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From a Software Engineer to Head of Merchant Sales, here’s how MBA from CUHK helped me to succeed

Abhishek Vats, Head of Merchant Sales and Acquiring at Visa Singapore, was keen to move from an engineering role into a business-focused role.

He was working at Infosys as a senior software engineer writing codes for American Express, and he became increasingly interested in the purpose behind these codes.

He remembers: “I knew what I was doing because I was adept at the technical side of the business, but I did not understand the bigger picture of how it was impacting American Express.”

He further deliberated, “One thing that was clear to me was that besides having understanding of the business it is equally important to have a multi-cultural perspective of the business for making sound decisions”

His curiosity spurred him into exploring a Master of Business Administration with a global focus. He considered programmes at a total of eight different universities, both in Asia and in the US, before settling on the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“I wanted to work in Asia-Pacific for the foreseeable future as I could see it was a growing market with great future prospects. The CUHK MBA offered a good balance between the eastern and western world.” he says.

He further adds “I was particularly impressed by the combination of global outlook of the MBA program and the multi-cultural student mix.”

CUHK’s MBA had a strong academic pedigree, ranked 2nd in Asia and 14th in the world in the Financial Times Top MBAs for Finance 2017 ranking.

Another aspect of the programme that appealed to Vats was its focus on leadership and entrepreneurship.

“Gaining the industry knowledge and learning how to think like an entrepreneur has helped me in everything I have done over the years since my MBA.”

“The content of the course also prepared me to successfully lead teams across different countries and backgrounds in this digital era” he adds

Vats was also attracted by CUHK’s exchange programme, under which students can spend time studying at partner universities. He spent his final semester at the National University of Singapore.

“It was through the exchange programme that I came to Singapore and managed to get my dream career.” he says.

After completing his MBA, Vats landed a job at Rocket Internet in Singapore, where he worked at the e-retailer startup Zalora.

He explains: “When I finished my MBA, I did not want to get into a big firm where my job scope would be limited rather I was looking to contribute to a fast-growing venture. Zalora provided me with this opportunity as the role enabled him to put into practice everything he had learned through his MBA, ranging from analytics to business operations to blue ocean strategy,” he says.

He remembers his journey with Zalora, a start-up comprised of 30 people to becoming one of the biggest ecommerce companies in South East Asia, with more than 2,000 people across 8 countries, when he left.

From Zalora he moved on to payments company Adyen, where he was VP of Strategic Partnerships APAC. He closely worked with some of the biggest tech companies of the world including Uber, Netflix, Google, Expedia and led their expansion into Asia-Pacific markets.

In his current role as Head of Merchant Sales and Acquiring for Visa, Abhishek is driving VISA’s acceptance expansion, ecommerce growth, relationships with acquirers and merchants and contributing to the Singapore’s Smart Nation priorities.

Vats says: “I started doing payments from the merchant side at Zalora, then I moved to the next position in the value chain, which is the acquiring side, at Adyen. Now I am at the top of that chain on the network side at Visa.”

CUHK’s career management centre was also key in helping Vats fulfil his ambitions, and the support they provided to propel his career.

He adds that the career management office’s involvement did not end when he got a job, and even now they still get in touch with him and are always happy to help. “It is a long-term relationship,” he says.

He is under no doubt that it was his CUHK MBA that enabled him to make this progress.

Vats says: “My MBA at CUHK served as great provider of opportunities to learn business and leadership skills and interact with diverse group of people that has helped me go up the ladder.”


AUTHORChinese University of Hong Kong

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