How an MBA helped these graduates unlock career opportunities in Asia |

How an MBA helped these graduates unlock career opportunities in Asia

By Stephanie L

Updated August 17, 2021 Updated August 17, 2021

Sponsored by Chinese University of Hong Kong

If you want to make it in business, Asia could be the ideal place to start.

In 2019, McKinsey & Company predicted that, by 2040, nations within the Asia Pacific region will top 50 percent of global GDP and drive 40 percent of the world’s consumption. This will then kick-start the ‘Asian century’ that is set to reshape Western-oriented economic standards, starting from the early 2020s.

TopMBA caught up with two MBA graduates from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to find out how an MBA can help professionals unlock career opportunities in Asia.

Identifying emerging markets and capitalising on vast opportunities

Over the years, corporations and high-achieving individuals have spotted opportunities in the Asian markets – and CUHK MBA graduate, Atsushi Sugiyama is one of them.

After graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016, Atsushi joined his family’s Japan-based recycling business – the Sun-up Corporation – with the long-term goal to promote sustainable practices throughout the region and expand into the wider Asian market.

Before moving to Hong Kong to undertake his MBA, Atsushi worked at Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan and Thailand. Looking back at his decision to move to Hong Kong, Atsushi considered it the obvious choice for several reasons.

He said: “Hong Kong is the gateway to mainland China, which has huge potential for my business. And the CUHK MBA programme has the longest history and the biggest alumni network in Hong Kong.”

With the university’s unique focus on entrepreneurship and an extensive network, Atsushi says the MBA was a crucial step in equipping him with the insights to foster his business idea, model and strategy.

He said: “The MBA is a very good place to reinforce the mindset of entrepreneurship because you have the chance to meet with real entrepreneurs, including colleagues and professors. Through exchanging our ideas and experiences, we can have a new insight in how to do, and how to develop our business.”

Atsushi says the scale of business opportunity in Asia and insights gained from the MBA allowed him to turn his attention to emerging markets as well as more established economies in the region. Since launching a second operational business hub in Thailand and a dedicated finance hub in Hong Kong, the company has seen an increase in profits. Atsushi hopes to expand the business even further by setting up centres in Vietnam and China.

Leveraging key business skills and making the most of immersive learning opportunities

Prior to the MBA, Axel Hauke, who is originally from Germany, had already spent eight years living and working in Asia – more specifically, Singapore. When asked what led him to pursue a career in Asia in the first place, Axel considers Asia the “world’s most vibrant and innovative region.”

“People rightly call the 21st century the ‘Asian century’. The rise of China is the most significant development of our generation and offers tremendous opportunities for businesses and people.”

So when it came to pursuing an MBA to further his professional development, much like Atsushi, Axel knew that Hong Kong was the place to go.

He said: “I chose Hong Kong for its position as Asia’s leading financial centre and gateway into China.”

After graduating in 2019, Axel joined the Singaporean agricultural supply-chain company, Agrocorp International Pte Ltd. as a financial market trader and treasury manager which includes covering foreign exchange markets, hedging the group’s financial market risk exposures, negotiating bank facilities and leading corporate treasury digitisation and sustainability initiatives.

“My position has a much broader scope and has management aspects. I supervise a colleague who covers the day-to-day operations. I initiate and lead new strategic projects in the areas of digitisation and sustainability. I represent the company in negotiations with external parties like banks and vendors,” he said.

Axel says the skills and learnings provided by the MBA benefited him on several levels, including new career opportunities in the region as well as developing an in-demand skillset and essential know-how of all areas of business.

“My aim during the MBA was to develop my leadership skills. I learnt a lot of useful concepts to better manage myself and colleagues in various real-life office situations. I apply that knowledge daily in my current role and can already see the positive impact on my performance within the organisation.

“Another goal was to improve my social intelligence. The highly competitive trading world of financial markets often put only a secondary importance to this, but I see the great benefit in the interactions with colleagues and external counterparties like bankers or vendors.”

“I also deepened my understanding of corporate strategy, which helps me greatly in internal discussions with senior management at my current firm.”

During the MBA, Axel had the opportunity to work part-time at a Hong Kong crypto start-up and spend a semester studying in Beijing.

“The start-up gave me a completely new perspective [on entrepreneurship], parts of which I can utilise in my existing role.

“Living in Hong Kong and Beijing also served me greatly in following macro-economic and geopolitical developments in regard to China and respective market impacts.”

This article was originally published in July 2021 . It was last updated in August 2021

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for and (until September 2021), Stephanie created and published a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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