Singapore Management University student Loh Teng Kai describes his transition back to academic life and discusses how his MBA experience has influenced his career interests.
Name: Loh Teng Kai
School: MBA, Singapore Management University
What are some activities you are involved with outside of class? How do you balance your time?
My classmates and I try to actively take part in case competitions, as these offer unique learning experiences. For example, a recent competition we took part in allowed us to explore a topic that’s still relatively new in the asset management industry - impact investing. In addition, winning or reaching the final stages of these competitions are a good to have on a CV, and can sometimes help supplement course fees!
Despite the benefits, case competitions can be quite time consuming so I try not to be overly ambitious to overcommit to multiple case competitions at any given time. Otherwise, juggling coursework, work (internships etc.), case competitions, and family can be a tad overwhelming.
How would you describe the school's social scene? What do people do for fun outside of class?
I would say the social scene is active, as my classmates do meet up to hang out after class. Some of the more common activities include drinks / parties, sporting events, or just simply grabbing a bite together. During the end of each term, there are also multiple events organised by the school whereby one can pick up something new with friends (e.g. learning how to windsurf, mix drinks etc.).
In addition to these, we have interschool activities (e.g. Sports Olympics, Get-Together sessions) as well with the other 2 local universities.
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
My advice is to have a thorough understanding of the objectives one wants to achieve from the program and the relevant constraints. I would advise students to put these objectives and constraints down on pen and paper before researching schools, as it helps narrow down the choices and give perspective on why you should or should not do an MBA.
For me, the decision was rather straightforward as I could not commit to a full-time program, nor to an overseas program - which narrowed my choices to 3 schools. Why I chose SMU however, was because of the strong branding of the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, its strong relationship with employers in Singapore and Hong Kong, and the way the program was structured. Particularly, I liked how condensed the MBA is, and how one can take an internship during the last term (as all classes will be in the evenings to allow students to work during the day).
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started the MBA application process?
Definitely this – the amount of commitment it will take to complete a MBA program. The amount of coursework was greater than expected, and it can become extremely challenging at times. Nevertheless, the support network at SMU is good, as the professors are easily reachable and extremely willing to share. Also, completing the required workload with my class mates does give a sense of achievement, and really builds camaraderie with your peers.
What is it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
The transition was less difficult for me as I subscribe strongly to the belief of continuous learning and have been furthering my knowledge through self-study through other certifications / courses. However, the challenge that I faced was that I could no longer schedule my “studying” as and when I liked, as there were deadlines to homework and exams. The amount of studying was also a lot more than what I was accustomed to. Nevertheless, this was not a major challenge.
My advice is not to worry too much about the transition. There will be others in the same boat. Support each other, and things will work out with discipline and proper time management!
Has your time so far in your MBA program helped you discover any career interests that you hadn’t considered before?
With the MBA, I was able to explore both the theoretical, as well as the practical aspects of particular topics due to the diverse experiences in the class. Also, using the MBA to do a career switch is common practice. It allowed me to speak more freely to people from different industries on job opportunities. Furthermore, there were many talks from industry experts and recruitment events organised by the Career Services office and the school, which gave me more insights into the various industries.
Together, these have definitely allowed me to discover more career interests aside from Finance.
What career are you hoping to pursue after graduation?
My interest in Tech and Entrepreneurship led me to co-found a start-up (JustJio), which provides an app platform that enables brick-and-mortar businesses to leverage on word-of-mouth marketing in a more cost-efficient and effective way. It will be interesting to continue with the start-up or take on another role in Tech.
On the other hand, Finance has also been my passion since pre-undergrad days, and I have been in the industry for a few years. I may head back to the Financial Services industry post my MBA.
I guess the beauty of the MBA program is that it allows people like me to explore. With the guidance of some of the career advisers available at SMU, I’m sure I am in good hands.
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