It’s the time of the year for students to take part in course registration again. Having already graduated for one year already, and understanding the full time work perspective, curating this post adds even more depth to my own reflections and hope it does in helping you choose your courses to register too.
Choosing What to Major / Specialise In for Business
Notwithstanding the ever elusive STARS Wars Course Registration, when picking your major courses, my general rule of thumb would be picking the course which is relevant to you and what you are gearing yourself up for in the future, or would love exposure to. I have done Business Analytics and enough research on Marketing (I did one Marketing Analytics Module as an elective and it’s now a core.) to share my two cents.
For Minor/Electives, my general rule of thumb is to pick what interests you, and of course if it interests you and gives you a leg up in your career that is even better. For myself, I knew I was really interested in giving it a run at running and business and also an interest in the intersection between management and business analytics, so I supplemented my learning with a Minor in Entrepreneurship, as well as various marketing electives in Marketing Analytics, Luxury Brand Management and Product Innovation.
Other important and emerging fields which I have are: 1. Environmental sustainability which would get important as ESG reporting and triple bottom line emerges 2. Communications especially when it’s a world of increasing transformation and uncertainty and communications becomes more paramount. 3.Computer Science as the world is increasingly digital and it does not hurt to speak in algorithms and programming languages. 4. Foreign Languages especially if you have a flair for language but not the programming language, since the world is becoming more globalised and knowing foreign languages open doors to many new opportunities all around the world.
Recently, I attended Nanyang Business School’s Fireside Chat for newly admitted students as an Alumni Co-host in the Business Analytics breakout room. This was my third event at Nanyang Technological University ever since I graduated. It felt like I was transported back to the time when I was selecting which university to head to five years ago, having to make an informed choice to cap off my years of formal education.
The post today is about 3 reasons why you should contribute back to the university community after graduation, be it through events, content writing (what I’m doing too), and mentorship. As a business graduate is always a win-win for everyone, and while the listeners gain, I feel I gain a lot as a speaker too!
#1 Being Able to Learn New Perspectives
I realised that one of the benefits to return to my alma mater to do sharings is that I can learn many new perspectives. I came to realise that people of different generations and backgrounds think very differently. I learned about the thought process which goes through the current student’s mind as they look at the next steps of their journey. One question which got me thinking was when thinking about Co-curricular Activities (CCAs) to join, which would be the most helpful in the business context, which of course I responded that there is no hard and fast rule and you are the master of your own ship. However, that did set me thinking of how much forward-thinking the next batch of students seen to be… Or perhaps I’m the only one who had not thought so far ahead when choosing a course, I knew I wanted to run a business and add value to society, which I did run one during my university days!
Another benefit of attending alumni events was honing my listening and public speaking skills. Being placed in a room of eager-eyed prospective students who ask any questions which you can possibly imagine, I found it interesting to have had the chance to thoughtfully formulate original answers to a new audience confidently over time! Over till my third event, I felt that I am improving in terms of my public speaking skills, experimenting with the various ways that I can potentially use to bring a message across.
I remember that back during my days as a Toastmaster, I hear that public speaking is the biggest fear of most people, of which I say yes I’m still fearful that I may make a mistake, but being able to articulate your thoughts clearly is a very important skill that I’m consistently improving on!
#3 Critical Reflection of Your Experiences
I felt that attending an Alumni event was also a chance to critically reflect on my experience. Through the various engagements I had about university life, internships, exchange and curriculum, I had the chance to narrate the experience I had and in the process realise how much of a transformative experience I went through.
Another experience was about the Stars Wars in university, which basically means course registration, it was ironic though when I responded that I hardly faced any issues, but when there’s an issue, there was a member in the undergraduate office team to assist, who coincidentally was the moderator in the room!
Thus, these back to school experiences I had removed any Halo effect or contrast effect of one’s experience and allowed me to objectively reflect.
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Last Wednesday, I attended my physical convocation at Nanyang Technological University. It was a unique experience as it was the first time any graduate from NTU attended a graduation ceremony with a mask on to receive his certificate, or rather just the folder. (the certificate was already at home!) Over the weekend, I was reflecting on my experience at university being the best time to challenge my comfort zone. Here is 7 ways where I challenged my comfort zone while in university:
1. Joining Countless Co-curricular Activities at University
During my first two years of university, I engaged in more Co-curricular activities than I ever did for my other schooling years. I saw myself challenging my comfort zone, taking up leadership positions for the first time in NTU Students’ Union and NTU Entrepreneurship Society, to contribute to the broader student community. It was through these experiences that I learned to be a better leader.
