The One-Week Bootcamp Which Prepares You For An MBA
Every year, a group of professionals come together at CEIBS in Shanghai to live the life of an MBA student. We found out what they get up to
There’s a humidity in the Shanghai summer air that makes your clothes feel heavy. But inside the Commons Building on the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) campus, air conditioning chills a large group of people meeting for the first time.
It’s July 2nd 2019 and it’s the start of another CEIBS MBA bootcamp. Now in its seventh year, the mini MBA experience is an opportunity for participants to dip their toes in the water, readying them to start their MBA.
Skip ahead to find out what happened during our four days on the bootcamp:
Who are the bootcampers?
They come to sample life in Shanghai, attend lectures by CEIBS revered faculty, and visit companies like Tencent, PepsiCo, and Huawei.
Limited spaces are available for a select number of Chinese and international applicants who are enrolled in, or have graduated from, an accredited undergraduate university program anywhere in the world. They must also be thinking about an MBA in the near future and have a minimum of one year’s work experience.
This year’s bootcamp totalled 90 professionals, up from about 70 last year. Nearly 45% were female, and over half (52.2%) were international. Their average age was 27, and they had been working for around three-and-a-half years.
The balance between domestic and international students echoes the real CEIBS MBA. The current MBA class is 40% female, with 36.6% of students from overseas. 17 countries are represented.
Students from this year’s bootcamp who enrol at CEIBS are also set to earn circa $177,126 per year after graduating. Graduates see their salaries increase on average by 183%.
Where did the bootcampers come from?
After an introduction to the CEIBS MBA, students launched into classes. For the first time this year, the students were split into two groups. One group started with power and leadership by professor Emily David, the other disruptive market positioning by professor Hyun Young Park.
There were also classes in managing human resources, delivered by professor Byron Lee, and entrepreneurship management by Shameen Prashantham.
As a homage to Shanghai’s growing openness to the West, iced coffees from Starbucks and Costa coffee sat perched on the desks. Echoing a real MBA classroom, discussion and group work abounded. It’s what Emily David (pictured below, right) calls a teaser.
“I think it’s for those who don’t come from a business background," she said. "It’s good to see what the strategy, language, and topics are like […] to get them excited.
“It shows the caliber of the faculty, and the [students] can try a bit, and learn a bit without the pressure that goes with [the MBA].”
In Hyun’s class, she challenged each student’s comment, explaining that a key part of an MBA is to introduce students to critical thinking early on, making them think.
“One of the jobs the MBA helps them to do long term is improve critical thinking skills,” she said. “It’s not just accepting thoughts and giving airtime, but it’s about pushing back.”
Tomihuro Fushino, a bootcamper from Japan, explained that the bootcamp gave him an understanding of what a real MBA looks like.
Fellow bootcamper, Enrique Serrano Munoz (pictured below, right), from Spain, agreed. He thought the CEIBS MBA bootcamp was a great option for foreigners who have not been to Asia. “It’s a new door that opens possibilities,” he said, “you get an opportunity to see what is coming.”
It’s also a hotbed for networking. Bring 90 professionals from around the world into a room anywhere and ideas will flow. For Ghanaian Joana Chemel, that was a valuable element of the camp. “I really like the people,” she said.
“The lectures have also given me a good show of how the program actually is. They have a very practical approach to learning. It was a good opportunity for me to explore what CEIBS feels like.”
Any top MBA program will give students in depth experiential learning. On the bootcamp, students visit local companies, find out the opportunities available for MBA graduates, and why the CEIBS MBA can be their path to recruitment. On day two, students went to Tencent, Huawei, and PepsiCo.
At Tencent, William Yan—a CEIBS MBA grad from 2018 who works for Tencent as an operations manager—told students that the MBA changed his life.
William, who used to be a financial journalist and majored in Russian literature and language at undergrad level, added that the MBA gave him a holistic understanding of business management.
“It cleared my mind and gave me a very complete way of thinking,” he said.
His advice to the prospective students was to look at the MBA as an equation. The current you + an MBA = the future you. But you need to think long and hard about what you want to do after you graduate.
The MBA, added William, won’t hold your hand through the process. It’s down to you what you make of it, how you leverage it to achieve your goals.
One key piece of advice when you arrive, he concluded, is to know what you can abandon, and focus primarily on what goes in lockstep with your goals. Focus on everything that’s linked to what you want to do.
The biggest growth in the world right now is coming from emerging economies, according to the IMF. On day three, Richard Carney (pictured below, right), who teaches a module on China’s rise and America’s decline at CEIBS, led a class exploring China in a global context.
When asked why now is the time to study an MBA in China, the answer came from the data—around 60% of global GDP growth is coming from emerging economies.
“Over all the emerging economies, China is the most important, and it’s driving all of that growth,” Richard said.
If you want to go to the places with the best opportunities, he added, you go to emerging economies. The CEIBS mantra, 'China Depth, Global Breadth', teaches students how to optimize the potential of those opportunities, bridging the gap between the east and west.
The final night of the bootcamp this year saw students take a boat cruise down the Huangpu River. There was mingling, picture taking, and the sound of chopsticks knocking together over various Chinese dishes.
The boat also passed the famous night-time Shanghai skyline. On the shoreline there was the flashing of a thousand tourist cameras.
There was the eternal presence of Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and digital ads spanning the façade of skyscrapers left, right, and center. Shanghai feels alive, and things are moving at an incredible rate in the city.
On board, there was a buzz in the air, the sound of new friendships, but also old acquaintances—a handful of CEIBS MBA alumni attended, there to offer advice and show the impact the CEIBS MBA has on your career.
Among them were Diego Garcia Fernandez—who graduated from CEIBS in 2017 and now works as a senior product manager for Ant Financial, the financial affiliate of Alibaba—and Jason Know, who was an officer in the Singaporean Navy before the MBA and now works as an associate marketing director for GSK.
The CEIBS MBA bootcamp offers a glimpse into what you could have. Like any MBA program though, it’s a platform from which you have to leap yourself. Put the work in, and the reward will come.
“China is at the most exciting time of its history for business opportunities,” Diego pointed out. “It is not only attracting a lot of global attention and investment but also starting to export its technology to the world.
"It's the perfect place to be for dynamic business opportunities.”