Exploring East Asian business culture
Chhaya Sivakumar, 27, started her MBA in Yonsei University in July, 2011. She was exposed to many different cultures throughout her life, and came to Korea to explore this rising financial power and generally the world-renowned East Asian culture and life. She hasn't decided future careers she would like to pursue after graduation, but says she wants to seize the day.
Would you introduce yourself?
I am originally from Chennai, southern India, and moved to Dubai when I was five years old. After finishing high school there, I went to college in the U.S. majoring both in Gender Psychology and Financial Accounting. After graduation, I worked in Singapore from 2006 to 2008 as a researcher. Before coming to Korea this summer, I worked in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), developing financial contracts with engineering and infrastructure investors. I love traveling around the world and experiencing new and different cultures.
Why did you decide to take an MBA program?
I wanted to extend my geographic expertise, having worked in the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. To fill the gap in my technical understanding of supply chain management, personal portfolio analysis, brand equity and entrepreneurship in East Asia. I needed an “All-in-One” degree, nothing too specific. Instead of a master’s degree in any specific subject, I preferred an MBA, which is competitive, holistic and intensive.
Why did you decide to take an MBA in Korea?
While I working for a leading investment advisory to the UAE government, the growing predominance of South Korean consortiums in winning contracts for all major infrastructure and energy companies was glaringly evident to me. I thought studying in Korea would offer the unique opportunity to establish a more informed perspective of the increasing project-related capital transfer between these two regions.
Why is Yonsei so special?
Definitely, it is the truly global nature of our GMBA. When I compare Yonsei’s MBA program to others, the difference is obvious. We are very international.
I cannot imagine having to go through the social exclusion in a class where 90 percent of the students are Koreans and everyone speaks fluent Korean except me. Luckily at Yonsei, 50 percent of our class comes from abroad and almost a third does not speak Korean.
We have many English-language electives and all the staff communicate fluently in English. They enthusiastically help us around bureaucratic procedures, travel plans, general Korea-related matters and much more. Yonsei really cares about us fitting in.
Are there any special activities that the school provides?
We have so many activities — orientation programs, dinner parties with the alumni, “membership training” in rural Korea, field trips to Gyeongju, a company visit to Hyundai Shipyard in Ulsan, folk village experience and hiking in Bukhansan. The list is endless and I have participated in all these activities.
Who is your favorite professor?
Most of my classes here at Yonsei have been taught by experienced, insightful and patient professors. If I had to choose, I would name two positive outliers, Prof. Chang Dae-ryun of Marketing and Prof. Lee Ho-uk of Business Strategy.
When I joined the program, I lacked interests in marketing. I just didn’t feel I was “cut out for it” and couldn’t see what people could learn from the subject. But Prof. Chang converted me.
Even though he is very famous in Korea as a preeminent marketing guru, he is very down-to-earth. His homemade advertisements, self-produced documentaries, quirky comments, funny anecdotes from his vast travel experiences and interesting final projects made it all fun. I loved discovering my creative and aesthetic side in the process.
As for Prof. Lee, he brought business strategies to life. He literally danced, pranced, sang, screeched and drew seminal theories. I think my classmates would agree that his classes are incredibly memorable and he is unbelievably effective as a teacher. Words cannot capture his lectures so I dare not try. However I would highly recommend that you sit in one.
What is your long-term goal?
I do not know where life is taking me and I’m trying to find the goal through this program. It sometimes seems so surreal. But for now I wish to soak it in, enjoy, experience and learn as much as I can about Korea, its culture and people. Indeed the history and energy of this place is contagious. Of course, career aspirations exist but who knows what is in store. Exciting times are ahead.
Interview by Kwon Eun-young