Internship Reflections

The 8 weeks internship in the Spanish company completed in mid of August. The project was about M&A in a new sector that the company intended to enter. There are a lots of learning reflection on the internship, about the process, the learning and the contribution to the company. I will describe them in the following 3 categories:
1) The process - What went well and what did not
2) The learning - What I learned
3) The contribution - What the company gained from this internship

What went well?
- Project Scoping

Thanks to the experience in the NfP and UKCP Project, I have learned that the most vital process to determine the smooth operation of any consulting projects is the “Project Scoping”. As people use to say, “Fail to plan is plan to fail”; for me, “Fail to define a clear project scope is scope to fail”. A smart project scoping has to fulfil the client objective within the available time and resource. This require the consultant to take initiative to understand what client want and what are the available time and resource that the consultant can use to achieve the project objective.

I prepared 2 project proposals based on my understanding of the initial project brief, and explained them during the kick-off meeting. The final project plan, which included the project scope, deliverables and project schedule were prepared by incorporating my supervisors’ comments and agreed within the first week of the internship. The clear project scope that agreed at the earliest stage of the internship had set the clear direction for my research where I can efficiently allocate my time.

 - Overall Project Flow

Again from the experience of NfP and UKCP Project, we were taught to start from the end. What it means is thinking ahead of what will be the possible hypothesis (outcome) of the project, then working backward to formulate the strategy to test the hypothesis. Followed by determining what data needs to be used to support the strategy, and finally only thinking of where to find the data.

The traditional ways of research is always the opposite by blindly collecting as much data as possible, then swimming across the data to find what is relevant to the project. This methodology may eventually lost the direction of what actually is the need of the project.

For this internship, I have broken down the research into 3 stages, where each stage had its own hypothesis. The hypothesis were then further tested by different models as part of each of the strategy. This process has helped me to identify what are the necessary data and hence eliminate the waste of time on finding information which are seemingly relevant but not helpful to test the hypothesis.

- Presentation

There were 2 presentations in the whole internship. One for the interim presentation and one for the final presentation. As we were always trained to do the presentation in the MBA program, these experience had certainly sharpen my presentation skills.

A successful presentation is like an interesting story telling, where the audiences pay full attention for the whole session and take away the key messages of the presentation. In my presentations, I tried to make sure the messages are clear and story line are exist between each slide, to ensure the presentation is interesting and the audience can take away what I really want them to take away.

What I think I should do more

I read an article before that say the best way to train ourselves to be the CEO in the future is work smartly by allocating our time in the 30, 30, 30, 10 rule – 30% time to work, 30% time to interact with the colleagues, 30% time to think like the company CEO of what should be the corporate strategy and remaining 10% time for leisure and relax.

For me, I think I spent my time in the company in a 60, 20, 10, 10 ratio. If I have chance to back to the past, besides busy with the research, I will spend more time to interact with more people, as well as to think the CEO way of how I will manage the company.

What I have learned

I have 7 years experiences in the EPC industry, but in a specific sector. This project has provided a precious chance for me to explore the new sector. This will definitely widen my career option in the Oil & Gas industry after the MBA.

One thing I like so much about the MBS MBA is the so called “Manchester Method” that emphasize “Learning by Doing”. The projects I have undertaken in the MBA program has provide me a strong foundation for the challenges in the internship. This internship was indeed a real life project for me to test the practicality of the skills and knowledge I learned in the program. I have to say that with the experience in the MBA, I can perform the project independently with the least supervision from my supervisors.

What I have contributed

It is hard to tell on behalf of the company of what they have gained. But through the discussion in the interim presentation as well as the final presentation, one compliment that I got from the Deputy CEO was that I have helped them to organize what they have in their minds in a more structure way.
The internship report has suggested the most attractive sector in the interested industry in terms of market size, growth, and profitability; as well as the names of potential targets, which supported by structured company analysis. I believe the recommendation in the report can be used as a reference for the Deputy CEO to perform the internal negotiation, and further decide the acquisition target.  


