Alumni Stories | Wong Hak Kenn: "I started to know myself better at MBA"


From a technical person to a sales manager, and currently a PhD candidate, Wong Hak Kenn, an alumnus of the MBA programme, Xiamen University Malaysia, shared his experience.

MBA Graduation ceremony, Dec 2022. The first from the right is Wong Hak Kenn.

"The MBA programme gave me the opportunity to know myself better",  now a PhD candidate at University of Malaya, Wong Hak Kenn summarized his story with MBA in one sentence.

Wong Hak Kenn is an alumnus of 2021 from the MBA programme, Xiamen University Malaysia. With a bachelors degree in Electrical and Electric Engineering, he worked as a technical support specialist at PerkinElmer for 4 years, then shifted into sales and marketing, staying in the industry for over 15 years.

"When I was an engineer, I saw things as either black or white. But for sales and marketing, the principle of work has changed, so I was a bit uncomfortable at first," Wong Hak Kenn talked about his feeling of stepping out of his comfort zone.

Since Jan 2017, Wong Hak Kenn has further progressed in his career as Regional Sales Manager, in charge of the APAC region. To better understand how a company operates and gain more soft skills needed in the business world, he compared a few MBA courses offered by local universities and finally chose Xiamen University Malaysia due to its innovative strategies and flexible arrangement for part-time students.

"I am one of XMUMs second batch of MBA students. The courses were designed for the working person - The classes were put on weekends so that we can finish each course in seven weeks. 

"There were 9-11 people in our class, all with different backgrounds. We've been in touch ever since."

When asked about his biggest gain with MBA, Wong Hak Kenn said that it is the change in his mindset:

"For case studies, assignments and exams, all that matters is how you justify it, instead of saying right or wrong.

"You don't have to be stuck in a certain way of thinking. If there's a change that helps you, you can absorb it."


ESW Vision kick-off meeting in Paris, Jan 2022

During his MBA journey, Wong Hak Kenn found the research in finance and economics rather enjoyable. Before graduation, he attended the 11th Annual International Conference held by Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Singapore (IEOM) under the encouragement of his supervisor and won 3rd Place in Master Thesis Category.

"My thesis was about sustainable supply chain, a topic I learnt out of pure interest.

"That was my first-ever academic conference, quite different from the business conferences that Ive been accustomed to. I really enjoyed it." 

The joy of doing research, as well as the 3-year-long pandemic, urged Wong Hak Kenn to reevaluate his life path and explore the direction that he wanted to get into. After year-long consideration, he made up his mind to switch to a research person, and became a full-time PhD student at the Department of Finance, University of Malaya since October 2022, working on projects related to fintech and financial wellbeing.


Last class of Semester 1 at University of Malaya, Jan 2023

"We want to see how fintech usage affects people's financial situation, and use this research to gain a better understanding of consumers’ financial behaviour," Wong Hak Kenn introduced.

Now, Wong Hak Kenn plans to finish his PhD study with all his efforts and if possible, engaging in high impact research with the aim to contribute back to society. At the end of the interview, he summarized:

"As many people have seen in the past 5-10 years, especially after the pandemic, the plan you made at the very beginning doesn't necessarily follow every step later, and our priorities/plans changed from time to time. 

"Thus, I think the most important thing is to get to know yourself, which I started with my MBA. Maybe you can try to ask yourself from time to time: Do you still want to have the same lifestyle? If you find something that you like or enjoy doing, perhaps it is worth considering giving it a try."

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