SPAN – A Unique Live Consulting Experience

SPAN – A Unique Live Consulting Experience

Graduate Studies Blog

NANYANG PROFESSIONAL MBA/PMBA

SPAN – A UNIQUE LIVE CONSULTING EXPERIENCE

Adjunct Faculty, Prof. AJ Boelens encouraged the class to adopt a “consultant’s mindset” when strategising solutions for companies.

On 21 March 2020, the current Nanyang Professional MBA (PMBA) cohort of 50 participants gathered for the kick-off session of the programme’s Strategy Projects at Nanyang (SPAN) capstone course. The energy level was high on that Saturday morning as the participants experienced their first taste of this unique feature of the programme, which is cited by many applicants as a key reason for wanting to join the Nanyang PMBA.

During the six-month SPAN module, which is distributed throughout the programme from March to September, PMBA participants work in diverse, cross-functional groups of four or five on real-world consulting projects for sponsor organisations. Mentored by a faculty professor, the groups apply their classroom learning as they develop innovative yet practical solutions to address business opportunities and challenges.

SPAN provides an unparalleled opportunity to practice a whole gamut of skills, including effective team building, strategic communication, research, and detailed data collection and analysis to arrive at realistic recommendations in a final presentation that could potentially be adopted by the sponsor organisation. Not a very impactful word. Perhaps we can say ‘business principles’ or even better ‘apply their classroom learning’

PMBA participants brainstorming the storyline of an MBA aspirant’s journey.

This year, 11 sponsor companies are collaborating with NBS on SPAN, the highest number to date. They include companies across a diverse range of sectors, from banking & finance, entertainment, and healthcare, to luxury products and FMCG. Some are participating for the first time while others have chosen to come on board again following previous positive outcomes.

The SPAN project topics present interesting challenges across a variety of industries, such as mapping the logistics ecosystem in Singapore; examining the consumer experience and buying behaviour of bathroom fittings; developing an AI strategy and roadmap for the automotive business; and a strategy for infant nutrition products. In developing their strategies and proposals, participants will focus on areas such as market profiling and entry, business expansion, competitive and customer intelligence, value chain analysis and opportunity analysis.

 The kick-off session began with Professor Rohit Bhatnagar, SPAN Director, laying out the objectives, assessment methods and regulations to observe when working as a “consultant”. The groups were formed by the faculty, ensuring a good mix of industries and functional backgrounds among the members of each group.

PMBA participants putting down important points during a group discussion.

The academic mentor also plays an important role during the process of SPAN. They are experts in the area of the allocated project, various mentors are assigned to each group to guide them at all stages of the project and provide direction on big-picture issues such as how to frame the project challenge. The idea is to inculcate independence and consulting expertise in the participants as they solve the finer issues on their own.

To prepare the participants with a consultant’s mindset, the session continued with a consulting exercise led by SPAN Instructor, Professor AJ Boelens. The exercise stimulated the participants to think about how to approach SPAN, making use of the hard skills, soft skills and industry knowledge gained during the PMBA programme. As the participants dived into group discussions and put down their thoughts on paper, AJ guided the class to be creative in their approach, focusing on not just the “what” and the technicalities, but also the “how” of accomplishing their goal.

Jacky Bo (left), Natasha Koo (centre) and Hassan Cader (right) posing for the camera during their break.

With SPAN now well underway, participant Jacky Bo, currently working as a Systems Engineer at Forescout Technologies. Inc, shares a little about his team’s experience so far. “Each team member is very proactive, and we are learning from each other. For example, one member is good at proposals and planning, one is good at communication, one is good at formatting PPT slides, and one is good at technology support. Every team discussion session is productive and our group mentor, who is from NTU, has provided a lot of advice.”

 On what she hopes to take away from the SPAN experience, Natasha Koo Ya Wen who is a Logistics Analyst at GE Healthcare nicely sums it up: “An experience of a lifetime playing the role of a consultant for a reputable company, working with classmates from very diverse backgrounds on a real-life company project and really pushing the limits of 1+1=3.”

