Journeying With Those On The Same Boat

Liew Sher-Li (BBA 1998)

 

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Some say the term “working mother” is a misnomer as mothers are working full-time, all the time, even at work. Being a working mother is not the easiest job in the world, and she knows it. That’s why Liew Sher-Li (BBA 1998) founded Mums@Work in 2009. From a humble portal for mothers who want to find the perfect work-parenting balance, Mums@Work has grown into a comprehensive platform for mothers to look for flexible work solutions and career guidance. Sher-Li shares how her own experience had turned a simple idea into action.

Dealing with real moms with real work-life balance issues, what changes have you observed of mothers and women in general? What about society’s views of women’s roles, especially upon their transition to motherhood?

I genuinely see that there are many changes in the horizon for women, especially mothers, in Singapore. As our roles of employee and motherhood start to evolve in this highly-integrated and ever-changing environment, I believe that there will be an increasing demand by women to put more effort into this balancing act. It is true that the cost of living is higher. However, as we get more educated and gain more exposure to the world, we also start to value the quality of life more than we did in the past. Thus, mothers begin to realize that it is not just about providing as much money for your child; spending quality time nurturing them is also important.

What made you decide to start Mums@Work?

Upon returning to work after having my first child, I felt pulled in many ways. My work needed me, but so did my child. I then started looking at flexible work options out in the market, but realized that there was a limited number of such jobs for professionals and executive (degree holders and above). I realized then that there was no real solution for mothers who wanted flexible career options. There were also a few random sites for “Mumpreneurs” to seek advice from, and quite a few of them were linked to multi-level marketing schemes.

I thought to myself: “Why not set up a professional portal for mothers to seek out flexible career options, get  advice and learn about starting small businesses while playing an active role as a mother at the same time?”

How has Mums@Work evolved?

When I started it, I had in mind a purely job-matching portal. However, as the membership grew, I realized that many of them were actually drawn to Mums@Work simply because a mother ran it. They were also interested to meet one another, participate in activities and go through training sessions together. It kept evolving – organically! And now, it has become a community of more than 3,800 (and still counting) women with common issues and common desires. I, therefore, had to expand the range of activities that was provided to them.

How does your child feel about your work arrangements?

As she is only turning three this year, she has never expressed her sentiments before. However, I do notice how close she has become to me. I attribute this to the business allowing me to be at home more often to be with her. The business also allows me to practice what I preach, which is work-family balance. I think she will grow to appreciate this. At this point in time, all I know is she likes that mummy is often at home.

What are some of the reasons behind Mums@Work’s success?

I think its success lies in the fact that it is a very unique kind of organization. As it is a social enterprise, I made sure it was equally socially responsible and profitable so as to benefit the mothers. I think this helped spearhead it a little since our target segment saw value in a business that tried to give back as much as it tried to earn for them.

Its growth has been facilitated by the fact that it is one-of-a-kind in Singapore, and that the women have been so supportive. Many of the member-mums are kind, and often help to spread the word about the portal to other mothers and even employers.

We are also quite flexible and adaptable to change. We are always ready to receive as much feedback as possible so that we can act on it and improve our services. Currently, we have a few corporate projects lined up that we are really excited about.

How has it helped you as a mother and a career woman?

Running Mums@Work as a social enterprise has taught me so much. I have learnt so much in the last two years about running a business. Because I do everything alone, starting from scratch – that means  having to roll my sleeves up and learn the ropes – it has been a humbling experience. Yet, at the same time, I now have greater confidence and believe that I can do anything.

In addition, meeting other like-minded mums has let me discover the common problems we face, and realize that I should treat myself well without expecting to be super-woman all the time.

I have also met lots of women who are just amazing – those who run a small home business and have four children without any help from a domestic helper. They truly inspire me to become an even better mother.

More Information

Visit Mums@Work at www.mumsatwork.net or https://www.facebook.com/mumswork

Building A Great Alumni Community

Ng Pheck Choo (BBA 1984)

 

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“Around me is boundless opportunity…” is a phrase, that sums up the positive mindset and hints at the energy that new GANO Director Ng Pheck Choo (BBA 1984) brings with her since her appointment on August 22, 2011.

Like many alumni, Pheck Choo flew far and wide in pursuit of career and success. She returns now with a wealth of experience, energy and a vision to serve NUS Business School’s ever growing alumni community.

As she describes, being appointed GANO Director is a “personal homecoming”, being both a BBA alumna and having been involved in the NUS Business School Alumni Association on its Board of Directors for the past two years.

