Feature Stories


Journey of Futurepreneur: Where to Go After University? Part 2: The Workforce

Last month, we had featured Colleen from the class of 2020, who decided to pursue a Master's degree when she was at a crossroad wondering whether to go to graduate school or enter the workforce. (CLICK here to read!). In the current issue, we invited another fresh graduate, Zoe SO (BBA OM & MARK), to share her decision to join the workforce and how the university experiences prepared her for the current role.

After completing her BBA degree in Operations Management and Marketing, Zoe joined a multinational company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as an Assistant Digital Marketing Consultant for Google Ads. If there is one thing that defined her time at HKUST Business School, it is EXPOSURE.

Eyes on the World in Classroom

One of HKUST Business School's education pillars is to prepare our graduates for opportunities in every part of the world. From the flourishing international student community, faculty worldwide, constantly expanding partnerships, to the curriculum that promotes international learning, students are all armed with both business acumen and a global perspective.

Recalling her four years of study, Zoe was particularly impressed by a marketing course that sparked her interest in cultural and socioeconomic influences on business strategy. “It was a class on marketing. I was fascinated by the concept of customization in international marketing. (editor’s note: a country-tailored strategy that emphasizes cross-border differences, due to culture and other forces, in the needs and wants of target consumers. Refinement and adjustments to be made to match local market conditions.)”

Like many business courses, the class put Zoe and her peers in the sea of up-to-date and diverse cases from companies worldwide. A great product and a powerful marketing program are commonly perceived as the keys to successful marketing. However, the class brought Zoe to the next level to comprehend the essence of cultural grounding in business success. The inspiration from the class did not stop at the academic level.

"I never realized that customization matters so much in business, especially in international market expansion strategy. The course [also] inspired me in my career planning, as I realized that I want something new, forward-thinking, and more about different cultures and languages at work.", she said.

From the Mini Globe to the Big World

To get the most out of international learning experiences, Zoe further developed her interest and understanding of global culture through student leadership programs.

"My time as a Business Community Cohort (BCC) leader gave me a great platform to host a range of events for non-local students, such as the International Food Fair where participating students from more than ten countries cooked their traditional cuisine at our mentoring center." The joy of food brings cultures and people together and initiated conversations from cooking tips, the origin of food to history, customs, taboos, etc., of students' home countries.

Later, a university-wide student leadership program gave Zoe her first study-abroad trip to Moscow, Russia. In this one-week travel, Zoe exchanged views about leadership developments with foreign student leaders, joined cultural and activity courses, and toured around the city. One incident that happened in Russia shaped Zoe's study plan later. "Before the trip, I thought that English was a universal first or second language. When I was in Russia, the taxi driver doesn't speak English, so we had to rely on Google Translate to communicate. The taxi trip pushed me to think about learning, at least, some basic phrases in foreign languages before the next overseas study."

Zoe recognizes that language is not only a communication tool. It is also the basis for a deep understanding of cultural backgrounds and perceptions. After returning to campus, amongst many credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing foreign language classes on offer, she studied three languages – Spanish, German, Japanese – by graduation.

Another "three" in Zoe's business studies were the school-level exchange studies she had. After the trip to Russia, she spent a winter in Estonia, a semester in the Netherlands and a summer in Brunei as an exchange student.

"If I weren't in HKUST, I wouldn't have imagined myself picking up multiple languages or traveling to 16 European countries while on exchange. One of the takeaways from these eye-opening experiences is learning to appreciate differences. I observed that people could tackle problems in a very different way. I learned to tune my expectations, respect and appreciate different working styles, problem-solving approaches, and pace of life, which I now have to do daily in my current job." (Photos below: Zoe on the road.)

“Stress and Tension” Earns Recognition

HKUST is well-known for its academic rigor and excellence. Zoe got her first taste of the "Stress and Tension" in the residential business camp in her high-school years. "Everyone was busy, and the environment was quite competitive both academically and non-academically.", she admitted.

Yet, Zoe left the camp with "a good impression of the University's environment and people" in her words. "I really missed the sea view from the library! Even people around me were studying, I still felt quite relaxed. I also missed the sunrise at the seafront."

When asked if she had any hesitation to “return to” the Business School because of the notorious well-packed university life, she sees that as training her mentality, getting used to a hectic schedule with effective time management, and thriving instead of dwelling on being stressed.

"This [competitive] environment helps me in my career now by increasing my productivity [under stress].", Zoe said. Interestingly, aside from the top academic rankings, she notes that being top in "Stress and Tension" often pays off when going for interviews and job hunting since employers think UST graduates are well-trained for great stress.

At a Crossroad: Postgraduate School or Going Straight to the Workforce

Between going into the workforce or pursuing graduate studies in Europe, Zoe's time at the Business School informed her decisions well. The exposure and learning she received gave her the confidence to start a new chapter in life. She chose to leave her student life and landed a job in digital marketing in Malaysia. "I want to work and understand better the skills that I need to equip myself with. I also need to brush up my language abilities before pursuing a Master's!" (Photo on the right: Zoe in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she embarked on her career.)

When asked about how her studies had practically helped her come to the present day, she said, "In University, we learned how to implement campaigns and better understand customers. The internships I completed, especially the one in a leading property developer, were an early training of applying data analysis to real business operations. In my current position, I can utilize problem-solving skills coupled with the knowledge I acquired to optimize budget allocations and operations and provide advice on improving a campaign's performance. I still have a lot to learn, as digital marketing platforms have so much information, but it is quite exciting to learn new things."

All in all, the resource-rich University and the Business School are always supportive of nurturing students' international-mindedness. Zoe's journey with us definitely broadened her perspective and horizon. Yet, opportunities only come to prepared minds who act to grab the chances. At the end of the interview, Zoe sincerely advised current students, "Just try! You wouldn't know [your limits] if you don't try more things when you are young!" She also encourages the upcoming graduates to stay positive and embrace industry changes with enthusiasm for learning – her another critical takeaway from University life.

The Other Side of Zoe

Putting on her active-wear, Zoe transforms from a diligent girl in class into a sports enthusiast who has been representing Hong Kong to compete in World, Asian and National rope skipping competitions. 17 scholarships and awards recognized her accomplishments during her time at HKUST. 

"HKUST's sports scholarships are offered a wider range of sports, such as ice skating, than other universities. Elite players are also eligible for scholarship as an individual even if we don't have a team.", Zoe said. Amateurs are also welcome to try out various team sports such as the rowing and dragon boat teams.

Carrying the University's entrepreneurial spirit and a solid dedication to promote rope skipping to the HKUST community, she founded a rope skipping club with the possibility of the first among all local universities in 2016!