Scholar embarks on accountancy degree with a mission: to rethink public finance in the face of tech disruption

Scholar embarks on accountancy degree with a mission: to rethink public finance in the face of tech disruption

Graduate Studies Blog

MSC ACCOUNTANCY

SCHOLAR EMBARKS ON ACCOUNTANCY DEGREE WITH A MISSION: TO RETHINK PUBLIC FINANCE IN THE FACE OF TECH DISRUPTION

Bobby Tan’s passion is in public finance. He first started out as a policy analyst in Singapore’s Ministry of Finance (MOF). Then, he moved into the Accountant-General’s Department of MOF—his latest role of over three years was Head of Cash Management & Payments in the Financial Reporting and Operations directorate. Bobby describes the directorate as “akin to the treasury function in a company.”

One of the directorate’s roles is managing the cash flow of Singapore’s public sector, which comprises more than 80 ministries and statutory boards. The day-to-day work includes overseeing key platforms for billings and payments between vendor and government. The team also reviews financial processes to improve efficiency while maintaining proper controls.

“My work combined financial operations and technology,” says Bobby. “These functions may not seem glamorous at first, but in recent years, finance is at the coalface of disruptive technology. This means that the finance function will increasingly move upstream as a business partner to help an organisation become more efficient or deliver cost savings. It has been eye-opening to witness how financial institutions and fintech startups have made all of that happen with digital innovation.”

It was during his time in the directorate that Bobby felt he wanted a deeper understanding of accounting and finance. “I believe that for the finance function to be an effective business partner, it needs to first possess a strong foundation and be flawless in executing its basic purposes,” he says.

So, Bobby decided to strengthen his own foundation and be a stalwart resource in the area. He enrolled in the Nanyang Master of Science in Accountancy (Nanyang MSc in Accountancy) to build up his knowledge, and is currently studying full-time with a scholarship from MOF.

“I enjoy the cross-disciplinary approach of the programme,” he says. “It really reflects current realities, such as how we need to synthesise knowledge from different domains these days to tackle actual business problems. The professors at Nanyang Business School also have a strong practitioner bent, which makes their teaching come alive. It’s always refreshing to be exposed to private sector experiences.”

Bobby adds, “What I am learning will complement my previous experience in policy work. For example, I look forward to getting a different perspective on financial operations from the Assurance and Auditing course in terms of analysing risks and instituting internal controls.”

With the skills that he is gaining, Bobby also hopes to inspire a forward-looking mindset in his next team. “Disruption and big data now offer more opportunities for finance practitioners to change the way we work and the insights we offer,” says Bobby. “But for people to be open to these opportunities and change, they have to get out of their comfort zones. It becomes more important to instil a growth mindset. Better policy, process or system changes will flow from that mindset.”

In line with Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative and armed with stronger accounting knowledge, Bobby is excited to explore how public finance can make the lives of citizens better through innovation. “There are many possibilities, from transforming our operations to exploring new technologies and rolling out mobile apps that really meet needs,” he says. “Public finance can make a real impact on citizens—contributing to that impact lies at the heart of my passion.”

Quick tip: Be hungry.
“Stay curious, be unafraid to speak up, ask questions. These are the ways in which we can truly learn. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously because none of us know everything!”

For more information on the MSc Accountancy programme, please visit our website or email mscacc@ntu.edu.sg.

Empowering Professional Growth Through Lifelong Friendship

Empowering Professional Growth Through Lifelong Friendship

Graduate Studies Blog

NANYANG EMBA

EMPOWERING PROFESSIONAL GROWTH THROUGH LIFELONG FRIENDSHIP

In celebration of International Friendship Day, our Nanyang EMBA alumni reflected upon how the programme helped them create lasting connections that support their careers.

A steppingstone to unlocking new perspectives

Jessica Dourcy, EMBA Class of 2019
Head of HR,
Palo IT

The Nanyang EMBA programme offers more than just mastery of business knowledge, asserts Jessica Dourcy. It is a journey of self-discovery that challenges senior executives to develop a well-rounded outlook, stronger leadership skills, and more incisive decision-making. Jessica was able to elevate these facets in her professional career, and more, through her time at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore).

“It truly is a life-changing experience. Your thought process is challenged at its core. You are confronted with points of view, data, analyses, experiences you have never encountered before.”

The NTU experience transformed Jessica’s outlook.  “Everything you thought you knew about the world, business, and ultimately yourself, as a professional undergoes a profound change. As a result, you gain confidence combined with humility, and this leads to opportunities you had never noticed and eventually, to a whole new perception of your potential,” she says.

As Jessica gained new personal perspectives, she believes that her interactions with people from the programme had greatly contributed to her professional growth as well.

