NUS BBA 22 November 2019

Meet the CEO

It is presentation time and sitting in front of you are IBM’s senior leaders, including the CEO and Chairman of IBM Asia Pacific. No pressure.

Welcome to Management and Organisation 4314: Consulting to Management class. Taken mostly by final-year students, the class invites real-world business leaders to judge the students’ consulting solutions.

Adjunct Associate Professor Andreas Raharso, who teaches the class, said, “I hope students from the Consulting to Management class will be able to develop a Next Practice solution for new problems that arise in the era of cloud, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. This means solving a problem that companies currently do not have an exemplary solution for.”

One of the projects saw the students proposing “next practice” leadership recommendations to human resource (HR) leaders from Shell Singapore, LinkedIn, Unilever and The Breimer Group. In another project, the students tackled pollution problems in ASEAN using current IBM technologies.

Students fielding questions by IBM leaders.

One of the judges, Ms Harriet Green, IBM Asia Pacific CEO and Chairman, was impressed with the students’ presentation, saying that they “set a new bar” in terms of quality presentation and exhibited a sound understanding of the technology. Besides technology itself, she hopes students can think more about technology’s impact and how it is changing the way work is done.

In an engaging lecture on being future-ready in this technology era, Ms Green also emphasised the importance of both technology skills and human skills. “As well as hard and soft skills, it’s attributes like optimism, passion, curiosity, adaptability and openness that are key to propelling you forward: motivating you to keep on learning and reskilling,” said Ms Green.

The students have certainly learnt a lot from these industry leaders. Outside-In hears more from three students who took up this class—Matthew Tan, Claira Goh, and Hew Qian Yu.

(From left) Claira Goh, Hew Qian Yu and Matthew Tan

Q: Why did you choose to take up this class?

Matthew: I am interested in management consulting and had done four internships in this area with Accenture, Arthur D. Little, Allianz and IQVIA. I hope to go into this field in future as well. Before enrolling, I heard that we will be able to work with senior management from large companies. Another appealing factor about this class is that it simulates real-world consulting where consultants present their solutions to the C-suite.

Claira: Compared to Matthew, I am more interested in the field of HR, which often looks at employees’ welfare needs. Companies need to balance their business needs with employees’ interests to be profitable. I find that consulting is a way to bridge these different needs. It is also about how you see problems differently, and how you manage both the internal and external company stakeholders.

Q: What are your secrets in preparing for the IBM presentation?

Claira: At the start, we tell ourselves not to fall in love with our own idea, so as to be open minded about possibilities and gaps in the proposal. But after the proposal reaches a more mature stage, the key is to be convicted of our idea so that we can move forward. We also brought plenty of food and snacks to our meetings to fuel our minds and ease the tension.

Qian Yu: The team members are all juggling different courses and workloads so finding a common time that works with everyone’s schedule is challenging. Which is why when we do meet, we give our all and stay focused.  After all, it is not every day that we get to meet the CEO of IBM Asia Pacific, so I think we should make the most of this opportunity to learn from her.  It is also a chance for me to to present myself and the school in a good light.

Q: Qian Yu, your team’s idea on a Robo-Shark that removes plastics from the ocean, and working with social enterprises to upcycle those plastics, has won the favour of the IBM senior leaders. What is your team’s inspiration?

Qian Yu: We read an online article about a robotic shark that was tested by the US navy for military purpose. Thus we had the idea of using a Robo-Shark to clean the ocean. Saving the earth is no easy feat, but we need to dream big. With such powerful technology at our fingertips, we can truly save the world from environmental damage. We wanted to take baby steps to realise this dream, hence we decided to start with alleviating ocean pollution. When left festering, ocean pollution can cause great harm to humanity as ocean life is near the start of the food chain.

Q: What are your thoughts on winning?

Qian Yu: My team is truly heartened by the results we hope this idea can come true! I think our team managed to conquer and crack this challenge because we were bold enough to confront the unknown and were resilient in the face of adversities faced along the way. It was not easy but we had very good team who worked well together. We were amazed by the breath of IBM technologies and its abilities to tackle the world’s most persistent problems such as pollution. Going forward, we will definitely be motivated to challenge ourselves even more in harnessing the power of cognitive technologies, either in our future projects or in the workforce.

IBM Asia Pacific CEO and Chairman Ms Harriet Green (4th from left) congratulated the winning team behind Robo-Shark – (from left) Oh Kai Lin, Tanya Tan Hui Ying, Natalie Eng Xue-Yu, Edgar Wang Zhi Peng, Hew Qian Yu and Lauren Tan Yen May.