Matching Mentors and Mentees

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Date: Friday, 6 February 2015
Time: 5:30pm
Venue: The Penny Black, 27 Boat Quay

Photo Gallery

The School’s Global Alumni Network Office (GANO) kicked off its 2015 NUS MBA Mentorship programme at Boat Quay on 6 February 2015. The programme, which brings together current MBA students and alumni in an exchange of knowledge, information, insight and experience, saw a warm reception this year, with 76 per cent of the full-time MBA students having signed up.

By playing a direct role in guiding and shaping the next generation of leaders, our NUS MBA alumni contribute to the School in one of the most meaningful ways. First-time mentor, Mr T.C. Tan (Apex MBA English 2000) enthuses, “Through this mentorship programme, I can give back to my alma mater by helping future leaders. I hope to inspire and add value to my mentees by sharing what worked for me in my career and life.” Fellow mentor, Titus Yong (MBA 2000) shares the same sentiments. “From my previous experiences as a mentee, I believe that having a third-party perspective gives you clarity,” he says. “This is my approach to the current programme, but the mentee has to take the initiative.”

In turn, mentees have a great opportunity to learn from the alumni’s journey. Julian Ragragio, Titus’ mentee agrees: “I am hoping to gain new perspectives and a sense of direction for the future through this programme.” Fellow mentee, Animesh Pant was equally eager to tap on the benefits that his mentor has to offer. “Having studied in the US, I came to NUS to gain an Asian perspective,” he explains. “This programme will help me to better achieve this.”

Through this platform, mentees will be able to gain valuable knowledge in career direction, obtain tips on job hunts and applications, get insights into various industries and professions, and learn about the professional skills required. It also enables them to stay engaged and connected with the School’s alumni early on in their careers and, as they progress up the corporate ladder, they can continually leverage these links. Pauline Wan, Vice-President of the MBA Student Council and mentee shares, “Through the programme, I can tap on the experiences of my mentor and understand how he balances business in connection with healthcare regulations.”

Beyond helping to further careers, the programme enables the mentees to discover their passion and work for what they truly believe in. “I have two mentees, both not from my sector,” says mentor Yap Shih Chia (MBA 2012), “But my goal is to help them discover themselves.” Fellow mentor, Amelia Ching (Apex MBA English 2000), concurs: “I will be helping my two mentees understand that they have to find what drives them. It is important to have a passion for what you do.” Mentee Nguyen Anh Hai holds similar views. “You have to have an interest in what you do,” she says. “I am looking for the MBA to give me a global perspective so that I can understand my customers better.”

There is certainly no lack of knowledge out there. No wonder then, that this mentorship programme offers great value for our MBA students. Ruben Rodriquez certainly sees the merits of these mentorships: “I feel that it is such an invaluable element of our education.”

For more information on our NUS MBA Mentorship programme, please click here. The evening’s photos are available on our gallery

A Special Tribute

PeterTAYbigWhen the NUS Business School decided to give out the Special Service Award to deserving alumni who have contributed to the alumni community and the School, two names came up instantly – Mr Peter Tay (BBA Hons 1975, MBA 1987) and Mr Yeo Keng Joon (MBA 1985).

The two award recipients however, were surprised to be given such an honor.

“I’m only doing my job!” says Mr Tay, who is currently the Managing Director of TPS Corporate Services Pte Ltd, a boutique firm specializing in providing corporate and consultancy services in local and offshore company incorporation, corporate secretarial and management services, international financing, trading and investment.

Mr Tay’s involvement with the School goes back to his student days. He was an active member of the Bizad Club and President of AIESEC-Singapore where he attended the Leadership Development Program and a Traineeship with Olivetti in Japan.

In 1986, he started BASA (Business Administration Society Alumni), which is the predecessor of NUS Business School Alumni. For his academic excellence and extra-circular activities in the university, he was awarded the Kesatuan Akademis (University Gold Medalist).

