The TIEMBA offered me a combination to experience the INSEAD campuses as well as Tsinghua in Beijing, and it turned out to be the best bet I could have ever wished for. 
So San Wong

So San Wong

so san
Nationality/Passport: Singaporean Year of graduation: 2023 Current Role: Sales Director, APAC

Tell us about yourself, and how you got to where you are today both on a professional and personal level? What made you want to pursue the TIEMBA? 

I am currently a Sales Director, APAC at Planet Labs PBC, an Earth Observatory and Satellite imagery provider company headquartered and listed in the US. 

All along, I had been contemplating to attain my MBA for a long time. It had been my dream for 10 years!

When COVID broke out and we were all working from home, I got very serious about upgrading myself. Back then, I was already in a sales and business development role in a Singapore technology firm for some time, but I felt there was something lacking in my exposure that limited me from progressing further.

I consolidated my thoughts and went through a thorough school selection process. It was one of the longest decision-making processes in my life, balancing the time and cost commitment, return on investments and what outcome I wanted for myself. 

The energy consumed and the revelation that came was akin to going through your first job hunt and landing that first dream job.

Amongst all the schools I applied to to, INSEAD was my first choice.

After I secured my placement, I started my class in August 2021 and never looked back since. 

Which campus(es) have you experienced, and can you tell us more about any similarities or differences?

Throughout my education, I came from traditional “Singapore branded” schools all along, the last one being National University of Singapore for my undergraduate studies. I am a very good representative of the Singapore-style “rote-based” academic education system.

However, when it came to probably my final attempt of going back to school, I really wanted a different experience – something more global, diversified, and transformational.

NUS was great, but I desired a different mix of culture and learning style this time. Hence I started aiming for the likes of INSEAD, UCLA and Chicago Booth etc. Also, I had to consider schools based on flexible options, proximity, online or physical learning.

The TIEMBA offered me a combination to experience the INSEAD campuses as well as Tsinghua in Beijing, and it turned out to be the best bet I could have ever wished for. 

Are you a scholarship recipient? If so, could you tell us which scholarship you received and how you prepared for the application? 

Yes I received the INSEAD Women’s Scholarship and Singapore Scholarship. I had to write an essay for each application, expressing how I represented each category and how I could contribute to the success of that profile.

To write a compelling essay, I took some time to reflect on my journey – how my experiences moulded me into a unique individual today and how those experiences, be they positive or negative, can contribute to the learning of my cohort later on in class. Eventually I was very honoured to be selected as one of the recipients. 

Did you have any expectations before you started the TIEMBA, and did you speak to any alumni before joining the programme?

I spoke with a few people who had finished their EMBAs, but the best person I spoke with was a Chicago-Booth EMBA graduate and ex-colleague. His greatest advice was to go for it, and go for the best. His perspective has grown so much after his EMBA programme, and it has totally transformed him not just academically, but in various other aspects. He has since assumed a top leadership position in the company thereafter. 

Could you tell us about your experience with the Career Development Centre (CDC)?

The CDC was very helpful and they have structured programmes including career counselling, leadership development, salary negotiation and profiling workshops to have you level up.

During the programme, I would suggest you book an appointment with the career coach to go through your own path and find opportunities from there, rather than hope for placements through career fairs, as the latter is designed for the younger MBA cohorts.

At the executive level, many of us have our own unique skill sets and stage of life that has to be individually worked on. For myself, I had a short but useful session with coach Brian Sun that helped me clarify my own worth and eventually secured the new job I have today.

Has the TIEMBA helped you in your career?

Yes definitely. Just earlier this year, I have successfully transitioned into a new territory of geospatial technology and satellite imagery at a US listed company PlanetLabs, despite not having a geo-sensing technical background.

As an ex-public service officer, this transition was a significant achievement for me on many fronts - for breaking into a new industry, new geography and new company culture at mid-career. 

Thinking back, I believe not one, but a combination of many little aspects of my learning at INSEAD came into play.

The training at INSEAD has helped me to be a more mature, versatile and quick-thinking person. 

The “help” need not be strictly academic, but more so on a holistic approach – from soft skills like communications and speech to managing teams and diversity, from microeconomics to global affairs advocacy and making an impact on society.

The TIEMBA has not only helped me in my career but also expanded my network tremendously and uplifted my personal growth. The network gained is not only limited to my own TIEMBA’23 cohort but also many more in different cohorts and different programmes across GEMBAs, EMFins and even MBAs. 

What advice will you give to prospects who are still considering whether the TIEMBA should be part of their career plan?

Go for it, go for the best. Don’t look back, do it soon.