Internship Search

My Spanish friend joked that British come to Spain for 3S - Sangria, Sun and Sex. I kinda of agree with that, nice food and wine, perfect weather and lots of beautiful girls!

5 weeks passed since I started my internship here in Madrid. But before I go into the details of the internship, I would like to share about the internship search strategy. Well, people do think that finding an internship is easy for an MBA student...at least I thought the same when I first joined the program. But the reality is cruel, the Euro economy environment is still gloomy. Unemployment rate remains high. So, why should the company pay to hire you for the MBA internship?

At the time I started my internship in Spain, the statistic of the internship application success rate of my school is still not much encouraging. Only half of the class got an internship at that time. The type of internships available then was changed from a typical internship that require you to work fulltime in a company to a project-based internship which require only certain hours per week. Although this is still a good learning opportunity, but certainly not what MBA are looking for at the beginning.

So, how to improve your chance?

Start early

The first semester of the MBA program is always the toughest semester as this is where the steep learning curve begins. Not only the study loads, but you also need to settle down in a totally new environment, get used to the new language (if you are not a native English speaker), make new friends, and cope with cultural difference...So you will be busy through out the semester, not allocate any time for the internship search as you think you still have plenty of time...

The reality is cruel...chances are always given to whoever prepared. My Japanese friend who started his preparation as early as June (2 months before the MBA start) got his first internship in October, and the second one somewhere in February. Well, the Japanese companies, and also the banking and consulting companies, normally start recruiting earlier at around October, but most other companies open application only from February.

So, if you are not interested in Japanese companies, or banking or consulting, is that means that you can start late?

No! Start early doesn’t means start application early. There are lots more things to do before the application. For example, prepare a MBA level master resume (CV) and a master cover letter (CL), which you can tailor later according to the company requirement, do mock interview training, study the industries, the companies, knowing their requirements, and most important, study YOU as a candidate, know your strength, weakness, what you like and don’t like, how you can contribute and why the company would need you.

When the chance comes, you are ready to grab it.

Know yourself

Repeat again the point I made before. The company will not be interested on you if you yourself do not know well about yourself. I saw friends applied to whatever openings he discovered. He spent lots of time prepare the CV and the CL but sadly he didn’t success getting any of them.

I think there are 3 main elements on knowing yourself.

1) Know your interest

Know where you have interest to work, it can be industry, function or geographical location. But don’t come to conclusion in a hurry before you study them. Attend the company presentation, for whatever industry, function or geographical location. Try to understand first and then make your decision.

This interest will turn out to be passion showing on your face when you are in the interview.

2) Know your strength

What you interested may not be what you are strong at. Company recruits MBA for an immediate contribution in their business. They don’t give you much time to start from zero. Therefore, know well about your strength and shows how you can contribute to the company is very important in the interview. Being say that, if you think yourself have less advantage because of no experience in a new field, try to leverage the soft skills and general management skills that you have gained in some other fields. 

3) Know your want

Everyone wants internship for different reasons. Some want to experience a new industry, function or geography, some looking for a fulltime job, some for money, and some just to do because everyone else is doing. And this will definitely influence your internship choice. For example, if you are interested to start your own business after the MBA, you may want to gain entrepreneurship experience in a start-up company even it is an unpaid internship.

So, these 3 elements make the Venn Chart. The internships that located more towards the center of the Venn Chart, is the one that most suit you, and the one that you have the highest chance.

Rethink your change
Almost everyone pursue an MBA for a change of career, whether a change in the industry, function or geography. It is clear that the more changes you want, the harder it will be. Internship is an good opportunity for you to test out whether the change you want is what you want. However, getting an internship with all 3 changes is equally difficult.

As mentioned before, the company expect you to contribute, based on your previous experience or current skill sets you have. Change of all 3 aspects (industry, function and geography) put you in a less advantage position compare to those who already have some experience in the industry or function or geography, or two, or even all three of them.

