Student Stories


A life exchanging experience – Archer Li

Archer Li’s MBA not only gave him a new qualification, it also introduced him to his wife and helped him to change careers. A key to his success, he says, has been the opportunity to learn how to interact and communicate with people from different cultures during his studies.

Getting an MBA typically is regarded as a career move – an opportunity to prepare for more responsibility and leadership functions at work. But its effects can be much deeper and broader, as Archer Li found out.

Archer used his HKUST MBA to make a career change, but he also met his wife on the program and gained an eye-opening perspective on multicultural interactions that he could never have learned from a book.

“During the program you’re with classmates from different countries, plus you are studying how to think globally and apply that to business in Asia. I learned to be open to cultural differences and to try to understand other cultures. You need to do this if you want to communicate with people,” he said.

Communicating across cultures

Archer with his classmates at the Experiential Learning Program

The lessons learned on campus were reinforced when he went on exchange to the University of Southern California where he also earned a post-master’s certificate in entertainment. The result is that he has been able to shift the focus of his career.

Prior to his MBA, Archer was working in advertising for a domestic firm in Shanghai. Upon graduating, he was recruited by Nike to work on merchandising operations in Taiwan and he now works as E-Commerce Business Manager for Converse in China. Both positions have required him to act as a bridge between headquarters in the West and offices in China.

“My MBA has enabled me to work in a multinational company. I understand how to communicate in both cultures. It’s not only about what is communicated but how you communicate. I’ve learned how to deal more directly with people and speak up.

“When I came back to China, I could understand why my boss from the West communicated the way that he did. Sometimes this is difficult for local people because Westerners are more direct. Because I understand this, I’m able to help my boss and my team and peers.”

Lessons that apply to life

Today's Archer with his wife and baby

Cross-cultural insights have also helped in his personal life. His wife, whom he met on the USC exchange, is Taiwanese, and he is aware that Taiwan and Hong Kong are quite different from Mainland China. “Understanding cultures is not just East-West but East-East,” he said.

Archer loves movies and during his MBA studies he further broadened his cross-cultural understanding by organizing movie nights where students would take turns selecting movies from their countries.

All of these experiences reinforced to him that he made the right decision coming to HKUST rather than a program with a more homogeneous student and faculty mix. “The textbook learning might be the same, but you would just not get this cultural exposure,” he said.

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