Biz Alumni 18 November 2019

Expanding one’s horizons through an MBA

For lawyer and general counsel Jacelyn Chan (MBA 2013), pursuing an MBA helped her transform her career by merging the legal and business worlds.

Outside-In spoke to Jacelyn about her MBA experience.

Q: Why did you choose to do an MBA?

I often worked with businesses and after some time, I became interested in learning more on how businesses work. Pursuing an MBA enabled me to do that. Also, I was told that lawyers could not understand numbers or finance, so I wanted to prove my detractors wrong!

I chose NUS because the MBA programme is renowned globally, and offers great international exposure. Furthermore, the part-time format allowed me to study without having to quit my job.

Jacelyn (right) with Linda Gouw of the School’s alumni relations team.

Q: What was the NUS MBA experience like for you?

It was a transformative experience that pointed me in a different direction, career-wise.

When I started my part-time MBA in 2011, I was looking to switch careers. I was planning to quit the legal profession for a social enterprise after I finished the programme.

After speaking to many people at various networking events, including those organised by the School, I discovered there are alternative legal careers to working in a law firm.

This guided me to my current role as an in-house legal counsel, which allows to me to experience the best of both words – business and legal.

The MBA also gave me the opportunity to participate in international exchange programmes in Australia, Israel and the United States, with Melbourne Business School, Tel Aviv University and New York University respectively. It was eye-opening to immerse myself in different cultures.

The exchange that made the biggest impression on me was the one in Israel.  Israelis prefer to start their own company than work for someone else – an entrepreneurial ethos that I feel Singaporeans can learn from them.

I was so inspired by my Israel experience that I did my internship at a start-up and a venture capital firm. Subsequently, my in-house legal counsel roles were at start-ups or firms that used to be start-ups.

Q: What’s your biggest takeaway from your time at NUS Business School?

Being part of The NUS MBA opened many windows, including access to like-minded peers, senior executives from the School’s corporate partners and alumni mentors.

I also learnt a lot about different cultural nuances when it came to doing business; knowledge that continues to serve me today.

Besides the knowledge learnt, the most memorable moments for me were the beers and the group presentations. I really looked forward to leaving work and rushing to class at NUS Business School!

Jacelyn (second from right) with her classmates after a presentation.

I am grateful for the people from all walks of life that I got to meet and the lifelong friendships forged – I would not have met them if I did not pursue my MBA.

Q: Understand you have an interesting hobby – weightlifting. Can you tell us more about this?

I started Olympic weightlifting in December 2017, but I had already been lifting heavy stuff before that. Olympic weightlifting is really all about movement and lifting really heavy weights overhead efficiently and gracefully. Just take a look at the professional Chinese weightlifters who make it look so easy!

It has instilled discipline in me (so I can get to the gym early in the morning to train before I start work), and taught me how to deal with failure, and about mental and physical grit, all of which are applicable to work and life in general.

My biggest achievement is winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Masters Weightlifting Championships in the Gold Coast in June 2019, but I still have a long way to go!

I also love that Olympic weightlifting helps break down gender stereotypes – women aren’t generally expected to be strong or muscular or big, so I enjoy seeing how people react when I tell them that I lift weights.