Tan Yee Chen
Master of Business Administration
I think furthering studies is something that comes naturally to most people, particularly after having been in the work force for a few years. My first degree from Nanyang Technological University was in Engineering but now I am pursuing a postgraduate degree in the Master of Business Administration (MBA). Though I have always worked in an engineering-related industry and assume engineering roles, I am also keen to develop competencies in the areas of business development and management.
After working for three years in my first company, I was interested to work overseas for a few years and hence applied for a job in Australia, which was how I landed in Adelaide for three and a half years. I started working for Aurecon in Adelaide before I was transferred to the Aurecon Singapore office. While working in Adelaide, I was aware of the business programmes offered by the University of Adelaide (UoA) and of their joint venture with Ngee Ann Kongsi – the Ngee Ann-Adelaide (NAA) Education Centre here in Singapore. Students at the centrally-located NAA campus undergo the same curriculum, which means that the rigour and quality of the content, as well as the course load and assessments are the same as the classes in Adelaide. This, together with an abundance of international learning opportunities via an exchange programme, are just some of the motivating factors that drove me to enrol for the part-time MBA programme with UoA offered through NAA in May 2014.
One of the challenges that I face in the course of study is the optimal balancing of work, study and family, which is a constant struggle. The support of my family at home as well as from my colleagues and bosses at my workplace is very important. I constantly remind myself that this challenge is temporary and of the long term benefits that I would be able to enjoy after completing the MBA programme, in order to maintain my energy and drive. It also helps that I am a privileged recipient of NAA’s bond-free scholarship which provided me generous financial assistance, so that I am able to focus better on my studies without having to worry too much about the programme fees.
I’m a little more than halfway through the programme and so far, have really enjoyed the course works. I picked the MBA programme at NAA because of a well-balanced composition of face-to-face lectures and self-study mode of learning. Particularly, I find the leadership and management courses really beneficial and interesting as a great deal of it has to do with personal change, and the expansion of my thoughts.
The most recent course I have taken was on negotiation skills, where we went through numerous simulations and scenarios to appreciate the principles behind effective negotiations. I liken this to sessions of “mind games”, which tested me and my coursemates on our behaviours and thinking process. It is not a familiar or comfortable experience for some people, including myself; however, it is a controlled and moderated environment for us to put ourselves to the test. Another takeaway for me from this course was that there would always be a solution or a better way to resolve an issue, which was rather motivational for me in that aspect.
Due to the high quality of the MBA programme, some of my course mates were either partially or even fully sponsored by their organisations to take on this MBA programme. Profile of the MBA students at NAA generally hail from big organisations like Shell, Pratt & Whitney, City Developments Limited, Honeywell, Microsoft and other MNCs, as well as government agencies which boost the quality of classroom and project discussions and significantly contribute to the flow of ideas. These interactions provided me valuable opportunities to engage with and to learn from each of them.
Furthering my studies had always been something which I planned to do. Mentors with whom I am close to in my company also played a part in shaping my aspirations. Also, from observing the career pathways of others, I was encouraged to pursue an MBA, which I think would allow me to better pursue my career goals and management skills. Aurecon is an engineering and professional services consultancy organisation, therefore the self-development of staff and development of others, are among the key focus of the company. We have an Aurecon Women Achieving Woman committee in each country’s operating office, which aims to promote the professional development of women in the workplace, help ourselves to work better, be more effective workers and to be happier in general. For the Singapore’s office, I am currently the Committee’s Chairwoman.
I feel that the MBA degree will provide me with a broad base knowledge to be suitably equipped for management roles, develop key skills in problem-solving, communication, leadership and in teambuilding, as well as to hone my analytical and critical evaluation abilities. All of these, a manager would need in today’s complex business environment. Thus, I strongly feel that learning is for life and this mentality should be embraced from the desire to want to better and stretch the potential of oneself.
UoA, a highly reputable, world-class university, is consistently ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide, and is also a member of the Group of Eight, which is made up of Australia’s top research-intensive universities. The University of Adelaide’s Business School is also awarded a 5-year accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) which is one of the world’s most respected accrediting bodies. The AACSB accolade is awarded only to the top 5% of the world’s business programmes. The MBA programme has also been rated 5-Star, the highest rating by the Graduate Management Association of Australia.
Conducted over intensive weekends to minimise disruption to students’ work schedule, the programme’s coursework usually comprises of a mixture of case studies, projects and examinations. Students are required to read up extensively before coming for class, so that they are able to actively participate in discussions and have a more fruitful understanding on the topics. Students are also expected to have the discipline and commitment to get together in groups on their own time to discuss and work on assignments and projects, sometimes after work or during weekends when there are no classes.
UoA also has a huge repository of learning resources and teaching staff of the University of Adelaide (UoA) fly in to Singapore for classes. Besides being recognised internationally for their outstanding academic achievements, the lecturers are well-connected with their respective industry and have diverse research involvement in their fields. They are adept at translating real-life case studies and experiences into relevant and topical classroom experiences to share with the students. Classes are kept at optimal sizes so as to achieve better lecturer-student interactions.
I would also highly recommend this MBA programme for several reasons. Firstly, materials taught in class go beyond the local context as students are exposed to the international knowledge and experiences shared by the lecturers who are very professional, interesting, and are always willing to share their real-life case studies to facilitate in their teachings. Secondly, with its intensive weekend classes teaching mode, the programme is best suited for professionals who desire to further their postgraduate studies in a programme that boasts of strong academic rigor and practical industry applications. Lastly, classes are always engaging and filled with activities, exercises and games to promote students’ critical thinking in a competitive business environment such as Singapore’s.