Timothy Johns – Stepping Stones: From Macquarie University to Head of Operations in China
Timothy Johns – Stepping Stones: From Macquarie University to Head of Operations in China


Timothy Johns – Stepping Stones: From Macquarie University to Head of Operations in China

November 8, 2021

Timothy Johns graduated with an MBA (Master of Business Administration) at Macquarie University, Hong Kong, in 2014.

During his time at Macquarie, he developed the core skills and competencies that enabled him to expand his professional network, gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, learn how to lead a successful team – in order to drive growth, innovation, and compliance – and better understand the role of foreign markets on a global stage.

Most important of all, Timothy was able to dive into the unknown with enthusiasm, eager to step outside his comfort zone, and embrace the many exciting opportunities that being an international student had to offer.

Having previously emigrated to the US, Timothy was familiar with the idea of living outside of his home country. But the prospect of studying – then eventually living and working – in China, was a completely different ball game. He knew the career opportunities available to him were tremendous. But taking the leap would be a massive investment on his behalf. Fortunately, his natural interest in China and its growing significance on the world stage, gave him the motivation to take the plunge.

“When I discovered that MQ had a campus in Hong Kong, I could see a path to China, with an attractive first stepping stone on the beaches of Sydney moving on to HK and possibly further.”

While completing the first portion of his MBA in Sydney, Timothy studied core quantitative subjects like Accounting and Finance, despite them not being his areas of expertise. He recalled feeling a bit intimidated by peers, some of whom were CEOs already.

Nonetheless, Timothy dedicated large chunks of time to studying outside of class, expanding his skills and knowledge, to the point where he excelled in less familiar subjects. After this initial burst of success, he gained the confidence to continue with the program, and embrace the MBA with open arms.

Reflecting on his favourite subjects and lecturers, Timothy pointed out three particular subjects: Foundations of Management Thought, Organizational Behaviour, and SCSR (Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility).

The former, explored that drawing parallels to Greek philosophers and mythology can helps us become more effective leaders today. Meanwhile, the latter two focused on contemporary workplace issues (and their relation to human behaviour), and how businesses can adopt more socially and environmentally responsible, sustainable and ethical practices, so as to meet the expectations of today’s consumers.

By participating in these subjects, Timothy learned how to shape a new management philosophy. Designed to not just help motivate employees, but also enable businesses to adopt more sustainable business practices that are fundamentally good for society and strategically beneficial to the company.

 “Studying an MBA gives you the playbook to appreciate multiple functional perspectives at the same time, providing you with the stepping stones to new markets and opportunities.”

Perhaps the most important stepping stone in the MBA was the comprehensive internship module. This led to Timothy interning at the renowned professional services company, PwC, working on a CSR transformation project to help embed sustainability practices into all functions of the organisation’s Australian sector.

When he moved to Hong Kong to complete his last semester, Timothy continued to intern at the PwC division there – before finally graduating, and securing a full-time position at PwC Beijing. Within the first year of graduation, he progressed from Program Manager at PwC to Senior Manager at KPMG Shanghai. There, his focus was on expanding their advisory services to MNC (Multinational Corporation) clients in China.

According to Timothy, the pressure of living and working in a new country, combined with the competitive nature of the workforce, was a lot to take in. But he quickly grew to love the culture and career opportunities.

 “Although initially lacking experience in China, I was able to add value by combining previous BD experience with MBA case reviews of companies like Starbucks and AstraZeneca. These companies have successfully found the right formula of localisation, decentralised management structure, and alignment to government priorities in the Five-Year Plan, which are crucial to success in China.”

While at KPMG, Timothy gained further interest in China market access, and how international companies should go about engaging with the Chinese government to adapt and thrive in China.

This fascination led him to secure a position at the DIT (Department for International Trade), a British government department that supports bilateral trade and investment. He was fortunate enough to join the DIT Life Science Sector team, and more recently become Head of Operations. In this role, he has been able to meet with Chinese investors and various levels of government to support UK companies that are either: already in China, or wish to become established there.

As of 2021, Timothy has been leading Finance, People, and L&D (Learning and Development) teams at the British Embassy in Beijing. His goal has been to bring new business process improvements with operational and commercial best practice from the private sector.

When asked to give advice to current and upcoming international students, Timothy had some words of wisdom.

“I would recommend getting several years of work experience first. Classes are interactive, and much of the discussion relies on your ability to relate it to real-life situations.”

He also encourages students to jump outside of their comfort zone and choose subjects they may be less familiar or skilled at, as it can help broaden mindset and perspective. And lastly, he emphasised the importance of networking with other students.

“They make the group working experience that much more engaging and valuable, and they ultimately become your global friends for life, too.”

With plenty on offer from Macquarie, is it time for you to step into the unknown and challenge your capabilities? See the full range of Macquarie Business School’s Postgraduate courses that you can utilise to take on the next chapter of your career.

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