Therefore, reduce a change will significantly enhance your chance to get an internship. For instance, for the three internships I secured, I have kept at least an aspect unchanged. For the internship in Spain, I changed the function from engineer to M&A analyst, the geography from Japan to Spain, but keep the same industry in oil & gas. For the internship in Japan, I changed the industry to consulting, function to management consultant, but kept the same geography. For another internship in Malaysia which I have rejected, I changed the industry to market research, the role to researcher but kept the same geography in Malaysia (Well, being a Malaysian although I have not worked in Malaysia for the past 10 years).

However, there are still many success stories among my friends who got internship that have changes in all 3 aspects. And the reason is simple, they have an internship that fit in the middle of the Venn Chart that I mentioned before.

The bottom line is whether you really want the changes!

So, what are you still waiting for? Start Now!



Not suppose to come back to this at this moment as the sunshine outside there in the Madrid is calling me. Well, it’s always good to reflect on what you have done before moving to the next stage. So, although the UKC Project already completed last week, allow me to reflect a bit on the learning process.

Our client was a small UK company specialises in boat building. The original project scope was to suppose to be identify potential international markets for its products. But after initial research and client meetings, we found that the business has serious problem in securing order locally, not even to mention the international expansion. Therefore, the project scope was then changed to a marketing strategy in order to increase orders regardless of geographical location.

So, here’s the learning.

Defining of Project Scope

Defining of project scope is the most challenging and critical process of any consulting project. I had bad experience in the NfP project where my teams took almost a month to finalise the scope with client, which resulted in poor outcome due to lack of time for research and analysis. Learning from that experience, I was paying more effort to finalise the project scope with client at the early stage of the project.

However, sometimes clients do not really know what they want. As mentioned before, client intended to find out potential international markets for their product. We were quite excited by looking at this “international expansion” project, but after initial research and client interview, we found out that there was a serious business continuity problem within the organisation. The company has only 3 orders in the past 3 years. Current production capacity is 2 boats annually but can handle up to 6 orders per annum by outsourcing some of the processes. This means that the production facilities was far under utilisation due to difficulty in secure new orders. Furthermore, Client USP is the customisation and customer experience where customer can visit the fabrication yard and give preference for design during the production period which may not feasible for an oversea customers. Moreover, Client did not favor to spend much budget on international marketing.

Based on these factors, we concluded that an international market exploration is not feasible for Client and what really important is to secure additional 2-4 orders per annum regardless of the geographical locations.

We formalised the change of scope in the Project Plan and obtained the confirmation from Client one week after the initial interview. This has gave us enough time to kick start the research directly with a clear project scope and target in mind.

My key learnings are:
  • Make assumptions about what client need through the project brief and initial research.
  • Verify the assumptions via client interview.
  • Understand the fact that client sometimes does not clear about their own problem.
  • It is the consultant’s role to scrutinise the problem from different perspectives and guide the client to the right path.
  • Last but not least, get the confirmation from client about the agreed scope before starting anything.

Design the Research Methodology

Start with the end in mind. A research shall start with a hypothesis. To verify the hypothesis, we need a model for the analysis; to populate the model, we have to identify what data is necessary; to look for the data, we need to determine what research is required...All seems to be working backward, which is quite contradict with the traditional way, where research started by random data collecting, followed by analysis through whatever data available and finally a conclusion based on the analysis.

I have to admit that working backward was very hard at the beginning of any project, as everything was so uncertain and vague. To form a concrete hypothesis at this stage is very challenging. This again depends on how success we define the project scope and project target that I described before. A well defined project scope and target will give you a clear idea of what need to be achieved, hence a clear idea of what need to be tested.

After forming the hypothesis, another essential skill is to design a model for analysis. This is associated with the variables that we want to test in the project. For example, in our project, the key variables are the customer persona, product USP, competitors and channels. An effective model will be a pictorial explanation of how all the variables can be integrated together to test the hypothesis. Based on the model, what data is required to support the variables become clear and consequently what kind of research has to be done to collect the data also become obvious.

My key learnings are:
  • Start with the end in mind.
  • Start writing the report with executive summary even no research has been done yet.
  • Make hypothesis based on the project scope and target.
  • Identify the variables needed to test the hypothesis and design a model to integrate them.
  • Based on the model, identify what data is required and finally determine the research method.

