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Posted on August 27th, 2012, by

What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals?

The successful participation in an MBA program is, to a significant extent, defined by the post-MBA goals we set. In this respect, I have short-term and long-term post-MBA goals, which are of the utmost importance for me. In fact, the goals I have already set is a strong motivating factor which I hope can contribute to my successful learning because it is very difficult to do anything without any definite purpose. In contrast, when I set goals, I know what I need to achieve and I can do it applying all my efforts to study.

My short-term and long-term goals are closely intertwined and to achieve them I need my MBA program since it can give me not only the knowledge I need but also practical experience which is also of a paramount importance. In a short-run, I would like to attend the Columbia’s January Accelerated MBA program, which I could use as the foundation for my further professional development and business progress. In fact, I need this program because it can help me to start my own operation consulting firm in China. Such a goal is not spontaneous. In stark contrast, it is a logical decision I have made on long reflections on my life goals, personal inclinations and interests as well as professional skills and experience I have already acquired.

In this respect, the choice of China is, to a significant extent, determined by my ethnic background since I moved to the US from China at the age of fifteen. This is why Chinese culture is very significant for me and it influences my cultural identity consistently. Even though I have spent many years in the US, I cannot help from thinking of my native country and people living there. In addition, unlike many Americans who have never been in China or who have been there by chance for a short period of time, I know this country well enough to start business there. At least, the local culture and mentality of the local population is close to me and I know how to work and start business in China. At the same time, I apparently lack some theoretical knowledge and practical experience to start a successful operation consulting in China. My knowledge of local specificities are not enough for the overall success. Hence, I need my MBA program.

In addition, I have already got certain experience in operation consulting since after my graduation from the University of Southern Carolina with dual degrees in Finance and Accounting, I worked at Protiviti in Los Angeles as a business risk consultant for three years. I then worked for RSM McGladrey where I also focused on operation risk consulting. In such a way, my professional experience can be helpful but I do not feel it is enough to start operation consulting firm abroad, in China.

I strongly believe that my MBA program will help me not only to start operation consulting firm in China, but also to achieve a long-term goal, which is to develop my own operation consulting firm in China and to succeed in my business. In this respect, one of my long-term priorities is the assistance to American firms and other foreign firms to start business, to succeed and to take a highly competitive position in China. I know that it is very difficult for American and other foreign companies to develop their business in China because local culture and socio-economic system is very different from the system they get used to in the US and other developed countries with open market economies. This is why my deep understanding of the Chinese culture, norms and traditions in socio-economic and political sphere will be very helpful for my American business partners and clients.

On the other hand, the MBA program is also essential for me because Columbia Business School can really help me to achieve my goals for several reasons. Firstly, Columbia places a great deal of emphasis on entrepreneurship, which is essential for the development of an effective business. Moreover, the subject is studied both inside and outside of the classroom, with the Eugene M. Lang Center serving as the hub of much of this activity. Launched in 1996, the Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund provides seed capital to worthy business plans crafted by Columbia students. In such a way, I will be able not only to learn theory but also implement theoretical knowledge in practice and learn how theory works in real life situations. This is very useful, especially for those who are just starting their business and professional career because often we lack either a strong theoretical background or experience of practical application of theories we have already learned. Secondly, Columbia’s January accelerated MBA program can help me to realize my goals sooner than any other two-year MBA program. In fact, this program has already proved its high efficiency while the quality of Columbia’s education is beyond doubts. Finally, cosmopolitan culture, along with the school’s international connections, is particularly important and helpful for me because they will facilitate my international entrepreneurship efforts. Today, students come from more than 60 countries and speak more than 40 languages and, while participating in the MBA program, I will join this multicultural community, where I can establish important interpersonal relations and use them in my future business. Thus, my participation in the MBA program will provide me not only with considerable academic progress but also enlarge my connections and business opportunities.

Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. View link below. Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone.