“Aside from the curriculum, what I enjoyed the most about my EMBA was the people I met. I have made lifelong friendships along the way. To this day, I still reach out to them and the professors if I need advice on specific work situations,” says the Head of Human Resources at a global tech consultancy company.

NTU’s vibrant campus life had also filled her academic journey with so many treasured memories. “During and after the programme, there have been so many bonding activities and celebrations! We love getting together to work on projects or to simply enjoy each other’s company,” she asserts.

Opening a new path to more career opportunities

Dr Koh Hau-Tek, EMBA Class of 2016
Chief Medical Officer (DY),
Jiahui Health

As a medical practitioner, Dr Koh Hau-Tek has always recognised the growing importance of business management in healthcare. His passion for business management was first ignited when he took up the role of a Medical Director, where he supervised the operations and clinical quality of Singapore’s top healthcare facilities. While learning hard on the job allowed him to gain experience in business development, finance, corporate strategy, and more, it did not satiate his hunger for more knowledge.

The Nanyang EMBA was a life-changing experience for Dr Koh. The profound connections he forged with top professionals from other industries during the programme led him to more career opportunities. Upon graduation, he successfully transitioned to a senior management position in a completely different sector—technology and security—thanks to his course mate’s recommendation.

“The network turned out to be very wide and brimming with opportunities. I never imagined I would make such a radical move in my life!”

Dr Koh is also incredibly grateful for the programme’s world-class faculty and diverse course mates, with whom he had learnt to cultivate a global mindset. “My course mates shared top-notch ideas, and they had different but impressive thought processes. We challenged each other’s thinking; I’ve been able to go beyond my worldview and envision more possibilities.”

Friendships that are built to last over decades

Gladys Wee, EMBA Class of 2012
Director,
Teamsystem Construction Pte Ltd

Certain friendships are built to last, especially if they are forged through an intensive and life-enriching environment. For Gladys Wee, that is how she has gained lifelong friends from her time at Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore).

As a director at a construction company, Gladys believes that the Nanyang EMBA had given her the global exposure to think outside the box and connect with more people from the corporate field. “My cohort had an interesting mix of people from various industries, backgrounds, and cultures. These differences helped me think more critically and creatively in tackling problems in my work,” she says.

The programme also helped Gladys build the confidence she needed to move her company forward. She says, “The knowledge-sharing sessions in the class gave me the chance to express my ideas and thoughts as well as learn from others. Some of my peers have become my closest friends, and we all act as a great support system for each other.”

Gladys and her cohort are still in touch to this day. She discloses that her classmates hold gatherings at least once or twice a year. “We always stay connected through our group chat. There’s always something new to discuss every day.”

Her friends from NTU have also been supportive of her philanthropic work. “In 2018, I organised a fundraiser to support a charity. I reached out to my batch mates from the programme, and they were delighted to participate.” The donations gathered from the event were given to a non-profit organisation to help underprivileged children afford better education in the form of bursaries, Gladys shares.

A vast network of supportive professionals

Joshua Yim, EMBA Class of 2017
CEO and Founder,
Achieve Group

Networking goes beyond formal business correspondence for Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore) alumni. Having the willingness to lend an ear to a friend in need can also open a path to accelerate business success, Joshua believes.

When Joshua Yim embarked on his Nanyang EMBA journey, he was excited about the opportunity to upgrade his business toolkit. Little did he know; however, he would soon discover another treasure trove to transform his career by leaps and bounds.

“Being an entrepreneur in the Human Resource (HR) industry, I was compelled to build a greater network within the business community. So, coming to study at NTU was a huge thrill to me as I could enhance my knowledge and skills while building relationships with fellow professionals from my cohort and beyond,” says Joshua, who is the founder of a leading human capital solution company in Singapore.

The Nanyang EMBA programme allowed Joshua and his peers to forge a symbiotic network that serves to enrich each other’s professional development. “My course mates can contact me for free advice and help on recruitment and HR solutions, and in turn, they lead me to new business opportunities.”

He recalls, “Last year, a classmate from the programme—who is now a senior executive in Hong Kong—thought about relocating to Singapore and wanted my advice. He was very grateful for my input and a couple of months later, the same friend had referred me to someone who made an operational inquiry with my business.” This is the power of the network you gain.