Pheck Choo brings hard won experience – culled from holding managerial positions in the public and private sectors – which she hopes to put to good use in her new role. Among them, she had served as Associate Director, Annual Giving in the NUS Development Office and Head, Annual Giving in her last appointment in NTU, these giving her extensive experience in stewardship and giving campaigns.

Previous long stints in customer service and call centre work will also come in handy as her office will work closely with the Development Office and Career Services to enhance activities for the school.

Looking at the opportunities ahead in alumni engagement strategy, she sees building and strengthening strategic relationships with alumni as the way to both enhance and strengthen the reputation of the School and its alumni community.

“We will focus on building a strong alumni community, and working closely with the three alumni associations to explore collaborative efforts. Without doubt, the alumni association is the most important pillar of the School’s community. Therefore, we need our alumni to be at the forefront of our alumni-led activities.”

Pheck Choo places emphasis on working closely with “the university and administrators, faculty, alumni and volunteers in building strategic engagement platforms that will achieve the goals, missions and aspirations of the School”.

While she feels it is too early to talk about leaving a legacy, she has a vision of helping to grow a “sense of a great community in the School, where alumni are willing to contribute significant resources – both in terms of time and financial contribution – to the University”.

“After all, alumni provide critical leadership by serving as trustees and board members; and also by acting as consultants, giving advise and counsel in the area of their professional expertise,” she said.

And the one thing she would say to GANO members?

“Great attitudes precede great opportunities; who you are determines what you see. A quote from Stella Stuart sums it all:

Behind me is infinite power.
Before me is endless possibility.
Around me is boundless opportunity.
Why should I fear?”

Gazing at the Economic Crystal Ball

Gazing at the Economic Crystal Ball

 

Debt crises in Europe, high rates of unemployment in the Us, corporate bailout, and austerity measures – those are the somber phrases dominating the headlines in 2011. Will the economic situation improve in 2012? How do we stay competitive in the ever more challenging market? We ask our alumni.

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Deepak Mohan (MBA 2011):

The year 2011 was certainly a good year to be in school. While the economic crisis unfolded, we could be on the sidelines, observing and analyzing. It’s not only the financial sector that is affected. I’m working in the digital media sector, and we’re also affected by the bad news… I am, however, very optimistic about the year 2012. With the right attitude, you can do anything and succeed in this challenging environment.

Ng Inn Chiau (NUS-HEC MBA 2011):

In such a short working period, we have already seen two crises. In the year 2008, I was working in the infrastructure field, and our sector actually received quite a boost from the government stimulus. Now, I’m working in the banking industry which is considered more volatile. I think in times of crisis, there will also be opportunities. You just have to overcome the challenges as they come.

Tan Shao Yi (MBA 2010):

The year 2011 has been an eventful year for me, managing a telecommunication market in Indonesia while still based in Singapore. Indonesia is quite a challenging market, but we hope to make more breakthroughs. It is very difficult to say if the situation will improve. I just hope that the Europeans and US markets will not crash next year.

Dr Suanny Gouw (APEX-E MBA 2007):

The year 2011 has been a challenging one with all the bad news on the economy. To beat the downturn, people should be out more for networking to find out the available opportunities. I just hope that everyday will be a brand new day for us to make a difference in our or other people’s lives.

James Li (MBA 2000):

I am working in the oil and gas offshore industry, and, career wise, I’m quite happy with many new opportunities in 2011 despite the talks of financial crisis. I’m not really worried with the economic situation. If you are at my age, you just want to enjoy life and spend more time with the family. That is more important.

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

The year 2011 went by in a blink. In a few weeks’ time, we will welcome 2012. We ask some of our alumni how 2011 has been for them, and what they hope to achieve in the coming year.

 

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Monica Singh (MBA 2010):

2011 is definitely one of the best years in my life. I got to achieve a lot career-wise, and had opportunities to travel quite a bit. In October, for example, I had the chance to celebrate Oktoberfest in Munich. While I’ve always tried to spend time with my parents, I got to do it more this year. I look forward to more challenging roles in my workplace in 2012.

Hyunsu Mun (S3 Asia MBA 2011):

I am very happy at how the year 2011 went. I graduated from the NUS MBA program and found a job in Singapore, I had previously worked for 7 years in Seoul. This year, I applied for permanent residency in Singapore. I’m looking forward to the results of my application.

