Meetup: MBA or Not, that is a Question

Afternoon, attended another group discussion: Shanghai IT Club.


Time: 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Venue: Old Library, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Topic: MBA 1.0 v.s. MBA 2.0


  • Flex
  • Kejin
  • Charles
  • Austin
  • Liangming
  • Huijian
  • Lijun
  • Laohua (host)
  • Yale
  • Run Liu
  • Li Jian
  • Jian Shuo Wang

    It is a biweekly gather that many ex-microsoft collegues gathers and exchange ideas.

    Below are some random note for the discussion.

    Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business

    MBA 1.5 year term

    Flex think very highly of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and rated CEIBS (China European International Business School).

    Link: MBA 2000 report from CKGSB

    Why MBA?

    Reason: Want to remove fear for unknown – want to get insight about how business runs.

    Funny Answer: “The more you know, the more fear you have.”

    Links: State of Fear.

    Reason: Many go to MBA to seek for some changes.

    Funny Answer: Uncertainty of the impact of MBA program – it is not prooved.

    Yale: What is happening around is us can be very classic MBA case study. So to treasure what we can access instead of going to MBA to check other company’s MBA.

    Shanghai Jiao Tong MBA

    Tuition: 70,000 RMB

    Duration: 2.5 year

    Time: 20 Hour per week

    Think very bad of the program – invested money and invest time but didn’t get that much from the program.

    Fengshui V.S. Financial Knowledge

  • Why not study Fengshui instead of Financial knowledge?

    On Fengshui: It seems people in Hong Kong, Taiwan trust in Fengshui more than people in mainland.

    Now I started to believe some pricinciple of Fengshui. It may be a science of usability + psychology that works very good for the land of China.

    “MBA enable me to have a common language with other business leaders” – Steven

    Street Smart v.s. Book Smart

    How useful is Knowledge:

    Daily life only requires primary school level of Chinese, and middle-school level of mathematics. Most actitivies can be handled by +-*/, not square root…

    Some argues: Management is not a science. It is an art.

    Some argues: Management can be a science.

    Simplification can be a great way to create a science. But simplication process requires a lot of conditions to be true for the process to work.

    Fudan MBA

    Students are weak groups in contrast with professors and the school.

    The school is only in charge of charging money, and the professor only looks for delivering the hours.

    MBA and EMBA now become very profitable business in China – Fudan and SJTU have very successful business. It seems to me that CKGSB (Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business) is treating MBA and EMBA programs very seriously by investing into every student. There is no profit for CKGSB…

    Disclaimer: This is just a meeting note that records the discussion and debat. I hope it does not start a controversal thread here. Take all the information as it is. No garentees of accuracy at all.

  • 11 thoughts on “Meetup: MBA or Not, that is a Question

    1. as an mba graduate and an undergrad degree in mathematics/business/it, let me add my two cents.

      depending on your goals and your background, the process of getting an mba is always useful but what you learn academically may not be. with my background, i personally found the work we did (top tier mba school) very simple and repetitive from what i had learned in the past and ‘real world’ experiences… to be honest, the academic angle was a waste of time for me. if you have no business training in your background, then the academic part will be more relevant. cases were applicable but nothing new… don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of work involved but it wasn’t rocket science.

      as for what i call the ‘process’ of getting an mba, it is useful but not something you can’t learn on your own. by process i mean outside academics… having to relate to others, the commitment required to do the work. most important will be the contacts you make (here is where you need to choose your school carefully… you want to be around others who are successful or have the reputation)… remember, it is not what you know but WHO you know. i imagine this holds to be more true in China… afterall, everyone and their brother has an mba now… it is the same 3 letters after your name no matter which school you go to.

      so depending on your goals and background, you should choose your program carefully. do you already have a strong business background and see an mba as a stepping stone? are your business concepts weak and you want to obtain knowledge? a lot of the overall concepts in mba schools are common sense… the best business decisions are often the simplest.

      either way, personally (for those with a business background) i think mba’s are only worth pursuing if you can get your company to pay for it… it is like buying into a country club. for other who want the academics, the best are learned at the school of hard knocks… however if you do end up paying for an mba out of your own pocket, then at least (i hope) you’ll choose wisely as it is your own money! is it better to spend 70,000+ rmb and your time to have someone ‘teach’ you business concepts or would it be better to commit the money and time to open up your own business/network and learn from experiences? to each his own… learning is a lifelong process… there’s no one way for all.

