Jon Sparks on The Reality Behind Starting Your Own MNC

By Loïc Morel


We had the opportunity to hear Jon Sparks in person. He's a seasoned businessperson from Australia who built 4 companies over the last 20 years in Japan. Most impressive of all is the fact that he landed in Japan without network nor knowledge of the language.

With all the glamour that surrounds entrepreneurship nowadays, Jon gave us with a straightforward and no-nonsense speech. He showed us a very insightful and pragmatic reality about the difficulties and very low success rate for setting up a successful company.

Identify the right co-founder is the mandatory step of a successful collaboration. If no rule is set at the beginning, things can go from extremely well to extremely badly. The involvement our life in this huge project is always underestimated. Our friends, families and fools that lend us money to setup the first stage of the development shall be aware of it.

The cross-countries regulations analysis and the company structure are also part of the job. Jon explained to us with a smile that it is the kind of homework you take care during your free time, because during the day, you have a company to run. On things that keep him up at night, Jon mentioned the thought of feeding 1,000 employees and their family. He was especially insightful in the sense that he described it as an ethical duty to take care of those who work for you.

All in all, Jon Sparks shared with us on what all the steps that need to be taken care of to transform a part-time side job to a successful multi-national company. Luck will also be a critical factor.


MOSAIC "Meet the CEOs" Event

Story by Vishakha Gupta

Photos by Pimolpat (Pauline) Thanusutiyabhorn


MOSAIC organized the “Meet the CEOs” event at theDesk, a co-working space in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. As part of the event, 2 successful businessmen: Mr. Thomas Hui, Co-founder of theDesk and Mr. Anuruk Karoonyavanich, the CEO of DBS Asia Capital, from both the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds were invited to share their diverse experiences.

The event started with a mini-tour around the co-working space. This was followed by a short interview of Mr. Thomas Hui, who shared about his entrepreneurial journey and his success story of running his co-working spaces across 4 locations in Hong Kong. In addition, he spoke about the importance of creative thinking in running a business and what are the key success factors for being an entrepreneur. To hear Mr. Hui share his professional journey and experiences was both inspiring and insightful for the over 25 attendees who were part of this event.

After Mr. Hui’s interview, Mr. Anuruk (Art) Karoonyavanich, who has served in various senior positions within banks such as Nomura and Standard Chartered before leading DBS Asia Capital, shared his experience managing and leading in a multi-cultural environment. Having worked across multiple geographies, Art shared his perspective on diversity in the business world. He also discussed at length about his professional journey to the top and how he developed himself over the years to be more of a generalist, a quality necessary for leaders to work successfully with cross-functional teams. Understanding Art’s journey was extremely helpful, especially for all those in audience who wanted to craft a successful career similar to his within the financial services industry.

While both Mr. Hui and Mr. Art are pursuing different career paths today, what was interesting to learn was how similar their perspectives were on the importance of diversity in the business world. All in all, the event was a success as each one in the audience had something to take away from the experiences of Mr. Hui and Mr. Art.


IESE – Roland Berger International MBA Case Competition

It takes a lot of guts to stand in front of a crowd of people you’ve barely known for two days and talk for 15 straight minutes. It takes even more guts to convince people about the best way to improve a company while its CEO is sitting right in front of you. But the HKUST team did exactly that, and was crowned winners for the 2019 IESE Roland Berger International MBA Case Competition.

HKUST Team Changmin, Theodric, Ruby, and Alexander

HKUST Team Changmin, Theodric, Ruby, and Alexander

How did we get this far? We were a bunch of students who got together and thought we’d make a good team, and tried competing for fun in our Internal Case Competition. It turned out that we actually had some real potential when we placed high enough to get funding support to a case competition of our choice. 

Our team chose IESE Roland Berger because hey, it’s Barcelona, we could mix in some Europe time during the adjacent Chinese New Year break too, right? While that much was true, we also spent countless hours during EPS and during our own free time to do our own practice cases, trying to work out whether or not we can make a defensible recommendation and present it in the limited time available to us. 

