Sowing the seeds for stronger alumni participation

Lee Keng Leong (BBA Hons 2004)

lee_keng_leongLee Keng Leong is proud to be an alumnus of NUS Business School and recognises the advantages of having an old school network to fall back on and a resource for graduating students to reach out to.

So he took the initiative to form the NUS Business School Alumni Youth Initiative (BSA Youth), along with buddy Ronald Wong Longfa (MSc Management, CEMS MIM 2012). Their goal was to create the “Harvard of Asia” – to make the business school alumni a close-knit community to which alumni can turn for career advice, mid-career switches and networking opportunities, and where students can access internships, obtain career advice and find mentors.

Trying to engage over 30,000 alumni on limited resources was a challenge. So Keng Leong adopted the 80/20 rule. “We didn’t have resources to connect to 80% of the alumni, so we focused instead on the 20% that we thought would be grateful to engage with fellow alumni and pay it forward,” he explains. The idea of BSA Youth is for alumni to pay it forward. “Our attitude is, ‘I don’t need anything from you. If you have benefitted from our meeting, then pay it forward to the next guy.’”

The easiest way to grow roots was to connect with existing students and encourage them to take up the baton when they graduate. “We develop the youth, pick out people who are willing to get involved and bring them into the Exco,” Keng Leong explains. “We have also formed a Facebook page and that’s a fantastic platform that enables everyone to stay in touch and make new connections.”

The Connexxions events, held two times a year, have proved a great platform on which BSA Youth can engage and bring on board new students. These events consist of a talk by a guest of honour followed by a Q&A session, before participants get into mixed groups of alumni and students for a one-hour focus group discussion. In this session, alumni give advice to the students and pass on their experiences. “We did it this way because we believe that alumni are more likely to be honest and give real and useful advice in small groups than they would be on a public podium,” explains Keng Leong.

“This last event in January was the highest attendance we have seen so far, so it’s definitely growing as intended,” he says. It is his firm wish that at some point, BSA Youth will come to a “tipping point” and become a fraternity that graduating students will be dying to join.

Over the years, BSA Youth, now 300 strong, has become self-sustaining, entirely run by the students and mentored by the alumni. “I am pleased to say that I have been able to pass the baton over to Year 2 student Charles Tey Wee Chow,” affirms Keng Leong. “Now I just offer my services as I am needed but the ball is in Charles’ court to keep the momentum going.”

“I got involved when BSA Youth taught me how to network,” says Charles. “I realised after a few sessions that networking wasn’t so scary. It is really just like making friends. And these friends can open doors and create connections for you.”

But first and foremost Charles says he has benefitted from the knowledge he has gained from networking with alumni. “I’ve met alumni from many diverse industries such as Banking, IT, Sales. Over the sessions, I have explored such industries, and from alumni’s feedback I am more aware of the types of career that would suit my personality,” Charles explains. “Without this type of networking, this is something I would never have known without going out into the marketplace and perhaps making the wrong career choice.” Charles was also lucky enough to be offered an internship at one Connexxions event by an alumnus who wanted to give back. And for Keng Leong, that is what BSA Youth is all about.

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