Since 2004, he has been President of the NUS Business Society Alumni Association, Chairman of the School’s International Resource Panel and a member of the School’s Advisory Board.

YEOKengJoonbigSimilarly, Mr Yeo who also holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did not expect to win the award. “I’m humbled by this gesture,” he says.

He has been very active in alumni matters, being a past President of the MBA Alumni-NUS; Immediate Past President of the NUS Business School Alumni Association (NUSBSA) and a member of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board since its inception in 2005.

Since 2000, Mr Yeo has been appointed to the Board of Advisers of the NUS Business School. In 2006, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Service by NUS.

“To me, contributing to the school is something I enjoy,” elaborates Mr Yeo. “Back during University days, I was already very active in the school. As such, what I’m doing now is like an extension to what I’ve always been doing.”

On how the two Special Service Award winners manage their time, Mr Tay believes “time is what you make of it”.

Apart from his contributions to the school, Mr Tay is also an active supporter and volunteer with several charitable organizations and uniformed youth groups. He is a Director with YMCA Singapore, an Adviser of the Board of Advisers, AIESEC-Singapore, and Honorary Vice President of the Boys’ Brigade in Singapore (since 1996).

Mr Yeo also adds, “It’s also about working with the people around you. We have been able to put successfully put together great teams of people to get things moving.”

In 2007, Mr Yeo single-handedly spearheaded an initiative for NUSBSA in raising about half a million Singapore dollars (with government matching) to set up 10 bursary funds valued at S$25,000 each. Alumni, faculty and friends rallied around this very worthy cause. This NUSBSA Bursary Fund will provide financial aid of $2,500 each for ten needy students from the NUS Business School yearly, in perpetuity.

When asked why both of them continue to contribute to their alma mater after so many years, Mr Yeo says, “I think it’s important that we stay connected with the School, and do what we can to help, whenever we can.”

“Yes, it’s like what they say in Chinese – ‘To remember the source of the water from which you drink’,” adds Mr Tay

Torchbearer of IT

HowieLaubigNUS Business School graduate Mr Howie Lau (BBA 1993) was an Olympic torchbearer and ran in the Thailand segment of the Olympic torch relay as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games in China. He was given this honor for his outstanding performance and contributions to Lenovo – the largest Personal Computer producer in China.

Months later, Mr Lau received the Eminent Business Alumni Award for his outstanding contributions in the info-communications industry, as well as his tireless contributions to his alma mater.

“I feel a sense of pride and am thankful to the School for giving me this honor,” says Mr Lau, who is currently the Executive Director for Commercial Business for Lenovo in ASEAN and Korea.

Mr Lau was previously General Manager for Lenovo Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines, and led the Singapore team’s successful post-acquisition transition from IBM Personal Computer Division to Lenovo. Prior to Lenovo, Mr Lau was the Country Manager for Public Sector and Country Manager for e-Business for IBM. He has also served as General Manager for Ariba Singapore/Malaysia.

On how he climbed the ladder of success so quickly, Mr Lau shares three tips: “Build a strong personal brand. Be focused on delivering good results. And keep in touch with your network.”

Apart from his commitment to his work and family, Mr Lau also contributed to the info-comm industry by serving as an Executive Council Member of Singapore Computer Society. He had previously served on CommerceNet, Singapore Multimedia Forum and the SCCCI IT Advisory Council.

To share his business knowledge, Mr Lau participated as a judge for Startup@Singapore, Entrepreneur of the Year Award and NTU Business Plan competitions.

In addition, Mr Lau also served one term on the Board of NUS Business School Alumni Association. Despite having stepped down, he still continues to be a supportive alumnus in events and initiatives undertaken by the School and the Association.

Being actively involved with the Bizad Club and Bizad Society during his BBA days, Mr Lau consistently attributes his success to what he learnt during his three years in NUS.

