17 months ago I made the best decision of my life. A decision that has challenged me and enabled me to transform into a stronger and more confident individual and professional. I decided to pursue my Masters in Business Administration at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School. Over the last few months, I received several requests on LinkedIn and via email from prospective MBA candidates asking about my experiences at the NUS MBA. I have been there myself, unsure about whether an MBA is the best choice for me, or whether NUS would be able to give me what I desire. As my MBA comes to an end, I have detailed my business school journey in this article for those who are looking to make an informed decision about pursuing an MBA or choosing a particular school.
I contemplated doing an MBA for several years. As an undergraduate student of Economics at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, I was surrounded with classmates and college mates who pursued their MBA at prestigious universities all over the world. At that point of time, even I considered doing an MBA, just because it seemed like the “right thing to do”. Thankfully, the idea never materialized, as I wasn’t ready for the rigor of the MBA immediately after undergraduate school. Instead, I joined the workforce and fell in love with the dynamic business world.
The desire of doing an MBA found me again while I was at Disney. At that point of time, I had spent almost 5 years learning the intricacies of the Entertainment industry, working across multi-functional teams and building initiatives that impacted millions of consumers. I wanted a new challenge. I knew my academic journey wasn’t over, I wanted to go back to school, sit in a classroom and learn new things. I wanted to get a global education that allowed me to live in a new country, travel and meet people from all over the world. Most importantly, I wanted to accelerate my career, gain more responsibilities and work in an international market. It was the perfect time to apply for an MBA.
NUS was my top choice for the MBA. As Asia’s best university, National University of Singapore is well-known all over the world. Additionally, the Singaporean economy is a powerhouse of Asia with almost all international companies having a regional headquarter in the city. Singapore’s multicultural environment gives the opportunity to build a network with people from all over the world. Having visited Singapore as a teenager, I was impressed by the high standard of living and the ease of navigation in the city. I knew as it would be the first time I was living outside India, it would be extremely helpful to live in a city that was safe and where everyone spoke English! When NUS granted me the “NUS MBA Excellence Award” scholarship for well-rounded academic and professional, I knew the school appreciated my background and I knew I had made a good decision.
From the Classroom to the Boardroom, the NUS MBA Difference
As a student of Liberal Arts working in Entertainment, my unconventional background stood out in the MBA classroom. However, the first semester with its core modules of the NUS MBA prepared me well for the rigorous management education ahead of me. I joined the MBA in July 2015, and for the next 5 months I immersed in business fundamentals such as Financial Management, Financial Accounting, Analytics for Managers, Managerial Economics and Marketing Management. I was amazed by the speed at which the entire class caught up on the basics of management and especially the quality of teaching for the core modules. However, the NUS MBA learning experience is not just in the classroom. As part of its experiential learning framework, in the second semester, we participated in the Management Practicum (MP). In the MP, NUS MBA students execute a consulting project for leading companies from Singapore. During the MP, I was handpicked by Johnson & Johnson to consult them in their digital engagement strategy for healthcare professionals in Singapore and the Philippines. The MP allowed me to practice the concepts I learned during the MBA to solve a business problem and engage with senior leadership in the organization. It was also during the second semester that I decided to specialize in Marketing, and enrolled for interesting electives such as Product & Brand Management and Marketing in China.
The NUS MBA+
The NUS MBA goes beyond the classroom. During my first year at the NUS MBA, I participated in several extracurricular activities, three of which stood out the most. The first was winning the “NUS MBA Elevator Pitch” competition. This annual competition is held among all NUS MBA students where participants make their professional value proposition in 60 seconds. The second was volunteering for Marketing & Communications for “Cerebration 2015”, world’s largest business case competition organized by the NUS Business School. The third was representing NUS as a semi-finalist at Yale School of Management’s “Integrated Leadership Case Competition 2016”.
