What were you doing before you joined The NUS MBA?
Prior to taking my MBA at NUS, I was a Strategic Planning Specialist at Energy Development Corporation, one of the largest renewable energy producers in the country. My role involves assessing the needs of the organisation using various frameworks and developing practical solutions to address them – somewhat like a consultant but with the internal perspective.
What was your career goal before you joined The NUS MBA? Did it change during or after completing the programme?
I knew that after my MBA, I still wanted a strategic role. I wanted a role that will allow me to come up with solutions or innovations that will impact the company on a strategic level. Perhaps due to my previous experience, taking on another Strategic Planning role seemed ideal, but I realised later on that I could actually realise my career goal by being a consultant.
The pivot to consulting was a gradual process. My lack of knowledge on the industry became an initial barrier for me, and because I only kept hearing the three biggest names – McKinsey, BCG, and Bain – hiring only the top MBA graduates globally, I really found it intimidating. What helped me understand consulting better were the different events organised both by career services and the student clubs. I attended Consulting Night and I realised that there is more to consulting than I thought, and there are lot of options available. I started talking to the representatives from different companies and admired how they talked about their work with such clear structure and thought process. I also got the chance to see a more creative side to consulting when I talked to someone from a consulting firm with a unique focus on leadership. They used board games to help business leaders visualise their strategies and I thought that was very interesting. Having that chance to connect with consultants and hear them talk about what they do, allowed me to break that initial barrier from considering a consulting career.
Company visits organised by the career services office also proved helpful in broadening my perspective of the consulting industry. I recall listening to one company talk about their work in Corporate Strategy Unit as if it were a consulting role, and that made me realise how similar my previous role was with consulting. It was the same process – using frameworks to analyse different aspects of the business and then using that analysis to develop an overall strategy for the firm – but with different clients. As the Corporate Strategy Unit, your client is your own company, but as a consultant, your clients are external to your firm.
These realisations of how broad and diverse the industry actually is, and how I would be able to use my previous work experience to be an effective consultant, made me decide to consider it as a career.
What did you do during the programme to achieve your goal?
My strategy was to keep my options open – I took strategy-related electives but I also tried a finance elective to learn something new; I decided to run for President of the Social Impact Club, but that did not stop me from joining other club events like Consulting Night; I took a consultant role for one of my internships, but I also did a business development internship when the opportunity arose. I know it sounds as if I was going in different directions, but what that did for me was to affirm what I really wanted, and that was a role in business strategy.
How long did it take to achieve your post-MBA goal?
My job search started in my last semester of my MBA programme and I was fortunate enough to secure a job just a few weeks after finishing my MBA. I started as an Associate with YCP Solidiance when I joined in March last year, and now I am a Manager. YCP Solidiance is a management consulting firm with a unique focus on Asian markets. We do a lot of projects involving market entry and growth strategies, M&A, and we even have our own principal investments. I enjoy my work because I am continuously learning on the job – I get immersed in different markets and industries; I get to enhance my analytical, strategic, and leadership skills and develop new ones; and I get various opportunities to grow within the firm. I am happy that my current role has opened up my world in many similar ways the NUS MBA has done for me.
What’s your advice for students who are looking for a career or geographical switch?
First, be open to opportunities but do not lose sight of what you value most in building a career. The benefit of an MBA is that it can offer you so many different types of career options and opportunities that, if you do not have a clear objective, it will just overwhelm you. I will admit that at some point in the programme I also got overwhelmed with all the networking events, club activities, internship opportunities, company visits and case competitions, but what helped me prioritise was my goal of optimising my experience and interest in strategy. In that way, I was able to use my time wisely on events or activities I was genuinely interested in.
Second, know what kind of working environment works best for you. This will help you adjust better in a new career. I really value a company with strong leadership and a culture that is based on results. I am fortunate enough to have both and this has really helped me appreciate my work better.
Lastly, take the leap. It is easy to get intimidated when you feel like you do not have experience to bring to table, but keep in mind that companies will know you are a right fit when they see it. I am a firm believer that an individual’s capability to add value to a firm is not correlated to experience.
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