For many MBA graduates, management consulting is the ideal end-goal, with a career in consulting offering sky-high salaries and the opportunity to combine everything learned on an MBA to lead projects across an array of sectors and functions. But Stephanie van den Boogaard is already there.
She’s a management consultant at big three firm, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and currently an MBA candidate at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School. Stephanie is being sponsored by BCG to study her MBA.
She joined BCG in November 2017 as an associate, after an undergraduate degree in engineering and management and then master's in systems engineering, policy analysis, and management from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. She gained experience in the public sector, retail, social impact, and people and organizations.
Stephanie then earned fast-track promotion into her consultant role in August 2019, enrolling on the HKUST MBA in August 2020.
Develop intercultural management
Stephanie says she’s quickly developing her understanding and appreciation of the diverse elements of consultancy—important when your job revolves around working with a huge array of clients from different backgrounds and cultures.
The MBA classroom at HKUST is made up of students from finance and accounting, HR, IT, marketing and sales, logistics, and other professional backgrounds. The average age of a HKUST MBA is 29, and 96% of the class are of non-local nationality.
“I think it definitely has made me more open-minded and more aware of the culture, the norms, and values of doing business in Hong Kong, and also about the rapid development in this region,” she explains.
By engaging with fellow students from across the globe, Stephanie is also building her abilities in problem-solving and refining her communication skills. She says that meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures naturally developed her awareness of different perspectives.
“I think being able to put yourself in the position of someone else is very important as a consultant, because we work a lot with different kinds of clients and complicated situations,” she asserts.
Fill gaps in your business knowledge
Having studied engineering before joining BCG, Stephanie was after an MBA to fill some business-specific gaps in her knowledge.
The MBA at HKUST offers one of the most flexible curricula in Asia. Core courses make up only a quarter of the full degree and students then pick electives across career tracks in consulting and strategic management, business technology and analytics, finance, general management, and marketing.
“On the program, we have several courses in accounting and corporate finance, which were all completely new to me,” says Stephanie. “That really helped me to understand the basics.”
In her corporate finance class students were put in groups with peers with varying degrees of finance experience. The finance experts were there to offer guidance and advise their fellow classmates on the intricacies of the industry.
The HKUST MBA core curriculum also covers financial accounting, marketing strategy and policy, and managerial microeconomics.
Students are also taught about the latest business and technology trends, with modules covering blockchain and cryptocurrency, big data, and artificial intelligence. There’s even a strategy consulting module taught by a former management consultant at McKinsey.
Focus your career
Shifting location and choosing HKUST for her MBA has allowed Stephanie to learn about the Asian markets and the ways businesses work, network, and interact in Hong Kong. But dramatically changing location and assimilating into a new culture is not without its challenges.
“Being very far from home, in a pandemic, it's not always easy,” says Stephanie, “but it also really makes me appreciate where I come from, and how fortunate I am to be able to do this. And it's also something that you don't really realize when you're going to work every day, but it changes your life completely.”
For students looking to transition to the east, HKUST offers immersive opportunities to learn Mandarin and to build proficiency in Chinese. The school’s Business Chinese for MBA Students elective focuses on language skills in a wide range of business settings for students who have a certain proficiency in Mandarin.
Stephanie explains that studying an MBA while being a consultant at BCG has allowed her the time to consider where she wants to focus her energy as she builds her career as a consultant—a year after being a consultant with the firm she has to decide on her practice area.
“The MBA has helped me take a step back and think what really interests me,” she says. “I’d like to move forward in the sustainability and societal impact practice area of BCG, so that would be my plan.”
She adds that focusing on Asia and Hong Kong has also given her perspective of a new market that will aid her professional development in the future.
“I think if I want to continue longer-term within BCG that international experience will be very valuable, not just in terms of the learnings from the MBA, but also because I’ve built my professional network while in this region.”