“I’m thankful that a good foundation was laid through the skills and knowledge acquired while in school,” says Mr Lau. “Especially people skills.”

On what advice he can share, Mr Lau quips: “Study hard. Play Hard. And make friends.”

I Am Gifted, So Are You

AdamKhoobigWhen young, NUS Business Graduate Mr Adam Khoo (BBA Hons 1999) had low self-esteem and performed poorly in school. Yet, Mr Khoo graduated with an honors degree, became a self-made millionaire by the age of 26, and today owns and runs several businesses in education, training, event management and advertising, all with a combined annual turnover of $30 million.

Apart from a book by Dennis Wakely that gave him his positive mindset, Mr Khoo is also thankful for the education he received at the School.

Mr Khoo believes the school helped expedite his learning. “If I didn’t learn about Finance and Marketing, Management Theories and Accounting, it would have taken longer for me to get to where I am today.”

“I also have to thank the people who believed in me – including Prof Singh – for giving me opportunities when I was in NUS Business School,” says Mr Khoo. Professor Kulwant Singh (BBA Hons 1982, MBA 1989), Interim Dean of the School, had taught Mr Khoo.

As an undergraduate, Mr Khoo was given the opportunity to be a pioneer member of the prestigious Talent Development Program (TDP).

Today, he is an entrepreneur, a best-selling author and a peak performance trainer. He is the Executive Chairman and Chief Master Trainer of Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group Pte Ltd and a Director of seven other private companies. Mr Khoo is also a Director of the Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB).

“I started doing business since I was 15,” says Mr Khoo. “It was out of passion that I pursued what I’m doing today.”

Mr Khoo was ranked best-selling author of seven books including “I Am Gifted, So Are You!” and ‘Clueless in Starting a Business’.

Over the last 15 years, Adam has trained over 650,000 students and professional to tap their personal power and achieve excellence in their various fields of endeavor.

He advises current students to “read widely beyond the textbooks and to work when you study.”

Despite being busy, Mr Khoo continues to contribute to his alma mater. He has spoken at the NUS Business School Alumni Association flagship CEO Unplugged Series, as well as at various university functions.

“I love to share and teach,” says Mr Khoo. In the same light, he encourages people to “do what you love.”

Tacking to the Top

NgSerMiangBIGSilver medalist in sailing at the South East Asian (SEA) Games. Founder and Managing Director of TIBS Holdings. Nominated member of the Singapore Parliament. Chairman of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee.

These are but some of the hats worn by NUS Business School graduate Mr Ng Ser Miang (BBA Hons 1971).

Currently the patron of the Singapore Sailing Federation as well as the Vice-President of the Singapore National Olympic Council, Mr Ng is also an Executive Member of the International Olympic Council (IOC) since July 2005.

Being a staunch supporter of sports, Mr Ng has been instrumental in developing the sporting scene in Singapore.

“Sports is one of the greatest influences in my life,” shares Mr Ng. “It has put discipline and perseverance into my life.”

In the business arena, Mr Ng is well established as the Founder and Managing Director of TIBS Holding (before selling it to SMRT Corporation). In recounting how he drove the success of the transport company from scratch, he shared that he had used what he learnt from the school. “We followed the principle of doing something very well, delivering quality and offering the best to the commuters”.

Presently, Mr Ng chairs the Board of Directors of NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Limited, the largest supermarket chain in Singapore.

The Eminent Business Alumni Award winner sheds some light on his business philosophy.

“Successful business leadership requires a high degree of skill and professionalism, taking appropriate risks and educated decisions in rapid economic conditions,” says Mr Ng. “But one must remember that a company’s most important resource in any business or industry is people.”

When asked what CEO’s should keep in mind, Mr Ng advises to “provide people with the right incentive and develop them well; take responsibility for decisions and provide leadership; as well as to know when to take the right sort of risks.”

