Alumna Takes MBA to Sydney
Originally from China, Sherry Xiaoning Hou earned an MBA in 2016 from the McDonough School of Business. After graduation, she started a career in the financial services industry in Citibank, in New York. As part of the company’s global leadership program she then transferred to Citibank’s offices in Sydney, where she currently works as a corporate and investment banking associate.
Why did you want to pursue a Georgetown MBA and why did you focus on finance?
A Georgetown MBA provided me with an international platform to get to know people of different background. Also, the program offered a wider exposure to different business opportunities across the world. Looking back on the two years, I see my Georgetown MBA much more than a degree or a way to get a job offer. I developed the ability to adapt to a new culture and at the same time learned how to pace myself to succeed both academically and at job-hunting, which was invaluable. Being flexible and adaptable is required in the current changing job market, and a Georgetown MBA prepared me for that.
The Georgetown curriculum is designed in a way that we can choose the focus in the second year when we finish our internship and have a better idea of our future career path. I was always interested in Finance and was planning to continue working in the sector after graduation, so I enrolled in more finance-related courses in my second year. Many of the faculty have been practicing in the industry for decades and I learned lots from them.
How was your Global Business Experience (GBE) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)?
My GBE in the UAE with Agility, one of the world’s leading providers of integrated logistics, was a unique experience. Since the team was working remotely during the first part of the consulting endeavor, efficient communication became even more crucial given the different time zones between the United States and UAE. A good lesson learned from this project was never to take anything for granted. That is to say, make sure that the expectation and project goals are well understood and communicated as early as possible and that your counterpart is on the same page. Cultural differences could make this process less straightforward than one expects.
Regarding the consulting project itself, it was surprising to realize that some things that are commonly used by people in other parts of the world are still in early stages of development in some countries, which is why it is important to check before making any assumptions.
Why did you choose to move to Australia and what is your current role for Citibank?
I am part of the associate program, which aims to develop international leaders. The reason I chose the Sydney office as my first destination was for the potential exposure I could receive. Financial markets in Australia are quite developed, similar to the United States and the European Union. However, given its location, the country is often categorized into the APAC region. Here, I could see transactions happening as complicated as those of the United States and at the same time get a sense of how emerging markets were functioning, which is a valuable learning experience for me.
I am currently an associate in corporate and investment banking. The wide exposure I can get really motivates me every day. Teams are smaller and more interactive. So, you may sit in the corporate banking team, but also work extensively with investment banking and other product teams. My colleagues are quite experienced and very willing to share their knowledge, which amounts to a very rewarding learning experience.
Tell us a bit about your life in Sydney.
Sydney is as friendly as its weather. It is a very international city with a diversity population. The passion of people to life is very impressive. They play as hard as they work. Many of the locals are fully engaged in different sports during the weekend. And the wineries here are so nice!
What advice do you have for MBA students interested in an global business career?
I would first congratulate students for their willingness to pursue a global career path, just for the mere fact of stepping out of their comfort zone. International exposure will help you understand how business is run outside of your own country, which eventually will shape your mindset in a global context. However, bear in mind the challenges you might encounter. Effort is required to stand out in such an environment, both in your work and life dimensions. Last but not least, make sure to get your family’s support, which will help to keep this career path sustainable and more enjoyable.
What do you miss the most about Georgetown McDonough and the Georgetown community?
Many of my classes at Georgetown McDonough were really interesting, but the one I liked the most was a valuation class taught by Lee Pinkowitz, associate professor. I enjoyed learning from Pinkowitz not only because of his teaching method, but also his passion for finance. This seems to be the common feature of the faculty. They are very passionate about what they are doing.
I miss Georgetown as a community, where people are proud of where they are and try their best to keep the school’s legacy. We are a community that has no geographical limitations and where talented people humbly contribute to society from every corner of the world. Also, I miss Washington, D.C. It is such a nice city.