The China Careers Trek was a student-led initiative, jointly between the incoming Cambridge MBA class and MBAs from Oxford Said Business School. It allowed us to network with local business leaders, gain insights into regional business practices, and mingle with incoming MBA students from our class.

Our trip started in Hong-Kong, which to many, is a bridge that connects East and West. On my first day, the city was busy as usual and fireworks marked the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the handover to China. The feel I had in the city was similar to what first time visitors encounter in New York, relentless work ethics, busy streets, lively nightlife and a superb range of restaurants – there is even a Time-Square. Our first formal event was held on Sunday night at a restaurant in the Wai Chan area. It was a great ice-breaker and allowed us to discuss the company visits we had over the following six days.

The next day had our first company visit was at CKPD, one of the largest property developers in Hong Kong. In the afternoon, we visited Morgan Stanley and then headed for a couple of presentations on Private Equity in China by Patrick IP, Investment Managing Director at the China-ASEAN Fund, and on Transaction Services by Keith Tsui, Partner at PWC. Following both presentations, we had the opportunity to network and interact with many PE practitioners based in Hong Kong. The key take-away from these visits is that there is clearly a demand for both local and foreign talent in Hong Kong’s dynamic economy, with the added benefit that English is language of business in the region.

As we moved into China from Hong Kong, key differences started to appear. I could barely get by without basic knowledge of Mandarin, business remains local but with global ambitions and that there is a relentless sense of progress everywhere.

Shenzhen is home to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, China Vanke and China Merchants Bank, as well as the headquarters of numerous home grown multinational high-tech companies such as DJI, Tencent and Huawei. We had the opportunity to visit each of these companies, some of which are amongst the most valuable in the world by both market value and revenue.

The trek allowed us to appreciate the leading technological and business development in the region. Future business leaders will need local networks and knowledge to take advantage of this progress, as an MBA candidate this experience will be invaluable. Ultimately, the trek enriched my cultural and business understanding of the region and gave me a chance to meet some of my future classmates.