    2. MBA is useful for middle managers. But leading a company needs visionarys not MBAs.

      Most successful business leaders don’t have MBAs. If they spent time in their life pursuing MBAs, they might not have become great leaders.

    3. Does the the applicant for MBA program in China actually requires prior related working experience after undergrad?

    4. *test*

      Sorry – I posted a comment a few days ago but it’s never shown up so I am checking to see if it it was withheld for some reason or I did something wrong.

    5. (Well, my test post seemed to work so I’ll try again – for some reason I thought when I posted on 2/11 that it said that it was being held for review? Does anyone know what I’m talking about?)

      (This turned out to be longer than I had intended, but hopefully it’s helpful for your friends who are also thinking about bschool).

      I’ve been lurking for a while, but wanted to comment on this entry after I saw canadian badass’ comments. I wanted to share a perspective from someone who was trained as an engineer and has more of a “technical” background on the value of an MBA.

      I am currently in my second year at a top ranking US program and will graduate in June. These two years have been tremendously rewarding on both a professional and personal level. As I implied above, I was trained as an electrical engineer and have received my bachelor’s and master’s as such. Professionally, my work experience has been with developing and implementing enterprise software applications. All this to say, I had never taken an economics or business course before in my life.

      I found the formal introduction of topics like accounting, finance, economics / strategy, and marketing to be fascinating. True, I could have picked up these topics from books, but there is something bout being in a formal learning environment with homework, quizzes, papers and tests that encourages you to read and learn. I have many classmates who are like canadian badass and are fortunate enough to already have had prior business experience. However for those like me who come from non-business backgrounds it’s great to be able to learn the basic concepts. I just don’t see myself having the discipline to pick up reading on the finer points of Modigliani & Miller in my spare time (probably to my loss). Also, the idea of going to school part time is unappealing to me – I wanted to come and learn. Going full time for me was the best way to be focused and give myself the best situation for learning. If all I wanted was the degree for my career because I already knew most of the material then maybe that makes sense, but even in that case it seems that recruiters view full time as a little bit more competitive than part time.

      I think jqian and trivance have good points too.

      First regarding jqian’s point – I agree that you certainly don’t need an MBA to be successful (although MBA’s can be vsionaries too!) – there are lots of examples of CEO’s and other successful leaders who do not have MBA’s. Certainly, if you just want to make a lot of money, there are other ways to do it. You can make a lot of money from selling fertilizer, pig feed, and buttons. A traditional US-model MBA is 2 years of time coupled with significant financial expenses – anyone considering an MBA should ask if it’s really worth it! If you are considering going for an MBA, you should make sure to check out the career center’s publications on what their grads on average make before and after the program. If you are already making on the top end of what their grads are making, financial incentive is probably low for you to attend.

      Personally, I think I will be able to payback my loans within 2-3 years. From a career perspective, I believe being here at an MBA progrm with a strong brand gave me more opportunities. I think an MBA (as other programs of higher education) offer a way for people to change careers. If I had not gone back to school, I don’t think i would have been able to get this job at the strategy consulting firm I will be going to in Shanghai in the fall. I have also seen classmates go from finance backgrounds to marketing and vice versa. If you are thinking about an MBA, you should check out the list of recruiters that go to your target school. Schools with a strong brand for finance will attract more firms recruiting for finance jobs while schools with a strong brand for marketing will attract all the big marketing firms and recruiters looking for marketers. Schools with strong general management programs, well, other than attracting companies with general management rotational programs seem to also attract consulting firms! One school of thought on this is that if you want a marketing job you should go to a marketing school. A different school of thought on this is that everyone you will be competing with will go to the marketing schools so if you want a marketing job maybe it’s better to go to a finance school. And vice versa.

      Certainly it’s yet to be seen whether I will have the opportunity or ability to apply anything that I’ve learned from the classroom in the real world, but at least if I can’t yet “walk the walk” I feel that I can at least “talk the talk”. It’s good to know what credits and debits are, to understand the differences and uses for balance sheet vs income statement vs cash flow, and what people mean when they refer to STP and the 4P’s in marketing.

      Just as important to me as the learning and professional opportunities has been the personal experiences I’ve had. In particular, the friends I have met here have been really fun and interesting people who I hope to stay in touch with for a long time. They come from all over the world, and I hope that I will be able to call on them if I have the opportunity to travel to their homeland in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Mid East or Far East! I guess this takes us to trivance’s point about networking. A lot of people say that the only real thing you get at the end of the day from an MBA program is the degree and the alumni network – and the degree is only really helpful for your first job! I’ve had the opportunity to interact with the alumni network and on average my experience has been positive – most people I contact via email or phone have been responsive and helpful. At the same time, I also know that they are very busy and what they can do for you may be pretty limited. I think in the end the verdict is still out on how helpful the alumni network will be.

