Hopes & Dreams

Six MBA students from the class of 2011 talk with Hawaii Business about the most important things they learned, career plans and big audacious goals

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     Photos: Rae Huo

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Steve Petranik, editor of Hawaii Business

Yu-Hsuan “Anthia” Chen, 25
Born: Taiwan
MBA: HPU, marketing
Plans after graduation:
Start career in Hawaii, then return to Taiwan to help father’s business

Maria Goto, 26
Born: Honolulu
MBA: UH, general
Plans after graduation:
Work for N&K CPAs

Kandice Johns, 29
Born: Wailuku, Maui
MBA: UH, general
Plans after graduation:
Possibly work for Ulupono Initiative

Ngoc Nguyen, 28
Born: Hanoi, Vietnam
MBA: UH, entrepreneurship
Plans after graduation:
Work in Hawaii for a few years before returning to Vietnam

Josiah Nishita, 25
Born: Wailuku, Maui
MBA: UH, entrepreneurship
Plans after graduation:
Work in Hawaii

Emre Tuncbilek, 30
Born: Isparta, Turkey
MBA: HPU, marketing
Plans after graduation:
Join Hawaii’s business community


Petranik: Why did you seek an MBA?

Nguyen: They ask that question during our interview process. I was four years into my career and I felt there was still much more that I hadn't learned from my job, which I loved. I thought that if I go back to school using the experience from my job I could understand more.

Goto: I wanted to get the credits for a CPA license and I decided to go through the MBA program rather than the master's in accountancy, because I wanted to expand my knowledge in management and to have broader technical knowledge and explore changing careers if something interested me. I wanted to market myself better and be a more valuable employee.

     My background was in psychology, so that was a vastly different
     experience, but I definitely see a need for those [financial and
     accounting] skills to run a successful business.
     –Kandice Johns

Johns: It stemmed from my work experience, which, after college, was in nonprofits specific to HIV and AIDS, and from the frustrations I experienced seeing a lack of capacity within nonprofits and a need for more business skills. I also want to further the impact I make in the community by incorporating my skills and leadership into a corporate social-responsibility role on the for-profit side or in nonprofits.

Tuncbilek: If, five years ago, somebody had told me I was going to leave the workforce, spend all my savings on a master's program, I would have laughed, because I am a very practical person. I learn by doing, I don't learn from books. As I advanced my career, the more I realized the difference between management and leadership, and I really wanted to get international experience and to get more leadership skills. I'm really happy to be here and getting my MBA degree.

Chen: A master's degree was always on my life list. I wanted to finish all the education I could possibly have at the beginning of my life. That's why, after I graduated from college with a finance degree, I entered the MBA program right away.

Petranik: What are the most important things you've learned?

Johns: For me, some of the most important things, and the most challenging, are the financial and accounting skills. My background was in psychology, so that was a vastly different experience, but I definitely see a need for those skills to run a successful business. Another important thing is marketing, to be able to understand what a strong role that plays regardless of the business you're in. Lastly, sustainability is something we've been focusing on lately and that is what I was already passionate about. It was also good to learn what other students and faculty are interested in.

Goto: The greatest thing I learned is teamwork. It was a challenge working with different personalities. Everyone in the program has different work ethics and different priorities at any given time. Even though the work always gets done, you have some team members who are procrastinators or want to get things done early, and so balancing that was a challenge. My work experience was with a small public accounting firm and I worked pretty independently. It was rewarding to recognize other people for their different skill sets even if they're not like you.

Petranik: Did you pick the teams?

     (In teamwork,) you have to learn to deal with different
     personalities and respect each individual, and learn
     to perform well with what you’re given.
     —Maria Goto

Goto: They were assigned, because when you're working, you can't pick who you work with. You have to learn to deal with different personalities and respect each individual, and learn to perform well with what you're given.

Nguyen: One of the main things I learned was to manage my time between school full time, a part-time internship and having a family with a 3-year-old. I didn't know that I could do what I was able to do. With the help of my family, I worked hard during the week and, on the weekend, I was able to spend time with my family. No homework. That was a very rewarding experience.

Chen: The most valuable thing I learned was practical experience. Our professors brought all kinds of local businesses into our classroom, made us appreciate their problems, and we helped make business plans and marketing plans for them.

Tuncbilek: My first and second years were very different for me. The first year was all about validating my work experience with the formal education, because I learned important perspectives about business. In practical work, you usually have to ignore the theory. The second year, it was more about understanding the creative part of marketing, because, throughout my life, I always worked on the analytical side of things. I have a computer-engineering education and I have a business-administration undergrad degree. Now I'm majoring in e-marketing and strategic marketing. It opened up a side of my brain that I never used before.

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