MBA Alumni on the Nanyang-Waseda and working at Microsoft Japan

“Work hard, play hard and be insatiably curious”: Class of 2018 Graduate, Leo Tan on the Nanyang-Waseda Double MBA and working at Microsoft Japan. 

As an undergraduate studying applied chemistry, Leo Tan never imagined that he would eventually work at tech giant Microsoft as an operations deal manager.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, he filled roles in sales and business development at two Japanese companies. His jobs allowed him to travel extensively and work in countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Japan. But he longed for something more.

“I had immense cultural exposure, but everything was happening so rapidly. I wanted to take some time off to consolidate what I had learnt and do that in a structured environment where I could also get a business education,” says Leo.

He decided to further his studies by enrolling in the Nanyang-Waseda Double MBA programme. A collaboration between Nanyang Business School and Waseda Business School, the 14-month programme equips its participants with an understanding of both global business and technology management.

Participants learn from Nanyang and Waseda professors both in Singapore and Japan.

The programme appealed to Leo, as he was interested in technology and proficient in Japanese, having worked as a translator and Business English teacher to Japanese adults.

The Nanyang-Waseda Double MBA has helped him to develop a deeper appreciation for the various perspectives of people from different cultures, industries and socio-economic backgrounds.

“The opportunity to mix around with international classmates from all over the world has really expanded my horizons. One of my biggest takeaways from the programme was being able to learn and experience how everybody brought their own strengths, weaknesses and personal experiences to the table,” says Leo, who works at Microsoft’s Tokyo office under the firm’s Aspire Experience graduate programme. He completed his Double MBA last September.

In addition, the highly interactive nature of the Double MBA programme allowed him to exchange ideas frequently with his classmates. “That really made me realise how there can be many perspectives towards one issue. It’s not necessarily about which perspective is right or wrong. It’s just different, and we have to learn to respect that.”

Through the programme, Leo also recognised the importance of being humble and grateful for learning opportunities, and to leverage them. He represented Nanyang Business School in competitions such as last year’s John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montreal, where his team made it to the semi-finals.

“These competitions allowed me to refine and hone my skills to look at problems in a more structured way,” says Leo, who adds that the programme has both a high calibre of people and content.

The content he learnt, coupled with the interpersonal skills he picked up and continues to develop, have helped him in his current role. “My main takeaway from the Double MBA is the flexibility of thought and the humility to recognise that multiple perspectives exist.”

Besides these, the programme allowed him to build long-lasting relationships with his classmates due to its small class size. The modules were also very relevant as the faculty ensured that the course content was constantly updated, he adds.

Reflecting on his time in Japan during the programme, he recalls his site visits to established companies such as a 500-year-old Japanese dessert company (Toraya Confectionery), an oil and gas conglomerate (JXTG), an electronics multinational corporation (Panasonic) and Tokyo Disneyland theme park operator (Oriental Land). “We had the rare opportunity to gain a wide breadth of perspective from various fields such as entertainment, oil & gas and technology.”

Leo advises future MBA participants to “work hard, play hard and be insatiably curious” — It’s cliché, but the reason why it is cliché is because it’s true, he explains.

“School is a safe environment to make mistakes. In the industry, it’s a different ball game. So go in with an open mind and be curious about everything. Make great friends along the way. And have fun!”