Click here to learn more about the Nanyang Executive MBA programme or contact us at execmba@ntu.edu.sg.

Countless Round-trips From Shanghai To Singapore – The Nanyang Pmba Was All Worth It

Countless Round-trips From Shanghai To Singapore – The Nanyang Pmba Was All Worth It

Graduate Studies Blog

NANYANG PROFESSIONAL MBA

COUNTLESS ROUND-TRIPS FROM SHANGHAI TO SINGAPORE – THE NANYANG PMBA WAS ALL WORTH IT

Buffy Kuang already has a master’s degree in economics. Still, she realised that an MBA was a “must-do” when her job scope in American mobility company Dana Incorporated expanded over time.

In 2018, she embarked on the part-time Nanyang Professional MBA (PMBA) programme, acquiring the critical management skills to advance in her career. Today, Buffy is a Senior Customer Service Manager in Dana’s Shanghai-based Sales Operations team, where she works with clients from around the world and the company’s global plants to meet market demand and deliver business growth. During the PMBA programme, she flew to Singapore on alternate weekends while continuing work and life in Shanghai.

Access to a global network and mindset
Buffy’s education – up until her PMBA – was all in China. She knew that in order to thrive in an MNC, she needed to upskill herself in a more diverse education system. She explains, “We’re in a global village today that is always changing. Companies want people with overseas experience and knowledge of the international business world, so I sought to improve myself in those areas even as I see my future in China. Indeed, the international exposure of the Nanyang PMBA broadened my mind and prepared me to address problems on a global scale for my company.”

Buffy was energised by the open-minded collaboration shared among the PMBA cohort: they spoke freely and brought various possibilities to the table based on their unique cultural contexts. She says, “They showed me how an issue could be relooked at in many ways and created a powerful atmosphere for ideation.”

Convenience of part-time learning

“I got the best of both worlds: I could focus on my job in Shanghai for most of the week while getting my MBA in Singapore on alternate weekends.”

“I couldn’t have done it without my company’s support,” she says. “The management entrusts me with a role that requires an understanding of the international market, and they saw that I could hone it with the Nanyang PMBA.”

Before applying, Buffy researched on the faculty and alumni. Everything adds up to the learning experience and the Nanyang PMBA turned out to be so enjoyable that she hardly felt tired from working, flying and studying. “If you feel that the MBA is important, you’ll have the energy to see it through,” she says. 

Better leadership and Personal transformation
With a big picture view, Buffy inspires her teams to go beyond themselves and collaborate across departments. “The world is getting very complex. Departments must come together more to create interdisciplinary solutions. Having the business acumen to contribute to a productive dialogue is crucial in confronting a bottleneck or revenue issue at the management level.”

Halfway through her PMBA journey, Buffy was promoted and currently leads three cross-functional teams. Her leadership has become more effective with improved communication skills. She says, “I explain to my teams how our work influences other departments, so that we can find ways to improve across the board. We also clearly define problems to come up with solutions that are on point.”

While she used to prioritise speed and efficiency at work, the PMBA taught her that fast is not always good. “Quality companies don’t hire people to be fast or to do routine work, they hire people to create value.”

With this revelation, she changed her approach to focus her teams on solving problems effectively, as she believes that is how value is created, “I’ve become a more objective thinker: I’ve learnt that there are many different methods and perspectives – and that they are all valid.”

Now, she makes time to comprehend the larger story that needs to be told, so that it can motivate her teams. “What you give to your team is what you will get from them,” she says.

A fun but challenging environment
As part of the Nanyang PMBA, participants are always encouraged to work in teams and apply what they have learnt to a strategy for an actual company. We didn’t know if we would make it,” Buffy recalls. Her team, which was developing a go-to-market strategy for a baby garment business, persisted by communicating more and constantly refining their aims.

Eventually, they made it. “Our mentor was so excited about our progress and was very proud of us when we presented the strategy,” Buffy says. “There was a sense of achievement in developing a commercial and viable solution for the company. More importantly, the teamwork was very meaningful for us.”

After classes, the cohort often went out for drinks. “Our bonds strengthened as we shared our lives with one another,” Buffy says. The friendships, which continue to endure post-graduation and across oceans, have been encouraging. “We all have different perspectives,” she says, “at the same time, we share a common goal and optimism to succeed.”

NTU EMBA Alumnus Dr Chea Vandeth Enables Future Workforce with Quality Education in Cambodia.