Contemplate the Strategic Recommendations

Dollar, Data, Deal and Decision, another MBS terminology for the consulting project, taught by the MBS professor. The outcome of the consulting project should be able to deliver the Dollar, Data, Deal and Decision to the client, which means recommendations of potential market size (Dollar), supporting evidences of the recommendations (Data), potential orders or channels that client can access (Deal) and action that client need to take to achieve the deal (Decision). All recommendations have to be robust with supporting data, and actionable considering client capacity. 

In this project, we have quantified the potential market size based on our secondary research data, we also estimated the potential orders that client will get by adopting the actions that we recommended. However, it was not always easy to make a recommendation that client do not like to hear. We have found potential new customer personas for 2 of client’s product. But we also found out that the other product, which client wanted to push the most, have no distinct USP to compete with other competitors. We tried to convey this message to client through the telephone conference several times but client seemed to be ignoring the fact.

As the main duty of a consultant is to solve client’s problem instead of just telling what client would like to hear, we decided to honestly present our finding in the client report as well as in the final presentation. We suppose that this decision will help Client to know better about the position of their products in the market.

Again, My key learnings are:
  • Dollar, data, deal and decision - the model for a consulting project recommendations.
  • Recommendations shall be robust, realistic and actionable
  • Tell client what he need to hear, not what he like to hear

As a matter of fact, the Diploma stage of the MBA ended last week with the completion of the UKC Project. My MBA stage currently started with an internship in Madrid. Lot's of excitement and happening here in Spain! Will update you more about the internship in near future!



Manchester seems to know that I am leaving soon. She shows up with sunny face more frequent and more longer than anytime before. Still not used to the bright day at 9pm. People started wearing the short sleeves shirts with short pants, lying on the lawn, enjoying the sunshine out there. But I don’t have the luxury to enjoy it, at least until today.

This few weeks have been another busy peak in my MBA life. Working on 2 big projects simultaneously, exchange preparation, internship application and I even started the fulltime job application. Schedules filled up my diaries from Monday to Sunday, morning to night. Knowing that this is the capstone of the Diploma stage of the MBA, and realise that after this I will be leaving MBS for at least 6 months for internship and exchange, the remaining moments here with friends, the schools and Manchester became so precious.

Just finished the negotiation of the M&A project yesterday. I have to say that this is the course that I enjoy the most in the MBA so far. It was very practical project that you will see what you learned before in accounting, corporate finance, marketing, operation, HR and strategy, all fit together so well to form a powerful tools in the real-life application. That’s the Manchester Method, learning by doing.

The M&A projects started with a series of lectures on valuations, targeting, screening, due diligence, deal structure and finally the negotiation. In the project, we were hypothetically represent a real leading food processing and retailing company in UK looking to acquire another company as part of its corporate strategy for inorganic growth. The project is divided chronologically into 3 stages.

The first stage is the valuation of the food company itself. Not intend to describe the details here, but it was basically the assess of the business performance, forecast the future growth, revenue and other financial data, and estimate the enterprise value based on valuation method like DCF, DDM, Abnormal Earning Model etc.

Second stage is the ranking exercise where the group needs to identify target company for acquisition. This again involve the investigation of the corporate strategy of acquirer, market attractiveness, strategic fit, financial performance, synergy as well as ease of acquisition of target companies. Based on the criteria, the group to ranked the top 3 target companies and presented the rationale to the faculty.

The last stage came in twofold - with the preparation of a justification document; and a negotiation with the target company. The justification document is a report explaining the plan for acquisition, that to be submitted to the top management of acquirer company. The rationale of acquisition, expected synergies, deal structure, management plan after acquisition are the key subjects in the report.

The climax came in with the role play of the negotiation, where we have to negotiate against the faculties who played the roles of the directors of the target companies. It was a long process with 4 separate meetings spread through 2 days. Some groups finished earlier due to walkaway in the middle of negotiation. Our group somehow managed to stay until the last for a deal. The faculties were really hard negotiators. Although we managed to close the deal, the benefit that we, as an acquirer can enjoy after acquisition remains quite thin. Nevertheless, it was a exciting and stimulating process which I gained a lot of learning.