Networking Across Continents at the NUS MBA
The NUS MBA classroom comprises of students from 30+ countries making it an ideal place to start building a global network. I found it extremely rewarding to network with employers on campus during career events and networking evenings. This was a great way to understand their company cultures to see if they could be a good fit for me post-graduation. Additionally, I participated in the school’s Global Immersion Program to China, where we interacted with CEOs and senior leadership of Global and Chinese companies in Shanghai to understand the business landscape of China. Another memorable networking event I attended was the MBA World Summit 2016 in Miami. The summit gathers the 100 most inspiring MBA students from all over the world, as well as top executives from a small number of carefully selected companies that offer exceptional career opportunities. I also had the opportunity to host my own Summit Laboratory Session on ‘Marketing 2.0: Demystifying Content Marketing’. The MBA World Summit 2016 was followed by the 46th St. Gallen Symposium, a global gathering of global business leaders that takes place annually at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. I attended the Symposium as one of the 100 Leaders of Tomorrow who were carefully selected from 300 universities and represented 80 nationalities.
From Singapore to Germany, Two Incredible Internships
I had two extremely enriching internships during the MBA. The first was a part-time internship at Morgan Philips Executive Search, a European headhunting start-up that runs its Southeast Asian operations from Singapore. I found this internship through a job posting by the Career Services Office at NUS Business School. During my 2 days a week internship, I developed brand experience and brand proposition for clients and talent pool through digital initiatives and content marketing. The second internship was with Amazon Germany in Munich. I found this unique opportunity while networking at the MBA World Summit. As a Product Management Intern in the EU Retail organization at Amazon Fashion in Germany, I designed and drove a strategic project to derive short-term and long-term measures to increase customer retention and customer loyalty in the Shoes category. The project findings and recommendations will be applied to other categories in Amazon Fashion Germany, and to EU locales such as UK, France, Italy and Spain.
Singapore, the Perfect City!
At the heart and soul of my MBA experience is my love for Singapore. Words cannot describe how much I have enjoyed my one year in the city. In fact, I joke with my friends how all the metropolises of the world have been romanticized in mainstream media either through movies, television shows or songs. It’s time we started a marketing initiative to do the same for Singapore, an incredible city! Singapore is a perfect city for students: a garden city with amazing weather all year long, superbly connected with affordable world-class public transport, delicious food from all around the world, with buzzing night life and acts a gateway to Southeast Asia. Every day I have been delighted by the kindness of Singaporeans, be it the Taxi Uncle or the Hawker Center Aunty. I am grateful to how safe I felt in Singapore, any time of the day or night. If you are considering living or studying in Singapore, I highly recommend exploring the live music on Haji Lane on Thursdays, picnicking at Botanic Gardens, admiring the magnificence of the National Art Gallery, playing volleyball at Sentosa Beach and packing a backpack to island hop over a long weekend to Indonesia and Malaysia.
An Unforgettable Exchange Experience at Kellogg School of Management
I was selected to represent the NUS MBA as an exchange student for the Fall quarter at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. I chose Kellogg for two primary reasons. First, that having lived and worked in Asia and Europe, I wanted to gain exposure to the third most important global business hub: North America. Second, Kellogg is globally known as the best business school for Marketing and I was excited by the marketing and analytics courses the school had to offer. My exchange experience at Kellogg was terrific. The intellectually challenging courses such as Marketing Strategy, Customer Analytics, Retail Analytics, Launching New Products & Services and Strategic Brand Management enhanced my understanding of marketing and customer focused analytics. I loved living in Evanston, a cozy student town home to Northwestern University. It was incredible being just a 30-minute drive away from Chicago, an epicenter of improv comedy and jazz. The most memorable part of my exchange experience was the collaborative student culture at Kellogg and building bonds with extremely bright and friendly students.
The MBA is “What You Make of It”
To conclude, the MBA is what you make of it. The last 17 months have been the best days of my life. I have made friends for life, traveled all over the world, and transformed into a better version of myself. As a professional, the MBA has prepared me to deep dive into any ambiguous or complex business problem, get my hands dirty and deliver results. I am ready to pack up my bags in a day’s notice and travel to any place in the world, immerse myself in the culture, live and work there. If you are seeking adventures, are prepared to focus and commit to your personal development, the MBA is the decision for you. My advice would be to find a school that is a good culture fit for you, prioritize on what you want from the MBA (you cannot do everything, don’t have FOMO), find a small but supportive group of friends and chase your dreams. Everything and anything is possible during an MBA, so just go make it happen!