I also joined multiple other activities as a committee member, putting myself out there to interact with new people, and honing my communications skills through activities like Toastmasters, as well as volunteering for the main committee of a camp for underprivileged children.
While being from an A Level background, while it was uncomfortable to let my studies take the back seat, I am satisfied with the holistic development in university!
I was doing a bit of research online about university and one of the conclusions which I had was university was the best time to give it a go at running my own business! I decided to sign up for the Minor in Entrepreneurship programme at NTU, where I had the chance to run my own business with a passionate group. The business we ran, EcoTumble, was a business which sells collapsible cups, and reusable straws, with the purpose of reducing the environmental footprint from takeaway drinks and food! I remembered that back then, reusable straws were starting to be popular, and instead of just saving the straw, why not save the whole cup too!
While the business was not the most profitable, we did manage to make a 40% profit off our initial investment, which was an incredible feat!
Running the end-to-end of the business also gave me the opportunity to understand how various business functions come together, and how to continually pivot from the various challenges faced.
To be honest, I started my internships at university quite late. I only had my first internship in the winter break of my penultimate year! When I was at Schaeffler, I decided to take up an internship in Talent Management, which was a field very different from what I intended to do. For me, any internship experience was important to know more about the corporate environment and I was glad to have been with the APAC Human Resource Team.
Following that, I went for two internships with the marketing department, understanding about research, CRM, Digital Marketing and Product Marketing.
In my last internship in Kavo Kerr, managing the internship part time while juggling my final semester of studies challenged me to keep my timetable and priorities in order. I managed to find ways to work more efficiently, as well as keep my calendar properly documented so that I could do an internship, while study at the same time!
In my final year of studies, despite having only 6 modules left for the final year, I decided to go for an exchange programme at ESSEC Business School in France, where I could only do 3 of my university courses. Despite that, I decided to overload some modules in marketing, where ESSEC is famous for, and also met international friends along the way.
While on the exchange programme, I also had the opportunity to travel to several countries and experience different cultures. For instance, I went to Munich, Germany to attend the Oktoberfest; I shopped at the various Passages (iconic shopping places) in Paris, France; I embarked on a solo trip to Belgium during one of the weekends! This gave me a more complete view of the world and if you are considering to go on exchange (once COVID ends), I strongly urge you to go for once as it is a transformative experience of a lifetime!
5. Taking Part in Case Competitions and Hackathons
While I did take part in some case competitions, time is limited and I did not take part in as many case competitions as many others in university. Of the various case competitions I took part in, I am happy to have made one podium finish for the NTU-AXS Video Case Challenge, where I challenged my comfort zone by putting together multiple clips of videos taken by my team!
In my final semester, I also took on the most difficult capstone business analytics course in business analytics consulting, where we did a business analytics consulting project for the course partner, Aon, an insurance brokerage firm. Months of hard work came to fruition when we claimed the best team title for the course.
6. Overloading in University to do Interesting Electives
Yes! That’s right! I overloaded by 5 electives while in university.
Electives are courses which are seemingly unrelated to the major of study, which for me is business analytics. As I took up a minor in entrepreneurship, I had no more electives left after my first year. However, I started sending in my first overload request for my 4th semester in school. The overload was wonderful, as I saw myself doing a few modules in Marketing, Innovation, Web Design and UI/UX Design. Being trained in the Analytics space, the exposure to marketing and design helped me further hone my interest that Analytics is a cross-functional field which integrates knowledge from various fields!
I also did video content creation while doing one of the electives from a compulsory basket of sustainability electives, AB0502 Managing Sustainability. In this course, we explored the sustainability of culture, while making a long term sustainable business concept out of it!
Why did I say this was out of the comfort zone? Well for one, two-thirds of my cohort in Business Analytics took a double degree, which meant that I would be pitted against the best of the best in the cohort. However, embracing the challenge, I decided to go into my course with both eyes wide open and put in my best effort into it. I ended up doing surprisingly better than I expected! The moral of this story is to stay true to your passion and try your best at whatever choice you decide on.