By Sriram Iyer
Why go back to school at 40? This has been a question my friends have been asking since I began my EMBA with NUS Business School.
I relocated to Singapore in 2012 to take on a regional role with a NASDAQ-listed technology services firm. Since then, I have had the opportunity to manage multiple cross-border initiatives across Asia. I loved the intricacies of doing business in the region as this is the growth frontier for many organisations. The future belongs here, and I wanted to learn more.
When I celebrated my 40th birthday, I felt that it was time to sharpen my competitive edge after 18 years in the corporate sector. Or, as Stephen Covey said in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to “sharpen the saw”.
With its unique combination of global curriculum and Asian insights, as well as a diverse class mix, it was a no-brainer to enrol in The NUS Executive MBA programme.
Diversity and knowledge
One of the most exciting aspects of working in Asia, especially in a regional role, is diversity.
As part of the programme, we have the opportunity to visit 24 companies across six Asian cities (Singapore, Jakarta, New Delhi, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney) for an inside look into how companies thrive in this dynamic market landscape.
This immersive experience is enhanced by the great mix of nationalities and backgrounds in my class. Consisting of 47 students from 17 regions in my cohort, ranging from ages 30 to 50 years old, you can expect a great exchange of ideas and insights. The candidates hailed from a variety of industries, featuring entrepreneurs as well as CXOs. This rich diversity enabled me to hone my ability to function in different cultural contexts. No wonder that diversity helps to break uni-directional thought processes and drives innovative thinking.
The School’s faculty is a differentiator with their unique pedagogy. They have a strong grasp of current business trends and affairs, and seamlessly weave them into the Asia-focused business case studies. Their ability to attract industry captains for knowledge sharing is extremely commendable.
Before enrolling in the program, I harboured dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. What held me back was the belief that I was not ready.
But thankfully, the EMBA programme has a strong focus on entrepreneurship, which helped boost my confidence. Besides modules on related areas such as leadership, management of start-ups and marketing, the class has access to the entrepreneurship community housed at The Hangar and Block71. Through these conversations, I gained better insights into how these young business owners attract talent, as well as raise and manage capital.
I felt so empowered halfway through the programme that I quit my job and founded IKIGAI ENABLERS, a boutique talent consulting firm and hrtech.sg, a HR technology advisory company in 2018. With 20 years of experience in the human resources domain, it was natural that I start something in a space that I was very comfortable with.
Going back to school mid-career to pursue The NUS EMBA programme was one of the best things that happened to me in both my professional and personal life. My work experience enabled me to relate better to the teaching. It was from my time here that I got the confidence to become an entrepreneur at the age of 40.
Whenever I take a taxi back to NUS for classes, the drivers usually ask if I am teaching there. There would be a moment of awkward silence when I respond, “no, I am a student.” I am proud to be a lifelong learner and look forward to heading back to Business School whenever the “saw needs to be sharpened”.
Here’s my all-time favourite quote, from Laura Carstensen, Director of Stanford’s Centre on Longevity, “If you’re going to live 100 years or older, you’re probably going to have to return to school several times as an adult to learn what’s new”.
Sriram Iyer is an EMBA (Class of 2019) alum and an EMBA Class Ambassador. Please visit https://emba.nus.edu.sg/ to find out more about our EMBA programmes.