A sportsman, a diplomat, and an entrepreneur, Mr Ng has acquired a long list of accolades throughout his career, contributing to the society and organizations dear to his heart.

He attributes his holding of many portfolios to passion and interest. “The jobs I am doing are all very varied and interesting. This keeps me motivated.”

He also shares how he finds time to manage his passion, work commitments, and family. “If you believe in what you want to do, you will find the time to do it,” says Mr Ng. “It’s not how much time you have, but how wisely you use your time.”

When asked what drives him, the Eminent Business Alumni Award winner humbly shares his motto. “Work very hard. Know what you want. And never stop learning.”

Power Woman of European Private Equity

VeronicaEngbigNUS Business School graduate Ms Veronica Eng (BBA Hons 1976) is the only Asian and only female in the ten-member Board of Permira, a leading European-based private equity firm with more than € 22 billion of funds under its management.

“My career in corporate finance started when I was first recruited into a finance firm upon my graduation from NUS,” said Ms Eng. “Although I did not know exactly what I wanted at that point of time, I knew I wanted to work in the corporate finance industry. So when opportunity came to do something related to the industry, I took it.”

It was this seizing of opportunities and focusing on what she wanted to do that made Ms Eng the Head of Corporate Finance at Schroder Investment Bank by 1985.

A true opportunist, Ms Eng chose not to pass the opportunity when the Director of Schroder Investment Bank invited her to be the founding partner of Permira – even when the switch from corporate finance to private equity was at a time of grim market outlook and required her to venture into uncharted territory.

“I figured I might as well take the plunge, do something adventurous and seize the opportunity,” shared Ms Eng. “It turned out to be the best investment I have ever made in my life.”

Today, with an established wealth of insight and experience in banking and finance, it was no surprise that Financial Times cited Ms Eng as the “most powerful woman in European private equity” in 2007. She was also named one of the Top 100 Women in European Finance and being described as “a pivotal figure in the firm”.

On what she thought was the reason for her accomplishments, Ms Eng felt she “was lucky” because she had a good mentor and had worked at “enlightened organizations” that looked beyond race, gender or nationality.

“Whether I was a female or an Asian was of no relevance,” she said. “Ability counted much more than age, sex or nationality.”

Ms Eng also attributed her success to her alma mater. She was thankful that the School gave her “incredible opportunities” and hoped that students would use the opportunities given by the School as launch platforms.

“My work at Permira required me to call on all that I have learnt at NUS as well as all my skills and knowledge from banking and finance,” said Ms Eng. “Without the school, I would not be here today.”

On what advice she would give to graduates, Ms Eng said: “Take opportunities. Travel as much as you can. But remember you are a Singaporean graduate so do much as you can.”

A Farmer’s Son Paves The Way To Vietnam’s Industrial Future



Huynh Quang Hai has come a long way from his early beginnings. He and his eight siblings grew up on a farm in Quang Ngai, a poor province in Central Vietnam. However, his parents wanted better for them and pushed them all to study.

“My parents wanted all their children to get an education because they believed that if we were able to go to university, we would be able to change our future.”

He eventually did obtain a university education and subsequently, a job at a freight forwarding company. While on the job, he met the then-CEO of Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP), Cheong Kai Kong and was offered the job as the assistant to the CEO. This was in the 1990s and marked the start of his career at VSIP.

Three years into his time in VSIP, he told them that he did not want to stay on in his job as he wanted to learn more. Recognizing his potential, the company sent him to Singapore in 1999 where he obtained a graduate diploma in Business Administration and a Master of Science (Management of Technology) from the NUS Business School.

His time at the NUS Business School put his life on a different career path.

Armed with his new qualifications and his experience in Singapore, he rose quickly up the ladder of the company and he is now the Group Executive Director of VSIP Group and CEO of VSIP JSC. The experience here made a big difference to his life.

“Living in Singapore, I got an education and I got a lot of advice. I also learned a lot from the program, from professors, classmates and the school. But the most important thing was the experience of living in a foreign country.”