Next year is going to be an important year for our family because we are expecting a baby boy in March. He’ll be our dragon boy. I have another daughter who is seven. It’ll be a great responsibility for me as the head of the family, but I’m looking forward to it.

Rajas Karandikar (MBA 2011):

The year 2011 has been good. I am not the type to make resolutions at the beginning of the year. Then again, I think I have nothing to complain about that needs to be changed with resolutions. Right now, I am just looking forward to spending the year-end holiday relaxing with the family.

Jaimin Shah (MBA 2010):

The year 2011 has been good as I’m still surviving. I will most probably go back to India to celebrate the change in calendar year with my family… Hope that 2012 will be a better year for all of us.

Cecilia Ho (MBA 2011):

I am from China, and I have just spent two years here on the MBA program at NUS. The year 2011 has been very good, with good experience in my studies as well as new job.

Shail Barthwal (APEX-E MBA 2012):

It has been a hectic year with the MBA studies as it is our final year. But it’s also been a happy year with the arrival of my baby girl, the first for my wife and I. I hope 2012 will be a better year, including a better job and a better salary.

Sashi Adsul (APEX-E MBA 2012):

The year 2011 marked my third year in Singapore. My family had stayed on in India and we have been taking turns commuting between both countries to see each other. It will be my turn to fly to India to spend the year-end with the family. The year has been good in the sense that I had the chance to change my job profile to one with a more challenging role… I’m looking forward to more challenging work in 2012.

Yeo Keng Joon (MBA 1985):

The year 2011 has been good for me. Business-wise, it’s been great. But, most importantly, this year, I just got a cute granddaughter.

Big Opportunities for a Strong Alumni Community

As 2011 draws to a close and 2012 dawns, we take a fresh look at how the NUS Business School’s Global Alumni Network Office grows a vibrant alumni community across professions and generations, near and far.

With over 33,000 alumni spanning five continents and 42 cities – and still growing – maintaining a sense of community is an on-going challenge. Looking back, the NUS Business School’s Global Alumni Network Office (GANO) offers a dynamic calender of events and activities annually where members have the opportunity to engage one another professionally as well as to enjoy themselves in a myriad of activities.

Big on Business

Since the launch of GANO four years ago, we have witnesses and exponential growth in numbers. In partnership with our alumni associations, we now have many signature events to call our own. These are CEO Unplugged which had its 20th run in March 2011, NUSBSA CEO Breakfast Talks and Mandarin Management Forums. The recent Zheng He’s Art of Collaboration Forum welcomed an overwhelming 300 participants.

Ambitious and highly-successful events overseas include the inaugural Global Alumni Summit in Bali in November 2010 and, more recently, the forum on “Indian Leadership in the 21st Century” in Bangalore in February 2011. The latter provided the impetus for subsequent alumni gatherings in New Delhi and Hyderabad within the same week – fulfilling GANO’s mission of building relationships with alumni.

Meeting the Hearts and Minds

At these large-scale events, our alumni share insight and interact with individuals who helm major local or multinational corporations. GANO has had the privilege of hosting speakers such as Mr Allen Lew, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Telecommunications Limited, who continues to lead the transformation of SingTel Singapore into a leading multimedia and info-communications technology solutions provider (SAS-NUSBSA CEO Breakfast Talk, 20 Oct 2011); and Mr Lee Tze Yang, Chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore, previous co-chair of the Water Focus Group for the Singapore Green Plan 2010, member of the Centre for Liveable Cities advisory board, and an advisor for environmental management on the NUS Board of Trustees (SAS-NUSBSA CEO Breakfast Talk: Meeting Future Energy Needs, 15 Apr 2011).

One participant from New Delhi summed things up beautifully. Said Nitin Girotra (MBA 2007), “It was really fantastic to have diverse and eminent speakers up close, sharing topics ranging from arts to mythology.”

Big on Fun

However, it is not all just business. The annual NUS Business School Golf Reunion Challenge is an event that attracts alumni from afar. Mr Yam Ah Mee (MBA 1991), who was at the 2011 tournament at the Singapore Island Country Club, said, “It’s wonderful to attend alumni games where everyone from different committees can come together to relax, have fun and network with one another. It is an opportunity to renew friendships, with both local and international members of our alumni network.”

Off the beaten track for alumni is the annual Gobi Desert Challenge, a grueling 4-day trek across the Gobi Desert, featuring teams from 18 top international business schools like Tsinghua University and Peking University. Forth alumni, students and their families took part in the 2011 event. “When the Challenge ended, the team members became so close! I couldn’t help imagining what it would be like if our interpersonal relationships at work and in life were as harmonious, friendly and trustworthy. It would be fun!” shared Zhang Runbin (APEX-C MBA 2001).