The IESE staff called me “Alenxander” the entire time I was there

The IESE staff called me “Alenxander” the entire time I was there

The competition was grueling and a true test of our stamina, grit, and teamwork, but the Roland Berger staff also kept us entertained. We had lavish dinners with generous portions of calçot and other meats, though the HKUST team quickly gained a reputation for being the hungriest of the teams that were there. 

The guys were definitely eager to fill their stomachs.  Some of us were even willing to have a bit of wine, but definitely do not drink too much before the competition is over!

The guys were definitely eager to fill their stomachs.

Some of us were even willing to have a bit of wine, but definitely do not drink too much before the competition is over!

During the presentations, we were able to make full use of the skills taught to us from EPS, including business problem solving, marketing, financial analysis, making opening gambits, and Q&A preparation. All of the practice paid off as we were given the W above nine other prestigious schools, a first for HKUST at this competition! We were especially proud that we were able to win this competition without having any prior work experience in consulting.

After the competition, we had nonstop wine tasting with the other business school teams, along with unhealthily large portions of paella to keep our stomachs padded with carbs. Finally, we ended with a spin around the Barcelona club scene, where what happened there stays there 🤐

We could not have gotten this far without help from our advisor, Professor Chris Doran, as well as Kid and Diana from the 2017 Intake, who shared their insights on how best to prepare. Here’s to hoping we keep the success going!

Team HKUST on top of IESE Business School Building (mostly) giving out hearts

Team HKUST on top of IESE Business School Building (mostly) giving out hearts

GM Club - Alumni Panel Discussion

By Harshit Arora

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“If only I knew what to do next to become a corporate leader” is something many students have in mind through their MBA journey. We thought why not ask someone who faced the same challenge and came out of it successfully!

The General Management Club, recently, hosted an Alumni Panel Discussion with two of the HKUST MBA’s alumni, Derek Lowe (Director of Product Lead, Lalamove) & JP Stevenson (Senior Manager in Competitive Intelligence, Li & Fung). The event was organized to understand the MBA experience of the alumni, the challenges they faced & how they came out of it to become successful managers. 

Through a series of questions put forward to the alumni, we understood the following from an insightful conversation:

·      A good speaker goes a long way

One of the key strengths of a manager is to communicate his/her thoughts effectively in meetings in front of senior management. The MBA program provides numerous opportunities to present in public and one should take every possible chance to speak up & hone this skill.

·      UST courses help in future

JP & Derek, both emphasised on how the skills they gained during their MBA course helpthem frequently in their jobs. For example, the course on ‘Venture Capital & Private Equity’ by Prof. Larry Franklin greatly helped Derek in expanding his firm from few 20s to 300+ in just a few years.

Also, the frameworks taught by Prof. Chris Doran courses on structured problem solving still contribute to JP’s toolkit of analysing Li & Fung’s competition. 


·      Be flexible in job search

As focussed as we are on the type of job we want, we should not be very rigid to ignore any opportunity outside the target area. Derek’s example of looking for a finance-focussed role and eventually moving into product management in a start-up, motivates us to try different things and be flexible in finding the right job.


·      Triple switch is difficult but not impossible


Many of us, after our MBA, aspire to make the triple switch – a switch in location, industry & function. As difficult as it sounds to make it work, we can eventually reach there withthe right approach and mindset. Through the discussion, we understood how a UST alumnus with finance background, wanting to work in Gaming industry, started off in a tech firm and eventually moulded his profile to land a job in Gaming.


·      Network Network Network

In Hong Kong, corporates are willing to meet you and share their knowledge on the company, their role & job application tips. It is thus essential to leverage this opportunity in learning different profiles and making connections that can help you get the desired job.   

We hope that the discussion provided the participants with new insights that may help them make the most of their MBA! 

Here is a glimpse of the memorable event 


Mochi Pounding event - The Japan Club

By Yo

Have you ever seen this kind of picture or image before?

Mochitsuki (Mochi Pounding) is originally came from the culture of “Praying for a good rice harvest” and “Praying for a good health of family”.

 As you know, Japan has long rice cultivation history from our ancient and rice harvest would be heavily depended on the weather each year. We have a custom to do a rice-cake offering with round Mochi as the picture below in the New Year to thank God for a good harvest previous year and to pray for a good harvest on the coming year.