Obviously, theory is the foundation of a successful professional career, but without practice theory becomes useless. In fact, I have learned this rule from my personal experience when I worked at RSM McGladrey. While working there, I encountered a situation that proves that theory needs to be backed up by practice. Otherwise, we can have theoretical knowledge, but we will be unable to apply them in practice as if theory is a spaceship in hands of prehistoric humans it can have a huge potential but it cannot applied. On recalling my experience, I should say that it was a client of mine located in Orange County.  We were doing SOX consulting work for them identifying control gaps and helping them to improve their organization’s internal controls. I was interviewing the AP Manager to document the key controls within the AP Department, and I found out that the AP Manager is still using a manual process approving vouchers and checks with signatures signed on the hard copy documents. It was a bit surprising for me because I knew that this type of control activities should be automated when the organization has the resources. Moreover, successful companies tend to the high automation of their activities in order to increase the effectiveness and productivity of their human resources. Naturally, I pointed out that that the control should be automated, meaning approving everything via their existing Accounting System. It seemed to me a logical solution because it could facilitate the work of the AP Manager, save time and increase productivity of her work. However, I was puzzled a little bit when the Accounting Manager asked me the questions how the activities can by automated. This was exactly at that moment when I understood that the theory alone did not work without the practical backup. In fact, I learned the theory from my Senior Manager but I never practiced to walk through the automation process. To help the AP Manager I decided to ask my Senior Manager for a piece of advice and he explained and demonstrated the process how to automate the control. In such a way, I have learned how the theoretical knowledge I possessed could be implemented in the real life situation. The only thing I had to do was to go to the AP Manager of our client and share my knowledge and experience with her. Thus, I showed her on her system exactly how to automate the control activity. The AP Manager was so happy and she thanked me for making her life much easier by reducing her workload with paper documents.  In such a way, this example proves that practice is a must in order to validate and truly understand the theory.

In such a context, I believe Columbia’s Master Classes certainly can help me to gain enough management theories. However, what is even more important, the classes will give me the opportunities to implement the theories in practice through real-life projects. My experience makes me think of Murray Low, the Association Professor of the Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business, who said in the Master Classes Video, Columbia’s Master Classes approximate real life setting which is exactly what I am looking for in a MBA program. The student, Eric Tam also made a good point in the Master Classes Video, Students get an access to the network that people who are out at business world 20 to 30 years may not get.

Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently?

Unfortunately, on analyzing my professional experience, I recall not only positive moments, but also some failures. However, I am convinced that even the negative experience and failures I had in the past are useful because I will never make the same mistakes in the future. In this respect, the lesson I learned, when I worked at Protiviti, was particularly significant for me and even today I cannot help from thinking of it. However, it was not my personal failure proper, but it was a team failure that shouldn’t have happened due to our team’s under-budget which caused us to eat hours by not charging client the money. At the same time, I feel responsible for the failure because I was a member of the team and I failed to prevent the failure, though now I know that I could do it.

To put it more precisely, the whole failure started at the Manager Level. The Manager underestimated the total hours needed to complete the project and presented the hours to our clients.  Before our manager presented the total hours to finish the project to the client, he asked each of the five team members including me the estimated time to complete the project. Thus, I had a chance to influence the decision-making process. We all told him the realistic hours that needed to complete the project. However, he said that’s taking too long and it shouldn’t take us that many hours to complete the project. Eventually, we compromised and it was the main error our team and me, in person, did. The outcome of our decision could be easily foreseen. In spite of all our efforts we could not finish the project in time because terms were unrealistic and the compromise was actually a compromise between the recognition of our inability to meet the requirements of the client concerning terms of the project in time defined by the client and our desire to meet the requirements of the client. Eventually, we finished the project 3 days later after the deadline. Obviously, we failed because we overestimated our abilities and productivity. On the other hand, the result was quite logical because from the beginning of the project we knew how much time exactly we needed to do it perfectly well. This is why if I had a second chance, I would be standing firm on my estimated time to complete the project without any compromise. Now, I believe no compromise is possible when goals I have to achieve are unrealistic. In addition, I would also advise the manager that it will make our company looks bad if we cannot finish the project on time due to the underestimated budget. I would take initiative to report to the next level if the manager does not listen since a company’s reputation is extremely important in the consulting industry. Anyway, in the contemporary business environment, the reputation of the company is crucial for its competitive position.

Describe for us your greatest passion in life.

When I think about my great passions, I think about millions of poor children in China and around the world, who are deprived of normal nutrition, education and conveniences we take for granted. The help to these children is my greatest passion. I still remember once I went to China and visited a village at the countryside. Many children at that village did not go to school and they were wearing torn-out clothes. Children started to help their parents to farm as early as when they are 7 years old because they had to earn for living simply to survive. The situation in Africa and many other countries of the third world is even worse. Until now, each year I donated money to China to help village children who are too poor to go to school. However, I hope I will be able to combine my career and my passion.  If I am able to found a successful operation consulting firm in China I will be able to use the money I earn and my professional experience to help the poor children in China and worldwide.

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