experience living in Europe for the first time and to get some exposure to the market there. Furthermore, it was a valuable chance to broaden my network with other MBA students and professionals. To this day I am still friends with a number of people that I met during my exchange, and it was through a friend from LBS that I found my freelance consulting projects which eventually led to me shifting my career focus from private equity to consulting.

4. What were your post-MBA plans before you started at HKUST? How close are you to those plans now 3 years post MBA?

The funny thing is that my plans changed more than once as I went through my MBA. Initially my plan was to leverage the HKUST network to explore opportunities in private equity in the China market and be based out of Hong Kong or Shanghai.  As I started the program, my networking efforts shifted to social enterprise and impact investing, and then back to PE, before eventually shifting to management consulting.

Looking back it’s rather funny how my best laid plans didn’t turn out as I had intended. But the experience taught me that while it’s good to have a goal in mind, being flexible and open to new perspectives is a great mindset to have.

5. Post-MBA, you went back to the Philippines and joined McKinsey. How has it been so far?

Although I am a Filipino by birth, McKinsey is actually my first full time job in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. So far, I can’t think of a better way to get re-introduced to the Southeast Asia market. It’s been challenging and intense, but I’m thankful for the opportunities and exposure in one of the most interesting and dynamic markets in the world.

6. What advice would you give other Southeast Asian prospect candidates who are thinking of doing an MBA?

I hope my advice applies to all prospect candidates alike and not just Southeast Asians. Based on my experience, I think it’s crucial to have a solid idea of what you want to achieve by doing an MBA. This helps massively in choosing what MBA program is right for you. It also helps to give you an idea of where you should focus your efforts in terms of both learning and networking.

That said, it’s impossible to predict how your own MBA experience will go. So you should take the opportunity to learn not just about business concepts, new industries, etc., but also about yourself.

Taking an MBA will always be challenging, and things often don’t go according to plan, but if you approach it in the right way, it’s a great way to build your skills, gain exposure to new people and markets, and learn and grow both personally and professionally!