That’s the end of the M&A project. How about the UKCP? Tell you later.



The naked tree in front of my apartment starting to sprout with little buds. Not sure whether the leaves will grow to its fullness as the time I moved in last August, before I leave. Leaving UK for internship as well as exchange program from June, which means I will not be back till the beginning of IB Project in next January...

A friend from the Class of 2015 (enroll this summer) knew that I was selected for the exchange to CEIBS and asked me about the application procedure. For his reference, as well as for any future MBS MBA candidate that have interest for exchange, here are the procedure and advice for application.

The school will publish the partner schools list together with their fact sheets in late January. Normally only 1 place is offered by each partner school, but some offer up to 3 places. Students are allowed to choose a maximum of 3 schools for application. The application is done with a written exchange proposal with no specified format. Students are free to use their creativity in the exchange proposal to impress the selection committee which consisted of the MBA Centre and Program Directors.

After the submission of the exchange proposal, MBS Centre will then publish the school list with corresponding number of applicants but anonymous. From there, the applicants can judge how competitive the schools they apply to and be allowed to make changes if they would like to avoid competition. The popular partner schools this year were Chicago Booth, CEIBS, HKUST, Cornell, and McCombs, which shows a strong trend of either US or China.  

All applicants will be called for an 20minutes interview and the questions are basically a check and verification of what written in the exchange proposal. The selection committee will then make the final decision of who go where by late March.

So, what are the deciding criteria? I suppose the key factors are:

1) Future career impact (Be sure you have a concrete reason/story that the exchange will help you in your future career, rather than just saying you want to learn a new language or to experience new culture)
2) Academic performance up to date (so, work hard in the first term!)
3) Role as MBS ambassador (register as a MBS embassador, be active in the extra-curriculum, know well what is the strength of MBS)

No additional tuition fee is required to pay to the partner school. But be prepared for expenses in the logistics to the exchange country, insurance (which can be very expensive in the case of US), and may be some administration fee and text books cost. The living expenses will depend on which country you are going to. As I will have my exchange in Shanghai, though the most expensive city in China, I do expect a lower living expenses than Manchester.

Hope these information will suffice and good luck in your application next year!


Project and Project

Awakened in the morning by the sunshine seep through the blind, surprising found my back was sweating. The spring has finally come!

Looked at my phone and it showed 9:00. Still remembered that's a big argument last night with my fellow Japanese course-mates about whether Japan action on the eastern countries in the second world war was an invasion or liberation. Also remembered everyone tried to helped one of Japanese friend to date a Thai girl by pouring lots of weird advices.

That's the fun of talking with people from different background and ideology, not merely at the level of weather, or football match result, but at the level that you can argue about the sensitive issues yet do not ruin the relationships.

After a one week spring vacation where I spent mine in Italy, the spring term started with the launching of 2 ambitious and demanding projects - UK Consulting Project (UKCP) and Merger & Acquisition Project (M&A). This term, except the guest speaker series, we don't have any sit in lectures, all 60 credits in this term are accounted on the two big projects. The school schedule specifies Monday and Thursday for UKCP whereas Tuesday and Wednesday for M&A. But it is all depends on the capability of the group members and the efficiency of the group work to determine how much time required for the projects.

So, what are these 2 projects about?


We have done the NfP project in the autumn term in 2012, this is the second real-client facing consulting project in our program, and the third one will be the International Business (IB) Project which will be the capstone of the MBA program in winter term next year.

I like how MBS designed the projects in the MBA program. There were series of lectures teaching us the "soft" and "hard" skill on consulting, followed by real life application in the NfP, where clients were generally more lenient as the projects are not-for-profit; then the UKCP which we are doing now, with both UK and international clients focus on UK markets, where the project budget is covered y client; and finally the IB with multinational companies looking for expanding business globally, which unavoidable required a higher budget. As you can guess, the more money the client spend on the budget, the more demanding the project will be.