“You can talk to people from different countries, you can interact with businessmen, and you can see different business concepts that are only today arriving in Vietnam.”

What was also an eye-opener was to see people from different backgrounds working together in harmony, he said.

He has taken all these lessons to heart and it has helped him to make the VSIP the success that it is today. It now has 380 projects from 22 countries and has brought in more than US$2 billion worth of investments into the country.

According to him, the success of VSIP lies in the fact that it is more than an industrial park.“We are creating an investment environment for investors. After years of building up the country, we have yet to build up very good infrastructure to welcome manufacturers from foreign countries.” He also credits its success to the various government agencies in Singapore that have lent their experience and expertise to the project.

Hai is very proud of what VSIP has achieved. “We have created a very transparent investment environment for the investor, and we have created almost 70,000 jobs for the people in the country.”

VSIP is also important for its knock-on impact on the rest of the country, he said. It has become a model for other provinces to follow. Thanks to VSIP, Vietnam’s industrialization can move into a higher gear as other provinces also create infrastructure projects that meet the expectations and requirements of foreign investors.

Guided By The Star(light) Of Knowledge



Lam Kwong Yu moved to Hong Kong from Guangdong when he was just a teenager. Back then, his life was not easy. During the day, he worked long hours at a printing company. After his shift, he took up evening classes so that he could improve his lot in life.

“I’m a Hakka from Meixian, Guangdong,” he said. “A thousand years ago, our people moved from Southern Sichuan to Guangdong. Among Hakkas, Confucianism is our fundamental principle. There is a saying, ‘Education is of the highest priority. ‘ Without proper education, your life will fall into a vicious cycle.”

Propelled by that philosophy, he persevered and eventually completed a degree in business administration at the University of East Asia in Macau. Much later, he decided to sign up for the Chinese Executive MBA course at the NUS Business School.

For him, getting the Executive MBA was not a quest for mere paper qualifications. He has no need to prove himself. His company, Starlite Holdings Limited, is listed in Hong Kong and has operations in Shenzhen, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Shaoguan, Malaysia and Singapore. Instead, for him, it was about learning and being able to apply those lessons to his business. That is why he enjoyed his EMBA course.

“The EMBA program in NUS is life-enriching, with a lot of vivid case studies and real-world role play,” he recalled. “All of these drove us to be more rational and objective about our business growth, instead of institutional and emotional approaches.

“Take investment for an instance. We invested in a major environmental business in China, which failed at the end and almost drove Starlite into bankruptcy. If I had taken the EMBA program before that, I would have implemented market research, financial evaluation, risk assessment and other measures, which would have helped us to prevent this serious mistake.

“Every mistake has its substantial costs. As a business executive, we need to take care of our business. It requires continuous education to avoid serious mistakes along the way.”

Fortunately, that incident did not bring Starlite into bankruptcy. Instead, the company, which specializes in printing, is now a stalwart on the Hong Kong stock exchange. He attributes the remarkable growth of Starlite to its corporate culture. “I believe that corporate culture matters, which is the soul of a business. It can be summarized as Integrity, Love, Diligence and Sensitivity.

“Integrity means honesty at all times. As for ‘Love’, we need to love our people, the community and the nature. ‘Diligence’ means to be hard working. In particular, in the time of difficulties, it calls for greater efforts than others. ‘Sensitivity’ is important because we have to remain sensitive to new ideas and things, and be eager to learn. To succeed and further grow in the future, Starlite needs to stick to its culture and philosophy.”

Making All The Right Calls



In the male-dominated corporate world, being a female CEO is a major achievement. That achievement is all the sweeter for Chua Sock Koong because she helms SingTel, Southeast Asia’s largest telecommunications giant, a company that reported operating revenue of close to $17 billion and profit of about $4 billion last year.

