First I would like to apologize for leaving my blog for such long period (over 3 months!) without any updates. Of course I could say I was busy and then recovering but it doesn’t justify much…
m( -_- )m
During my second semester at Tsinghua, on top of classes, I have been busying myself with the MIT China Lab program and my Tsinghua graduation thesis.
The MIT China Lab program is an MIT program (duh!) which focuses on providing experiential learning to students who wish to discover more about how businesses are run in China. To do so, the MIT partners with 4 institutions in China, including Tsinghua, which form a bridge with local projects.
I was selected as one of only 8 students from Tsinghua to participate to the program. 8 students from MIT also joined us. We were then divided into 4 groups of 4 (2 Tsinghua and 2 MIT) to work on projects with local small and medium businesses.
The experience was fantastic.
As a foreigner looking to better understand China’s business practices, I could not possibly have had a better opportunity.
While most business school students in China (myself included) focus on large multinational companies or large state-owned enterprises, the vast majority of Chinese economy is driven by small and medium size private or state-owned enterprises. To not understand how these companies work is to not understand the life of the majority of Chinese people.
Working on our project for 2 months, including 2 intense weeks at the company premises, meeting with their employees, seeing how they work and discussing their career expectations was a truly amazing experience.
The other great side of the experience is that we were invited to present our project at the MIT.
Many of my fellow Tsinghua students had never been to the USA before and the trip to Boston was also a great opportunity for Asian students to discover the American Way of Life, and life at an elite American campus at MIT. We all very much cherished the chance we had to be there, being able to sit at MBA classes and enjoy the much more interactive American way of teaching.
On the side, I feel very privileged for having been able to follow MBA classes at top institutions in France, China and USA, and feel the differences in style and way of teaching.
At that time, the only thing that prevented us from enjoying our time in Boston more was… Our graduation thesis.
In China, is it the rule that any Masters degree should be awarded following the production and defense of a research thesis. An MBA is no exception.
While the exercise can be painful for those who would prefer to focus on job search, it is also an opportunity to spend some time researching about an industry, understand their business problems and dramatically improve the recruiting pitch while looking for a job.
In my case, my graduation thesis was “A Cross Cultural Study of What Drives Web Usage and its Impact on Communicating Culture over the Web”.
Beyond the cryptic academic title, my research focused on understanding the differences in online perception between Chinese and Westerners and its potential impact on the marketing of culturally charged products, such as Luxury items. To do so, I was privileged to interact with Camus, the 5th largest cognac company who also has a partnership with Moutai, the top Chinese alcohol, in discussing how the web and social media could help increase their brand image in China.
I consider this study as the concluding accomplishment of my MBA.
It combines my past experience in designing e-business solutions, my HEC focus in Marketing and Luxury, and my Tsinghua focus on learning more about China.
I defended my thesis in front of a jury of Tsinghua professors on May 17th.
It was the final academic act of my MBA.
As a symbolic closing act, I went hiking to the Great Wall. I was part of a small private group and we covered the 15 kilometers separating the Gubeikou section to the Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall in 5 hours.
Like many beijingers will say, it’s nice to see the Great Wall at a less touristy place. That portion of the Great Wall had been built in the Ming Dynasty and didn’t have any of the reconstruction made to accommodate tourists.
We went through the corn fields of farmers who have been working the land next to the world wonder for generations, with a few moments when we had to stop and wonder in awe at the magnificence of the Wall.
Graduation will take place at the end of the month.