Q&A with Jack Huang on How the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA has Built His Career Confidence


There are many who would agree that quitting a steady job and starting an EMBA program while looking for a new job is a big risk. But for Jack Huang, it was a well-executed one, and attending the ESSEC and Mannheim Executive MBA (EMBA) program at ESSEC Asia-Pacific has made it well worth it.

With over thirteen years in the public sector—five spent in the Ministry of Defence and seven at the Ministry of National Development in Singapore—and more than three as General Manager (Strategic Planning) for the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co in China, one might say that Jack Huang has a wealth of experience in the business world.

However, when he began exploring a career switch, he felt his liberal arts background put him at a disadvantage and that his portfolio was insufficient for him to leapfrog into a new role and different industry.

Could you elaborate on why you felt you needed an EMBA?

My past work experience entailed a very high-level, macro perspective of issues that did not give me sufficient depth of expertise. For example, I used to be responsible for climate change adaptation and resilience, but I would not be able to advise on the technicalities for emissions tracking and reduction or how to do sea-level modeling.

Sure, I had lots of experience engaging with the private sector and industry partners, but I was not confident I had the skills when it came to running actual business operations, especially for finance-related aspects. Everywhere I looked, hiring organizations were looking for qualifications in business, economics, finance, or technology as a base. I knew I would have to up my resume game.

Weren’t you worried about the costs of joining an EMBA program while in between jobs?

I had built up significant savings along the way, but there were moments of self-doubt between application and class commencement where I would beat myself up for spending a large sum on an EMBA. Would a short certification program from Harvard or Wharton online programs produce the same results at a lower cost?

I was also worried about my subsequent career profile. I’d be applying to five or six roles every single day. And they wouldn’t be random jobs—I’d handpick them and really read into the job description to see if I could deliver. I was willing to take on more junior roles and even a pay cut because I was very serious about a career change. That said, I imagined it would look terrible on my resume—imagine taking on an EMBA just to move down the career ladder. My critics and naysayers were going to have a field day!

These were just some of the negative thoughts that plagued me. Out of over 100 applications made, less than ten companies called me back for the second round of interviews. It was demoralizing, but because I was doing such heavy-duty skills upgrading, I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself.

Why did you choose the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA program?

I chose ESSEC because I compared the value, price, and QS rankings of programs across the board and felt that ESSEC delivered really good value for money in terms of the richness of its curriculum, quality of lectures, resources provided, alumni network, and the reputation of the school.

In addition, I’ve had experience studying overseas—since I had done my bachelors in Singapore and master’s in the US, I thought I’d like to try a European school this time for a more “international” education profile.

We understand you are now working at KPMG. Did the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA program help you secure this role?

Yes, to an extent. My role as Associate Director is to handle the learning and organizational development of the firm—but they were not looking for just another trainer. They wanted someone who had business development experience.

Being in the EMBA program has given me a much-needed perspective on business during the interview process. I was able to apply insights learned from my peers, use the right lingo, and reference resources provided at ESSEC during my interview, which I think was what convinced them to take me on.

Now that I have started working, I’ve also started benchmarking myself based on our lecturers. The way they teach, the structure of the curriculum as well as the materials they use are invaluable to me and offer lessons that can be directly applied to my work.

What would you say is the best part about the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA program?

Definitely my classmates! I look forward to the exciting discussions and intellectual banter. They come from different nationalities and have very varied work experiences—ranging from NGO executive directors to MNC senior management and serious academics. The diversity brings so much richness to the discussions!

Advice for others who are considering the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA program?

I think it’s important, especially if you are at a more mature stage of your professional career, to be able to take a step back and reflect on where you are now and where you are going next.

I’ve found the EMBA will really help bring you out of your comfort zone, allow you to meet a huge variety of different people, and gain from their different perspectives.

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