Back home in Singapore, events like the Oktoberfest 2011 at Paulaner Brauhaus in Millenia Walk attracted 150 alumni and students participants who chatted over chilled beer and warm cheers; and Explore Singapore 2011 & Networking Dinner helped 134 incoming students bond with the School and their predecessors. Such events that include alumni and students allow alumni to talent-scout for their companies in an informal setting, while allowing students to widen their career opportunities.

Big on Personalization

Countless smaller-scale events are also made available to alumni who prefer a more tight-knit setting. Often initiated by alumni themselves, these gatherings are held in Singapore and overseas, and range from being corporate-focused to interest-based.

Citing our activities in China as examples, the variety offered is clear. In July 2011, the Eastern China Alumni Network Reading Club in Shanghai held its 5th workshop based on “Life”, a book that consolidated the philosophy of bestselling author Kazua Inamori. One amazing activity that looks set for an encore was the 8-day Zhang Jia Jie Trip held in October 2011. The breathtaking vertical landscape made the Avator movie set come alive for participants.

Locally, such activities range from MBA Alumni-NUS Movie Screening in November 2011, to NUSBSA Members’ Night 2010: Wine Appreciation, and Mandarin Alumni’s Mid-autumn Festival Celebration every September.

So, no matter where our alumni are around the world, whatever their interests may be, they are never far from the reach and support of their alma mater.

Big on Class

Even cozier still are the alumni gatherings by class or program, a mainstay of networking activities that strengthen bonds between former classmates.

Thirty-five years and still in touch. When the BBA Class of 1976 had their 35th Anniversary Reunion in March 2011, they experienced so much fun and meaning in the event that they fixed the first Friday every March as “Old Friends Day of the BBA Class of 1976”. Equally remarkable were the positive vibes when the Business Administration / Accountancy Class of 1981 aptly themed their reunion event “Friends for Life”. When they gathered at Kent Ridge in May 2011, 30 years after their graduation, it was like they had never parted.

At yet another 30th Anniversary Reunion in November 2010, Francis Yuen (BBA 1980) enthused, “This reunion dinner is like an oasis at this juncture of our journey in life. It refreshed friendship and makes us appreciate how fortunate we have been.” Alumni organizer of the event, Wong Soon Hwa (BBA 1980) said, “Thirty years is certainly a meaningful milestones. We recognize the Past. We celebrate the Present. And we welcome the Future. Together with the Alumni Office and the School, we must always keep the Bizad spirit flying high.”

Elsewhere overseas, such events are also taking place. In April 2011, the APEX-C MBA Class of 2006 reunited for a 3-day trip in Xiamen. In November 2010, gatherings in New Delhi and Mumbai were held for alumni of our MBA, S3 Asia MBA, UCLA-NUS EMBA, APEX MBA and NUS PKU IMBA programs.

Big on Tech

Perhaps more than ever before, it has become easier to stay in touch with alumni all over the world with the introduction of the BizAlum Directory in July 2011.

Our 24/7 ready-access service allows alumni who are registered users to search for fellow alumni, and to keep in contact via social networking tools like email, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. The Directory’s powerful search function allows users to filter contacts by company, industry, job function and city. This has made it easier for our alumni community to tap into our vast international network, to share knowledge and resources as well as to expand their business and career opportunities.

The Directory also provides alumni with an effective means to organize reunions, or to give back to NUS Business School by contributions or by volunteering to organize events.

This effort to better link up alumni has received the thumbs-up from several members of the alumni community. Seah Kwee Yong (Dip BA 1985), winner of an iPad in the August 2011 BizAlum Directory registration promotion, said, “In the private sector, it is better to be listed as it is a form of advertising. So I thought I would make use of the opportunity provided by this Directory. For me, it has been great for finding people from the same batch, to know how they are doing.”

Time to Play

One impromptu comment by an alumnus says it all about GANO’s alumni relations-building efforts. Enthusiastically shared by Kunal Sinha (MBA 2008) at his class reunion dinner in August 2011, “The last three years since I left school, it’s been unbelievable. We’re living in unprecedented times; things have been uncertain at times, things have been fruitful at times, but NUS has done good things for me. I’m happy where I am right now. So, time to play.”

Indeed, it’s time to play … the world in your oyster!
So, see you around at our alumni events. And do continue to explore the BizAlum Directory!