  By eating Mochi(rice cake), we will also pray for a good health of family and get vitality from God.

It is very traditional to do Mochitsuki (Mochi Pounding) on special occasions with family, relatives, and neighbor.

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This time Japan Club rent the Usu (臼, the bowl) and Kine (杵, the Hammer)from Hong Kong Judo Association and hold the event on 4thJanuary for our classmates to enjoy the experience and have a good start of year 2019.

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We used sticky rice to make Mochi paste for pounding and our classmates and even school staffs enjoyed the fresh pounded Mochi with different sources (Sweet soy beans paste(grinded, not grinded), sweet Edamame paste, Soy source +sugar with seaweed, Grinded Soy Beans + sugar).


Nowadays, even Japanese don’t do Mochi pounding and not sure about the origin about it. It was an experience to recapture our own culture as Japanese.

Hope everyone enjoyed the “Pounding Mochi” experience and the texture of Mochi. 

Also hope everyone will have a good health and great year 2019!!

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MOSAIC - roundtable summary


 More than 95% of the full-time cohort from intake 2018 are international students and most of us are hoping to land a career in Hong Kong or China after graduation. For the Non-Chinese speaking students, one of the top questions on their minds is: how can one launch a successful career in Hong Kong/China for Non-Chinese Speaker?  MOSAIC hosted an interactive yet informative roundtable session in November to provide some insight to that question.  We invited Harsh Mody from intake 2017, currently working in Hong Kong and John Timms, an Executive Director at a Global Investment Bank to share their insights and experiences on how to secure and excel in a career in Hong Kong without being able to communicate in Chinese.  


Q: How to differentiate yourself in the Hong Kong job market?


A: You should focus on the part that you can perform well rather than the language limitations and highlight the different set of expertise you can bring to the company.


Q: Is MNC the only choice for Non-Chinese speakers?


A: There are Chinese companies like Wanda and Alibaba, which are aggressively expanding their overseas operations, and they are seeking international talents. One of my MBA classmates from intake 2017 who is an Indian national worked for a Chinese Conglomerate in M&A division, helping the firm to negotiate the deals outflow from China to India.


Q: How does a Non-Chinese speaker make the most of his/her limited time in the MBA program to launch a successful career in Hong Kong or probably even in China?


A: Focus on learning and development, although learning mandarin is often recommended to foreigners especially when they want to land a job in HK/china, but you still need to be realistic about yourself because this is a multi- year project and you need to know how it is going to fit in your life.   Apart from learning mandarin there are other things you can learn and develop as well, you might forget most of it, but it is the learning process which trained your brain and your way of thinking, that can add great value to your career afterwards.


Do not comprise on your goal!  Even if you cannot land your dream job right after graduation, still do something that you have passion for, it will set you on the right path for your next role.  


Q: How can we enter the “Chinese society” in the office without speaking Chinese?  If something important are decided in Chinese behind you, what do you do? What kind of jobs definitely needs us to speak Chinese language?


A: During my MBA internship I worked for a financial consulting firm in Shanghai where most of the office speaks Chinese only. My strategy is to find other part that I can add value, and tried to develop my original role into something else – I have identified a new client segment of foreign institutional clients (Private Equity mainly) and produced a strategic roadmap on expansion into this sector, and they offered me a full-time position upon graduation

Q: What are the challenges with regards to landing a consulting role/front-end role with companies in Hong Kong?  How does one differentiate oneself as a Non-Chinese on the CV and during interviews?


A: Do your research on the hiring manager and the team, customize your application, read annual report (if applicable), these things matter and will make you stand out - you will be surprised how little people usually prepare for their interviews!


Q: How do you communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English well?


A: Be aware of the cultural differences and respect others’ cultures.


Q: For jobs in Hong Kong which explicitly state that Mandarin is not a requirement, does there still exist an underlying bias against non-Mandarin speakers?  If so, how do we tackle such a bias?


A: If it is due to the job nature, i.e. you will need to speak to Chinese corporates or do research in the Chinese market, then it is not a bias. But I suggest even for the Chinese speaking only role, if you are interested in the firm/industry, still apply for it, because you never know what might lead you to by applying for this role, for example, the recruiter or hiring manager might find your profile suits other roles in the firms that does not require Chinese.


