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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Petranik: All of you except for Anthia Chen worked for a few years before entering the MBA program. Was that a good move?

     My previous work experience was in a startup, which was
     invaluable ... but when you’re hitting the job market ...
     they tend to favor bigger organizational experience. 
     —Josiah Nishita

Nishita: It definitely was a good move. If I could maybe modify anything, I would have gotten more experience in a bigger organization. My previous work experience was in a startup, which was invaluable, because you get hands-on with everything, whether it's operations or customers or financials. But when you're hitting the job market after, and especially if you're trying to get into bigger organizations, they tend to favor bigger organizational experience rather than startup experience.

Goto: When I finished my undergraduate studies, I felt like I was done with school. A large reason why I went back was because I realized the value of higher education while I was in the workforce. So, if I went straight into the MBA out of undergrad, I don't think I would have had the motivation to keep going.

     As I advanced my career, the more I realized the difference between
     management and leadership. 
     —Emre Tuncbilek

Tuncbilek: I strongly advise anybody considering an MBA to work for at least three to five years, struggle with business life, maybe get beaten up, because then you will be able to ask the correct questions and you will be able to learn. When you learn something about, let's say, organizational behavior, you realize, "Oh, I had that problem with that employee who I used to manage. I know what he is talking about."

Chen: I agree that it would be helpful to work a few years before getting into an MBA program. I didn't and, in my first year, I took an organizational behavior class and that class was miserable. I had no idea what those people were talking about. But I've gained practical experience with local companies and I think I'm good now.

Petranik: You are from Taiwan. Is your plan to stay in Hawaii?

     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.
     —Yu-Hsuan “Anthia” Chen

Chen: I plan to stay in Hawaii or go to the U.S. Mainland for one or two years to gain more experience with American companies before I go back to Taiwan to handle my father's business, a medical-supply business. I want to take it international, starting with the Mainland Chinese market first.

Petranik: Emre, are you staying in Hawaii?

Tuncbilek: Yes, I am definitely staying in Hawaii. It's a great business community here. It's almost like a family. When I first came to Hawaii, it was August 2009, and I didn't know anybody. I just got off the plane, went to school, started to meet people and, today, I have more than 100 business cards from people I know personally. The more you meet people, the more friends you have. I know from my personal experience that it's not that easy in other locations to carry that aloha spirit. It creates a synergy of businesses and that's what I really love.

Petranik: The cost of living is a huge issue in Hawaii and young people, especially, wonder: Will I ever be able to afford a home here?

Nishita: We've had multiple discussions with our colleagues about what it costs to live in Hawaii and it is definitely discouraging. But there are a lot of people who are trying to get Hawaii back on the map in terms of business and investments and stimulating the economy, so hopefully that will pay off.

     Maybe your job here doesn’t pay as much as
     elsewhere, maybe you don’t buy a big house,
     but you get to live here with your family in this
     beautiful place and do work that you like.
     —Ngoc Nguyen

Nguyen: To me, it's a matter of making trade offs. If you choose to live in Hawaii, you get to live in a beautiful place with your family and kids. Maybe your job here doesn't pay as much as elsewhere, maybe you don't go shopping at high-end stores or don't buy a big house, but you get to live here with your family in this beautiful place and do work that you like.

Petranik: What about support from your spouse or partner?

Goto: I'm so grateful to have a wonderful spouse and partner in my life. He has been invaluable in making the MBA process better for me. In our first year, especially, it was very stressful. There was a lot of work, I wasn't earning any money and not making dinner anymore, and you feel like you're not being a good spouse. He washed dishes and cooked and cleaned and he was there when I was stressed out or I questioned whether I made the right choice in leaving the work environment to go back to school.

Petranik: What do you want to be the main achievement of your business career?

Tuncbilek: I definitely want to be a venture capitalist based in Hawaii and to empower business startups.

Johns: My big, audacious goal is to have my own foundation so I can inspire positive change for other people and for Hawaii. There is so much opportunity for Hawaii to be a model for energy efficiency and for sustainability. Sustainability for me incorporates both social and environmental change.

Nishita: My wife and I were talking about what we wanted to do and our goals align around children. We love working with children and we both have experience in volunteer opportunities and coaching, but our main focus would be to improve public education on Maui because Maui holds a dear place in my heart. There is so much talent there and it needs to be fostered better in the education system.

Nguyen: My dream is to go back to Vietnam, open a university that incorporates the American higher-education system into the Vietnamese way and provide Vietnamese students with access to higher education.

Petranik: Thank you so much. Good luck in your careers.


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