The TIEMBA Experience: A Great Beginning

Our Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive EMBA (TIEMBA) participant Kok How Lee shares his experience, first month into the programme.

It has been three weeks into the start of my TIEMBA programme journey and here I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms following an intense 1.5 weeks of adrenaline-packed, intellectually stimulating flurry of activities, discussion and experience sharing. I still occasionally dream of class discussions and even competing again in the TechMark competition (where teams within the class compete with each other to design, produce and market products for global markets). Not sure if any of my classmates experienced the above. For me, there are many reasons that made my first month into the TIEMBA programme a great one.

The TIEMBA Experience: A Great Beginning

#1: Amazing classmates.

Firstly, the TIEMBA experience would not be complete without my 37 other classmates — a diverse group of successful, fun-loving and extremely talented individuals from 20 countries with even more diverse backgrounds. Among us, we have doctors, research scientists, fund managers, professionals in sales and marketing as well as operations, risk and not forgetting, entrepreneurs. The shared experiences of these individuals are what makes this programme truly a cut above any I have encountered.

#2: Symbolic opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was simple but symbolic, with both the Tsinghua and INSEAD deans giving an opening speech. Our classmates, Tim Russ and Jireh Li did an amazing job as emcees and Ahmed Elnawawi delivered a great speech on diversity. The closing speech by TIEMBA alumna Helen Hai, which touched upon how she transformed her career after finding her "higher purpose", was particularly inspiring. The ceremony ended with the releasing of balloons carrying the wishes and aspirations of the entire class.

“The value of the TIEMBA lies far beyond the content and the coursework.”

#3: Learnings from Module 1.

The module started with one day of Outward Bound outdoor activities where everyone got to know one another better, bonding and laying the foundation for the rest of the programme and for the Leadership Development Programme later on. The subsequent 1.5 weeks were a series of intense lectures, group discussions, case studies, and simulations from 8am to 8pm every day, Saturdays and Sundays included. Module 1 included “Macroeconomics and the Chinese Economy”, “Data, Modelling and Decision making (DMD)” and “TechMark”.

“Macro” looks at the evolution of the Chinese economy through a socio-political lens, evaluating recent growth using various growth accounting frameworks and discussing future drivers as well as obstacles to growth. “DMD” goes through useful tools such as complex decision tree analysis, sensitivity analysis and sentiment analysis, as well as some common traps in decision-making. “TechMark” was the most fun of them all, with the class divided into five groups competing in a two-day simulation game, and through it, learning business concepts ranging from business strategies and financial accounting to organisational behaviour and operational planning. It is an excellent tool to learn key concepts, strategies, techniques and even business acumen, by allowing teams to make mistakes in a safe environment.


The value of the TIEMBA lies far beyond the content and the coursework. The true value comes from the shared insights, inputs and experiences of the other participants as well as the network and inspirations they provided. So far, it has been a great beginning and hopefully, the rest of the participants and I will be able to keep up the same level of energy throughout the rest of the programme. Even though Module 1 has only just ended, I am already looking forward to seeing this group of individuals who will be my classmates for the next 18 months and friends for life!

Kok How is a Singaporean and a TIEMBA participant (Class of 2019) working at BHP Billiton as Principal Economist, based in Singapore.