Content contributors :Aina Zeng & Maggie Geng

Event photographer:Lucy Wang





MBA experience: extra spicy please

People tend to say the MBA is an unforgettable experience. However, what exactly is so memorable? Is it the time spent in class learning (or in some case, relearning) business subjects? Is it the all-nighters used for last-minute exam studying? Or the countless networking sessions one has attended?

2 months into the program, I could already see the one noteworthy thing I'm not going to forget anytime soon: the friendships I've built with my classmates.

Organizations know how the bonds between people and the informal networks that get created can be powerful. That's why there are so many team-building activities out there. Fortunately, you don't always need something fancy (and pricey) to create lasting relationships. There's only one secret ingredient to it: go through an intense/adventurous moment together.

On September 14, that's exactly what we did by adding some extra spice into our MBA experience: 5 braves souls (including myself) partook to nothing less than the HKUST MBA Doubly Spicy Ramen Challenge! The concept was easy: finish a pack of ramen as fast as possible, and you can't drink or eat anything for the next 2 minutes (we also live-broadcasted for our mates who had to be in class). Eating the ramen was a piece of cake (at least in my case it was), but I can't describe enough how hellish the waiting time for water afterwards was.

We don't recommend trying this at home. But then again, if you were to do it, maybe you'll also build yourself a memory to reckon with. Just make sure you do it with your MBA buddies.

Learning to build social bridges is important, because at the end of the day, business is about human relationships!




Where Leaders are Made

The HKUST MBA Alumni Toastmasters Club had a Demo Meeting for people who wanted to try their hand at public speaking. Toastmasters provides an education platform for developing communication and leadership skills in a supportive peer environment. Members can take part in delivering prepared or impromptu speeches, while also working behind the scenes in planning, organization, team building, and time management. 

The meeting started with an introduction of Toastmasters to the visitors. Members would be able to select a Pathway, which provided a series of projects and activities catered towards a specific goal. Goals to select from include Leadership Development, Persuasive Influence, Strategic Relationships, and Visionary Communication. A member of the HKUST MBA Alumni Toastmasters Club, Sim, gave a prepared speech on the use of body language as part of her Pathway on Dynamic Leadership. She even whipped out a giant pair of purple glasses as a prop to keep the audience engaged!

Table Topics, or impromptu speeches, were a way to talk “off the cuff” about a random topic with no time for preparation. Students from both the MBA Full-Time and MBA for Professionals joined to try their hand at this, with Alex, Amit, and Janson taking part. Our very own Alex took home the Best Table Topics Speaker Award, as voted for by the audience. It turns out that even impromptu speaking can be improved with practice! 

Feedback was provided to all the speakers by evaluators, highlighting strengths that made the speeches memorable as well as providing suggestions for making the speeches even better. The Time Keeper, Grammarian, and Ah Counter provided reports recognizing speakers who made good use of time, used creative language, and minimized making unnecessary sounds. It was a great learning experience for all, providing an excellent platform and learning opportunity for people to practice speaking in public.

Group photo with all the participants, members, and guests.

Group photo with all the participants, members, and guests.

The President of the HKUST MBA Alumni Toastmasters Club, Mercy Liu, opening the event with an introduction of the club

The President of the HKUST MBA Alumni Toastmasters Club, Mercy Liu, opening the event with an introduction of the club

An introduction for the club

An introduction for the club

The agenda for the evening’s meeting

The agenda for the evening’s meeting

Club member Sim giving an impassioned talk on body language as part of the speech. Love those glasses!

Club member Sim giving an impassioned talk on body language as part of the speech. Love those glasses!

Club member Michael starts off Table Topics with a randomly drawn topic

Club member Michael starts off Table Topics with a randomly drawn topic

Janson from MBA for Professionals presenting his Table Topic

Janson from MBA for Professionals presenting his Table Topic

Alex from MBA Full-Time presented with the Best Table Topics Speaker award and prize

Alex from MBA Full-Time presented with the Best Table Topics Speaker award and prize

Club information for anyone who wishes to join next time

Club information for anyone who wishes to join next time

by Alexander Ip, VP Alumni Relations of HKUST MBAA 2018-2019