The NUS MBA is ranked #14 in the latest Financial Times Global MBA

Kelvin Ling, Singapore

The NUS MBA Class of 2021
Job title

Describe your personal brand.

I believe humility together with determination are two important attributes that one must have in order to succeed. I developed these attributes early on in my life, when I worked multiple jobs since the age of 13 to provide for my family, whilst trying to complete my basic education.

I’m also an avid runner, having competed in marathons and ultramarathons. These days, due to my family, work and school commitments, I run a lot less but I still keep a disciplined regime of daily running or workout.

What were you doing before The NUS MBA?

I have a bachelor's degree in Management Engineering and a postgraduate degree in Marketing.

I also have over six years’ working experience in the FMCG industry for industries such as retail, food processing and telecommunication, where I developed data analysis, business development, and client relationship skills. Prior to my MBA, I worked as Client Lead Manager at Dunnhumby, a global leader in Customer Data Science – primarily focused on supporting companies to drive strategic vision through the delivery of insights, resulting in a gain of competitive advantages.

I previously worked in Business Development for TIGO-UNE, one of Colombia’s leading telecommunication players, designing strategies to increase sales in the pre-paid business. The 15 people team I was responsible for achieved close to US$43 million in sales per year, which was an 8% increase compared to the previous year and twice the annual goal.

Why did you pick NUS?

I did my undergraduate Chemistry degree at the NUS Faculty of Science. Other than the rigorous academic learning, I had many good memories of my time in the hostel (King Edward VII hall), going for a student exchange programme in Canada and leading the NUS Cross Country team.

When I decided to pursue my part-time MBA, it was quite natural for me to choose NUS. More importantly, NUS Business School has a good global reputation with emphasis on experiential learning, wide diversity of nationalities, businesses in Asia and a vast alumni network.

Please share your key achievements and leadership roles on the programme.

My leadership role during the MBA was Vice President of the Marketing Club where I worked together with Shivangi (the President) to empower our MBA cohort with the tools and cross-functional skills needed to become responsible marketers in this global economic environment. We did so by dividing our activities into three stages: Explore, Engage and Embark.

During the Exploration stage, we enabled students to discover new forms of marketing and possibly new career aspirations; then during the Engagement stage we provided students with the opportunity to acquire and apply marketing knowledge in real business settings; and finally during the Embarking stage we helped students prepare for life after the MBA by creating opportunities to network and build careers in Singapore’s marketing ecosystem.

What has been the single most stand-out experience of your MBA?

Launch Your Transformation was a highlight for me. I not only acquired a learning partner, but a very good friend from Korea, for the rest of my life. The cultural and personality differences allow us to have completely different perspectives of life that enrich each other's point of view. We have helped each other to grow, and we have given each other career advice too.

Tell me something about The NUS MBA that others might not know.

People may perceive that The NUS MBA is very competitive and with a cut-throat environment. There is certainly a healthy level of competition as NUS MBA students are expected to challenge themselves and their peers in order to bring out the best in each other. The common phrase we use is “High Challenge, High Support”.

However, The NUS MBA definitely does not have cut-throat environment. In fact, The NUS MBA provides a safe environment where our beliefs are challenged without judgement, and in the process, we learn, improve and grow.

Who is your personal hero? What is it about him/her that you admire?

My father-in-law. He started his career almost penniless, but worked his way up and is now a respected leader in his industry. Despite that, he remains very humble and gives back substantially to society.

He was also the person who guided me back to complete my polytechnic education, when I was about to quit in order to work and repay my family’s mounting debts and medical bills. If it weren’t for him, I would not have the education and opportunity to be where I am today.

Where do you see yourself in 5 - 10 years’ time?

In my current role in Oiltanking, I hope to gain more experience in assets and operations before taking on a more strategic, general management role. I would like to help the company embark on a journey towards a more sustainable business, without neglecting stakeholders’ priorities.

Through the guidance of the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP), I’m also taking small steps in fulfilling my entrepreneurship dream. Earlier this year, my co-founder and I started a cleantech company specialising in treating oily wastewater before it contaminates drinking water and potentially destroying the marine ecosystem. We are now striving to create our first commercial membrane product for a pilot project with an engineering firm that specialises in treating commercial wastewater.

What advice would you give to other MBA aspirants?

In life, you can’t choose your starting point but you can definitely decide your journey and ending point. Taking myself for example, throughout my life, people have often told me that I would never do well in my studies or I would never be able run competitively. Rather than feeling beaten up, I turned these negative comments into sources of motivation.

Lastly, don’t procrastinate! If you have a goal to achieve, start working on it today and stay focused even when the going gets tough.

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