      On another personal note, although I know that “its not what you know but who you know that counts”, I still don’t like the idea of 1) getting to know other people for the sake of establishing a valuable contact, and 2) the feeling that i owe other people for my job or whatever. Maybe I’m thinking about it wrong, we’ll see.

      Finally, I want to say that eventually I hope to be running my own business or at least a part of someone else’s. It seems that JianShuo has a pretty good head start on me! :) I’m patient though, and I firmly believe that when the right idea or opportunity comes I will be a better general manager for my MBA experience than without it. I’m sure I will still make mistakes, but I’m also sure that it will be fewer in number than it otherwise would have been. Would I have done just as well or even better by taking a deep breath and diving in (like canadian badass suggested via the school of hard knocks)? I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer to that, but regardless of when or if I ever “arrive”, the long business trip that began with an application for my MBA has been a great experience so far.

    6. timex’s comments are valid. like i’ve said, you need to evaluate yourself and your needs before deciding whether an mba program is for you. based on his description on his background and his personality that comes across from his posting, i would say that he would be an ideal candidate for an mba program.

      with regard to his thoughts on “it’s not what you know but who you know” you have to remember that in business, contacts are what give you ‘the edge’. getting to know someone (a fancier word would be networking) for the sake of establishing a contact is done everyday and everywhere. think about it, why do people join country clubs, golf clubs, professional organizations, gyms, hobby clubs, the pta… etc… sure you may have a common interest that brought you together and a lot of time that common interest is to network (or to get an mba). don’t look at it as you needing someone but instead think of it as a connection you make with others where you both can benefit… both parties have resources and together they can make things happen. unless you’re bill gates, it’s not ‘what can you do for me’, it should be ‘what can we do for each other’ — and maybe your friend will have access to bill himself… i’m sure jianshuo has such a contact :) (sidenote: i’ve been blessed with being in the room with the godly geek and shook his hand — my life is complete hahaha)

      trivance is in the same school of thought that i had when i went for my mba, it was a stepping stone my employer paid for (and encouraged). have i used my ‘mba’, sure… it fills a spot on my wall. have i benefitted from the friends i’ve made… you bet.

      jqian is also correct. it’s true that having an mba is no guarantee of becoming a business leader but it won’t hurt. conversely not having an mba is no guarantee of failure. no guarantees in life, all other things being equal, it’s all about timing and luck… and who you know ;) if i had to choose between someone with an mba and someone without (all things being equal) then sure i’d hire the mba. if i had to choose between someone with 5 yrs experience and no mba vs. a recent mba grad with 2 yrs experience, i’d take the experience.

      anyways sorry for the long post… good luck to all in business and personal life… you can’t have one without the other.

      p.s.: on a side note, if you haven’t seen movie ‘the corporation’ i suggest you do… in my opinion it goes against what most mba schools try to teach you — maximizing shareholder value (ie. profit) at all costs! it should be required viewing in all schools imho.

    7. On ‘The Corporation’ — I’ve never seen a more whiney liberal left-wing film about business. I think the filmmakers’ (who are apparently Canadian, which is why they are so socialist in their approach, I think) premise is that somehow capitalism is out of control and that globalization is bad. It’s not. Any MBA who thinks so shouldn’t be in MBA school. Globalization is what will save our world, when we are all interconnected to the point at which hurting somebody else is akin to hurting ourselves. For lack of a better vehicle, corporations are the driver of this force for good. Milton Friedmann is our God. Candian “Badass” (who is apparently a closeted Canadian socialist too), you should say three Hail Marys and repent: Shareholder value. Shareholder value. Shareholder value. Amen.

    8. I am considering getting an MBA in China. So much so, that I’ve moved to China and have learned Chinese (language of course). Does anyone think getting an MBA in China is a worth while venture? Why or why not? I have a B.A in Psychology with no “business” work experience.

      concerned American

    9. I’m currently getting an MBA in China at Sun Yat-sen University down in Guangzhou. Top-rate education, very smart students, excellent faculty. I frequently post at if you are curious about the experience and one foreigner’s perspective on business education in China.

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