Reaping the rewards of an MBA degree

By Lisa Cheong

Should you pursue an MBA degree?

Three students share with HeadHunt their stories on their quest for higher education, the challenges they faced along the way, and how their degrees have helped shape who they are today.

The decision to pursue an MBA degree is often one that cannot be taken lightly. Whether it is a part-time or a full-time programme, such degrees are often expensive. In addition, students are also often required to invest large amounts of time, commitment and dedication in their quest for higher learning.

In recent years, Singapore has witnessed an increase of MBA schools in Singapore. Not only does this mean that students have even more programme choices and options than before, but it also adds to the difficulty in the school selection process.

One thing is for certain – students looking to pursue an MBA degree are often looking for gains on their academic investments. Whether it is a higher earning power, getting sales job or marketing jobs, having new opportunities and doors open up, or having a sharper business acumen, the reasons for pursuing an MBA degree are as varied as the students themselves.

 Reaping the rewards of an MBA degree

Ken Lee, DHL Express Hongkong

In this story, three MBA students tell us their reasons and motivations for pursuing a higher education, as well as the challenges and rewards from this undertaking.

Before embarking on his EMBA programme at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the biggest question on Ken Lee’s mind was whether he could still get back to a “study life” after being out of school for such a long time. Could Ken shoulder the responsibilities of work, studies and family all at the same time?

What complicated things was the fact that Lee was based in Hong Kong at that time, working as the General Manager of the DHL Central Asia Hub. As such, pursuing ahigher education in Singapore would entail making frequent trips back home.

To prepare for the EMBA commitment, Lee first took up the Berkeley-Nanyang Advanced Management Programme (BNAMP) conducted by the same university. A joint initiative between Haas School of Business (Haas) at University of California and Nanyang Business School, BNAMP is an intensive four-week full-time programme, conducted on both Singapore and US campuses.

For Lee, the BNAMP programme gradually eased him back into an academic mindset, offering him an indication of what it would be like to juggle studies with work. The course also allowed him to carry forward the credits into his EMBA.

With the sponsorship of DHL, Lee eventually pursued a Nanyang Executive MBA – a part-time 16-month programme, with classes conducted on a modular format comprising of 15 days every three months.

Throughout the course, Lee says he managed to acquire new skills and knowledge that are applicable to his work. Some of these skills include learning how to navigate crosscultural nuances, via the nationality mix of his classmates. “I also learnt people skills to help me in my work, which supports DHL’s goal of being an Employee of Choice for our people and treating them with respect and results,” he adds.

Forgotten skills, such as Powerpoint, were dredged up during the course as well. Recalling a team project he once worked on, Lee says that he and his partners were working on a presentation when they realised that none of them could recall how to design a Powerpoint slide. “[We] ended up asking our secretaries for advice,” he says. “Thankfully, I have picked up some more advanced PowerPoint skills since then.” This may seem to be a minor take away but it has a bigger connotation of learning to be self-reliant.

Having graduated earlier this year, Lee was awarded the Frontken-Willie Wong Endowed Gold Medal – an award given to the top student of the cohort. Lee’s career has also soared since then, as he moved up the ranks to his current position of Managing Director of DHL Express Hong Kong in May 2011.

Having sharpened his business acumen through the executive programme, Lee says this has enabled him to steer his company to offer more IT Jobs and achieve double-digit growth despite falling air cargo volumes across the industry. “We must have done something right to achieve this success,” he says. “I would attribute part of that success to what NTU EMBA has taught me!”

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