Defining purpose helps people stay professional
By Bahk Eun-ji
Choi Chang-hee, managing director and representative of Nomura Research Institute’s Seoul branch, completed his education at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University, in 2002.
Right after graduation, Choi worked at Japan’s largest consulting firm, Nomura, and became head of its Korean office in August 2011. Choi said that even if he started from scratch at Nomura, the education and networking opportunities gained from the MBA course helped his career path.
How did you get interested in Japan?
Back when I was an undergraduate student at Yonsei University, I had the opportunity to go abroad as an exchange student. Many of my classmates preferred going to the United States, Europe or Asian countries, as MBA programs in the U.S. were flourishing at that time. I considered getting a degree from Japan as a “blue ocean” strategy, so I decided to go there on an exchange program. This boosted my interest in the country.
After graduating from Yonsei University, I worked at KTF, Korea's top-tier mobile operator that merged with KT in 2009, for 2 years before I went to Hitotsubashi. Through my experiences at the Korean company, I noticed that not only Korean but also global companies put emphasis on the development of manufacturing industries including materials engineering for electronics, IT, cars and even ship building. Those industries were heavily reliant on the technologies of Japanese companies, so I thought Korean companies should learn more about Japan to enhance its competitiveness in the global market.
How can one make most out of MBA degrees?
Basically, there is no significant difference between Korean and Japanese MBA courses when it comes to educational content. But I would say students at Hitotsubashi can gain more practical experience. The professors were consultant partners from Mckinsey & Company and the Boston Consulting Group, so they were able to provide a practical education. It was immensely helpful for me, as my goal was to work at a business consulting company after graduation.
In that sense, one should be fully aware of the purpose of getting an MBA degree. I have met many junior colleagues and employees who want to get an MBA degree. Many of them think this guarantees a high salary or rapid promotion, but more importantly, it helps pave a career path when the goal is clearly set. In other words, considering what you are going to do after graduation and how helpful this will be for your whole career path is the most important part of the decision making process.
I was one of the start-up staff at KTF, so the company offered me various employee benefits which were too good to miss. Then I asked to myself, “Are you sure you’re not going to regret if you don’t go to Japan and continue studying?”
The answer was simple. I couldn’t give up my goal of becoming a consultant.
From this, I assured myself of my final goal and this enabled me to put up with the hardships I faced throughout the course.
More important things than a degree
However, more important than an MBA degree is professionalism when dealing with business matters. I interview a lot of candidates, who want to work with us and all of them are qualified enough ― they graduated prestigious universities, hold MBA degrees from abroad and speak foreign languages fluently.
But people with experience in business before getting their MBA degree tend to be highly professional and organized. They are adept at understanding the point and persuading clients.
For this reason, I usually recommend people to gain work experience before starting an MBA degree.