NTU EMBA Alumnus Dr Chea Vandeth Enables Future Workforce with Quality Education in Cambodia.

Graduate Studies Blog

NANYANG EMBA

NTU EMBA ALUMNUS DR CHEA VANDETH ENABLES FUTURE WORKFORCE WITH QUALITY EDUCATION IN CAMBODIA

Dr Chea Vandeth—the Class of 2016 EMBA alumnus and currently Cambodia’s Minister of Post and Telecommunications—shares how his time at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU, Singapore) helped him cultivate strong leadership to create social impact in his home country of Cambodia.

Teachers need to learn too! Nanyang Executive MBA (EMBA) alumnus Dr Chea Vandeth appreciated the value of good pedagogy and therefore wanted to learn from the best. “Soon after my Ph.D. in 1997, I returned to my home country and taught at two universities in Cambodia,” Dr Chea shares.

While teaching, he observed that good quality education was still lacking. “While the number of public and private universities had increased to more than a hundred, there were increasing concerns about education quality due to this rapid growth. Having seen this challenge, I thought Cambodia needed a good university to provide a benchmark,” he explains.

Dr Chea, who is currently Cambodia’s Minister of Post and Telecommunications, had foreseen the growing importance of technology in improving the quality and access to his country’s education system.

On his quest to leverage digital innovation in the country’s education system, Dr Chea came to Singapore to gain more knowledge on good governance and digital transformation. He was particularly interested in the Nanyang EMBA programme as it offered the specifics he needed to deepen his understanding of the Western education system, and how it could be applied in the Cambodian context.

The programme’s unique overseas residential segments in the USA gave him the global exposure he sought to broaden his perspectives. Such exposure was incredibly useful as his current ministerial post always challenges him to cultivate a global leadership mindset to solve complex problems.

“The Nanyang EMBA programme helped me acquire transformative knowledge by delving into successful and unsuccessful case studies from around the world. I have also gained more experiences from my peers who were global senior leaders from the private and public sectors.”

Implementing Change with Executive Education

Dr Chea Vandeth believes by leveraging technology in higher education, Cambodia can build a more robust workforce amidst a ferocious labour market.

“Robust tertiary education can lay down a strong foundation for a successful digital transformation in Cambodia and help us leapfrog the development stages by taking advantage of the fourth industrial revolution in the upcoming years,” he says.

Having seen this challenge, Dr Chea realised  Cambodia needed a good university to provide the best model for others to benchmark.

In 2013, he finally implemented his vision. Dr Chea recounts, “In consultation with several universities in the USA, I decided to establish the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) to provide rich and poor Cambodian students equal opportunity to receive a quality education.”

AUPP is the only university that provides internationally recognised US-accredited degree programmes to students in the country. At the university, 45 percent of outstanding students receive a scholarship, while the remaining 55 percent pay the tuition fees themselves, he adds.

The confluence of learnings from NTU equipped Dr Chea with relevant leadership and technical capabilities to implement changes at AUPP to remain competitive in the era of globalisation.

“Studying at NTU provided me with a lot of useful tools to make AUPP stronger in education management and to transform AUPP to be the leader of higher education in Cambodia.”

Building the Workforce of Tomorrow

Dr Chea believes that higher education with a strong international foundation is playing an even more important role in Cambodia’s economic growth. Combining rich and vibrant Cambodian culture with the global outlook, the hybrid education model as exemplified by AUPP can push the boundaries of learning to help students grow and think more critically to answer the pressing needs in the Cambodian society.

“We strive to build a tertiary education system that prepares students to be the future innovators and leaders of tomorrow as they will become the engine that drives Cambodia into the ASEAN integration,” he says.

Enhancing greater access to quality education also requires strong digital infrastructure on every front. The Nanyang EMBA’s digital focus inspired Dr Chea to create a development trajectory that seeks to eradicate the digital divide in his country. To achieve this vision, Dr Chea underscores that the Cambodian government must focus on strengthening infrastructure development and broadband connectivity.

“We will facilitate the adoption of technology in education, the business community, NGOs, and households. We will also ensure good governance in the technology sector by developing effective policies and regulatory frameworks, together with the development of ICT human capital,” he concludes.

Click here to learn more about the Nanyang Executive MBA programme or contact us at execmba@ntu.edu.sg.