We are now in the bidding stage for the projects. Each group can bid for a maximum of 3 projects and the companies will then shortlist 3 groups for interview. One group will then be selected to implement the project. There are wide range of project topics covered sales and marketing, HR, operation, supply chain, and so on. Some project briefs are quite vague where the project goal and required deliverable are not clearly stated. This added the difficulty to the project yet a challenge to investigate what really the client want.   

The grade of the project is assessed by initial client meeting and negotiation, interim presentation, group report, final client presentation and 2 statistical business research assignment using the SPSS.

As said before, the quality of the team decide the quality of the work. The group members were assigned randomly by the MBA center. My team consisted of an Italian Consultant, a Japanese Asset Manager, an American Chinese Real Estate broker, an American Indian Business System Analyst and myself. Let's see how the team will gel.


Although there is no real-client facing in this project, the team has to analyse possible acquisitions for an acquiring company where both the acquisitions and acquiring companies are real. Therefore, the real-life and real-time data like company reports, analyst reports, current news and trends are the main sources for the analysis.

The project started with the valuation of the acquiring company which will due next weekend. Then the team has to rank at least 3 possible acquisitions, of course based on the merging synergy analysis. A negotiation for the acquisition will be carried out between the team with MBS faculty who will act as the manager of the acquisition companies. Finally the team will write a justification for their offer to acquire.

Since the analysis involve a lot of corporate finance and accounting analysis, the groups were formed with at least one of the group member is from finance background, who can lead the valuation task. My team, with 1 banker, 1 marketeer and 4 engineers seems to be a bit less diverse. But the project is really interesting and thought provoking, which I believe I will learn and enjoy the most in this term.


Where is my spring?

Now I know why besides sports, weather is the other most popular topics for chatting in UK. Well, it is now the end of March, which is the best season to see beautiful cherry blossoms in the fast east, but here I am still suffering the temperature around freezing point! But thank god! The sun has replaced the rain and continuously sharing the warm sunshine since mid of February. A luxury to enjoy the "indoor sunbathe"  especially at the corner seats in Lecture Hall 4.37.

Sorry for this late update. But I have been busy since the middle of February. Being quite relax for the first half of Term 2, the second half became a roller coaster with due dates of all the assignments and presentations of the term. The tasks are of course an addition to the usual classes, guest speaker series, career management activities, networking, partying... etc.

With the completion of the last exam paper of Term 2 yesterday, it marks the end of the term and the start of the Easter holiday. So, what do I think about Term 2?

Well, I have to say that most people, including me lost the excitement and motivation that we had at the start of the program. Partly due to the nature of getting used to the MBA life, and partly because people are shifting their priority from study to internship hunting. Most people spending most of their time searching for internship, which the outcomes are still not encouraging. Some did secure splendid offers from their dream companies but majorities are still struggling. This cause an uncertain atmosphere that people started to ask themselves "Why am I here?"

Nevertheless, the school did offer a great help to the students in securing internship. The CMS staffs are working hard to attract more potential employers, helping student with review of CV, cover letter, mock internship etc. However, economic condition here in UK is still gloomy, and the key success factors are actually depend on individual fit of experience, skill sets and background that companies are looking for.

The classes we have this term was designed as 3 hours per slot instead of 1.5 hours as we have last term. This change give flexibility for the professors to design the class with mix of lectures and case studies. However, the long hours of same subject sometime cause boredom among students, and some lectures were just too slack in 3 hours. This is especially true for the new subjects of "People Management and Organization" and "International Business and Innovation Management". The professors did try very hard to make the subjects interesting to students, but students tend to lose interest the half way of the classes.

OK, enough of the negative views. Let's share something cheerful in this term. Well, MBS won the second place in MBS MBA Football Tournament as well as the LBS MBA Football Tournament (Not surprise as we are the Manchester)! MBS also won the first place in the Sustainability Venture Capital Investment Competition (SVCIC) held in Kenan-Flagler Business School, US recently. And the Class of 2013 successfully completed their International Business Project last week, which means a successful graduation from MBS!

How about myself in this term? Secured an exchange to CEIBS, which is my first choice, and confirmed a summer internship with a management consulting company in Japan! So, I am leaving UK this summer!

Although the spring may not come, the summer will for sure!