Getting ahead of the class is something that she is used to though. At the University of Singapore, she graduated with first class honors in Accountancy in 1979. She eventually joined SingTel and rose up the corporate ladder there. Beginning as a treasurer, she was made Group Chief Financial Officer in 2006 before being promoted to the top job the next year. With her background, she brings a unique perspective to her role.

“The CFO is a very important business advisor to the CEO but at the same time, the CFO wears the governance hat,” she said. “When you’re the CFO, you’re juggling the two roles. You want to be a business partner but you have to make sure checks and balances are in place. 

“As the CEO, I take a much more holistic approach in business. I play a very important nurturing role. I want to encourage new ideas, innovation, and see how I can develop people as well. A large part of my time is around talent development.”

As one of the few female corporate chiefs around, she believes that she also has an obligation to mentor younger female talent who are starting out. “Successful women leaders do have a responsibility to help mentor aspiring women leaders so that the best man or woman has an opportunity for the job.” However, at the same time, she is firmly against artificially boosting the number of women. “I’m not an advocate of having quotas to achieve gender diversity In the end, it really depends on the talent pool available and you don’t want to distort that.”

She believes the way to get more women corporate leaders is to have good human resource policies. “To start, it would be helpful if companies have HR policies that are gender neutral, that gives equal opportunities for employment and promotion within the organizations.

“At the same time, it should allow some flexibility for staff to be able to handle activities outside work hours.”

She cites SingTel as a good example of a good corporate citizen. SingTel hires and promotes fairly and has created a flexible workforce that allows telecommuting, she said. In addition, “we allow people flexi-time off and that’s not limited to women alone.”

Rising up the corporate ladder no doubt has its perks, but it cannot be achieved without sacrifice. As a result, her advice to those just starting their career is to pick one they enjoy instead of focusing on pay.”There are a lot of tradeoffs that we have to make in life,” she notes.

“You have to choose a career that is really of interest and excites you so that getting up on Monday to go to work is not a chore.

“Looking at monetary rewards alone; that is never enough.”

The Education Of An Entrepreneur



Chew Hua Seng is currently a successful entrepreneur whose listed Raffles Education Corporation (“RafflesEducationCorp”) is now Asia’s largest private education provider with 38 colleges in 35 cities around 14 countries.

But his path to success was not an easy one. He was an early investor in China and he paid a high price in his early years.

“In 1996, I had a factory in Dalian. My general manager mortgaged my factory to build his own next to mine. I lost everything and I had to walk out with nothing.

“That was very shattering for me because it was all my savings. After that, I learned how to do business in China and that was an expensive tuition fee I paid.”

As a result of his hard-won experience, he advises people to start young if they want to be an entrepreneur. “They need to strike out as early as possible to give room for you to fail. Then you can pick up the business and take it on again.”

It will come as no surprise that he ranks perseverance as a key characteristic that separates the sheep from the goats. This was a lesson he learned early in life. He grew up in a kampong, where he was one of eight children. His father was a fisherman and his mother was a housewife. Those early years left their mark on him.

“Like most of the kampung boys that time, we did not have much. We had to learn very early in life to make a living for ourselves. We made do with what we had.

“The deprivation part of it (childhood) is the very seed for me to strive hard to get out of poverty.”

He made it to university but he had to sell insurance while juggling his studies. The one consolation was that he was so busy with studies and work that he had no real time to get distracted.

At university, he described himself as being not a “terribly bright student.”“I had to work very hard to pass my examinations. That was a good lesson. I learned that in life, if you work hard, you get what you want. With those foundations, he went on to build his business empire.

Today, he is still persevering. Raffles Education Corp used to be a stock market darling but the share price has languished in recent years. However, this does not bother him as he takes a long-term perspective.

“I’m a builder of business. I’m not a stock market player. To me, this business has a long way to go. Asia has 3 billion people and education in most of the countries is underprovided; the growth potential for RafflesEducationCorp is enormous.”