FOR married couple Bernard Tan and Regina Yim, returning to school to pursue postgraduate studies was a learning journey in more ways than one.
“We first met at the same company and work in the same industry.
“So we decided to embark on this academic journey and integrate this learning experience into our marriage,” says Mr Tan, who is in his mid-30s.
They chose to study at the Singapore Management University (SMU).
The 18-month part-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme - with its accelerated structure and a strong focus on leadership and communication skills - appealed to Ms Yim, who is in her late 20s.
The product manager at pharmaceutical company Pfizer, who has a degree in psychology, felt she needed formal training in business and financial tools and concepts to improve her career prospects.
She enrolled in 2014 and received the bond-free leadership scholarship, which awarded $10,000 of the tuition fee.
“We both paid for the courses on our own, which is why we had to take turns to study,” she says.
While Ms Yim looked forward to modules on digital marketing and pricing strategy, the module she enjoyed most was brand management.
SMU has a partnership with multinational luxury conglomerate, the LVMH group, and students got to work on the brand’s business cases and network with its senior leaders, who were invited to give talks.
“It was truly insightful to learn from one of the world’s leading luxury goods companies. I picked up interesting ideas and concepts that would be a potential differentiation in the healthcare industry,” she says.
Being numerically inclined, she also enjoyed certain financial modules such as financial accounting, corporate finance, and mergers and acquisitions.
Mr Tan, on the other hand, found the Executive MBA (EMBA) course more suitable for him and enrolled last year.
He is the South-east Asia director, market access and government affairs, in Medtronic, a medical device company.
Having worked in various areas in the healthcare sector, he sees the business school as a platform that will equip him with the thinking and tools to put him in a better position to promote a value-based healthcare system, which prioritises patients’ needs.
Mr Tan found the emphasis on corporate strategy and its applications to different industries useful.
As his classmates were mostly senior executives, including a chief executive officer, a chief information officer, senior surgeons and a policy-maker, he enjoyed the opportunity to engage in robust discussions on healthcare cases.
Managing both work and school was challenging for the couple, as they were unable to spend as much time together as they used to.
When Ms Yim first started the programme, she spent most of her time in school having discussions with classmates about projects.
Even when she was home, she was working on assignments or studying.
But her experience helped her empathise and support her husband when it was his turn to start his 12-month EMBA programme.
She was able to guide him on some of the modules she had previously taken. Plus, taking classes with the same professors became a topic of discussion during dinner.
The EMBA programme also requires students to spend a week each at partner overseas universities including the Wharton School in Philadelphia, United States; Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India; and Peking University in Beijing, China.
As their jobs already involve a fair bit of travelling, they are used to being away from each other. To compensate, they make it a point to keep in constant contact.
The learning experience has been well worth the investment.
Says Ms Yim: “The MBA has been a life-changing experience for me both professionally and personally.
“The interactive approach, case-based learning and networking platforms have changed the way I view the world and businesses, refined my problem-solving skills, and further strengthened my communication and leadership skills.
“The tools and skills gained are invaluable for today’s global business landscape.”