PMBA PIONEER COHORT SERIES: (4) EXPERIENCE BY LWIN LWIN AUNG

Lwin Lwin Aung, Chief Financial Officer, ISOTeam Ltd, Class of 2019

Q: Tell us a little more about yourself.
A: I came from Myanmar to Singapore 14 years ago. I was originally planning to do my ACCA, a professional accounting qualification before doing an MBA but I changed my mind and went ahead to do a CPA instead. I was thinking of doing an MBA immediately after the CPA, but my parents advised me to gain more practical work experience before the MBA so that it’ll be easier to pick up things from the programme.

I’ve been with my current company for 6 years now as the CFO. In addition to the financial skills and knowledge that I already possess, I needed to have broader-based skill sets in business and management. That was when I started thinking that if I did an MBA, I would add more value to my organisation and if I decided to start a business in the future it would also benefit me tremendously.

Q: Why did you choose to pursue your MBA in Singapore?
A: Initially, I thought of pursuing my MBA in the UK, but I decided to stay in Singapore since I am already based here and could study part-time while continuing on in my career. There were a few local universities offering part-time MBAs. I decided on NTU because of its strong reputation and ranking, and the advantage of NTU’s part-time MBA, the Nanyang Professional MBA (PMBA), is the alternate weekend format. As a full-time working professional, I have heavy work responsibilities and the flexibility of this format allows me to manage work and study at the same time.

Q: Were there other universities or programmes that you applied to?
A: I didn’t apply to any other institutions. I had a very good impression of NTU, and I tried to find out more about the school through friends and alumni. After hearing from them and evaluating the different options out there, I set my mind on NTU and the PMBA.

Q: How has your experience in the PMBA programme been?
A: It trains me in two areas – time management and the ability to prioritise. My current portfolio includes finance and business expansion which is pretty heavy-duty. I have to prioritise what really matters and be more effective at work, so that I can have my evenings off for either personal time or to catch up on case readings and assignments. I’m thankful that I have a capable and supportive team – if not for them, I wouldn’t be able to manage.

Q: Has the programme benefitted you so far?
A: I saw the benefits just three months into the course. Our organisation was in the midst of negotiating a complicated business deal and we expected the success rate to be very slim. I immediately applied the principles taught and not only did we manage to close the deal smoothly, my CEO was so impressed that he appointed me to be in charge of the organisation’s major projects! So now, I always find opportunities to apply what I’ve learnt during the programme and it has certainly improved the way I handle things at work.

Q: So you feel that it worked for you because you are able to apply your knowledge immediately?
A: Frankly, I was contemplating on a full-time MBA. A full time programme allows me to focus on the programme without worrying about work, but there are pros and cons to this. When you study and work at the same time, you have to manage both however you’re ready to apply what you learnt the very next day. It’s a pity to go through all the coursework and not have the opportunity to apply it! So I apply practically what I learn and whenever I’m in class I also try to recall what I’m currently doing practically. It is interrelated and supports one another.

Q: What are your life goals?
A: That’s a good question! I often ask myself this question too. Now that I’m a CFO, I’ve already hit a “ceiling”, so what’s next? There are two ways – firstly, add more value the organisation because I would be making better decisions on their behalf; secondly, prepare myself for the future in case I move on to a different portfolio or decide to start a business.

Q: What are your motivating factors in life?
A: Job satisfaction. If I can achieve something that I set out to do it makes me happy and even more so if the task is challenging. Financial reward is not my motivating factor.

Q: You are quite a workaholic! Do you find it weird if you have an off day?
A: Yes! Even my colleagues have told me that I need to take a break.

Q: I can understand why the PMBA programme suits you. It feels like you just want to utilise Monday to Sunday to the fullest.
A: Of course I’d make sure that I have enough rest on the weekends. But at the same time, I also feel that I should be doing something to improve or enrich myself. Then I thought of the MBA. And when I saw that PMBA classes were on alternate weekends, it was perfect match for what I wanted.

Q: What are your core values?
A: Determination and continuous focus. I also believe in being impartial. For example, I give my colleagues equal treatment regardless of their designation. Everyone is valuable to the organisation.

Q: How do you see yourself in the next 10 to 20 years?
A: I envision myself to be a successful businesswoman someday. That was why I decided to start by studying finance because it is a key fundamental in any business. A good knowledge of finance does help you make better business decisions. I believe I’m on the right track.

Q: What would be your end goal?
A: I would really love to contribute back to my home country. There are a lot of less fortunate people in Myanmar and many places do not have proper schools. I would like to provide good education for them. I will either contribute financially or perhaps teach English.

Q: What would you say to prospective students who are considering the PMBA?
A: There needs to be a strong purpose for doing the programme. Working and studying at the same time is indeed challenging but rewarding. I think that if one wants to pursue this programme, it must be because it will help add value to their career and personal goals and not because he or she has free time to spare.

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