FOR 32 years, Ms Veronica Chia, 54, put her dream of furthering her education on the backburner.
After completing a diploma in electronic engineering in 1983, she had a more urgent priority — finding a job to help her father support the family.
Then in 2015, she decided to finally pursue her long-time goal of going back to school. She mustered up the courage to enrol for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course from Northumbria University through private education institution Kaplan and graduated last year.
Room for growth
What started Ms Chia on her MBA was the burning desire to realise her long-held dream. She also hoped that a higher degree would enhance her career.
“Never did I expect these sentiments to lead to an interesting journey of continuing my education and adding new knowledge and skills which I can apply to my current job and future endeavours in the non-profit sector,” she says.
Since 1996, Ms Chia has been a director of project management at Quicktrax Technology, which she owns.
It defines, designs and develops electronic products and solutions for applications such as manufacturing reliability test, industrial automation and consumer electronics.
She wears many hats in the company, managing finance issues, liaising with engineers and even doing her own design work.
Her postgraduate experience has reaped rewards. She can now apply her new knowledge to better manage her design projects.
She has also learnt to evaluate in-house strengths and weaknesses, as well as explore products and services that external partners can provide, so that her small business can still stay profitable and remain competitive in this fast-changing and crowded electronic business space.
Her MBA course included “hard skill” practical business modules such as financial accounting, marketing, operation management, investment analysis and business research; as well as modules focusing on soft skills such as leadership, business strategy, change management, and contemporary issues like business ethics.
Both types of modules added to the rich curriculum offered by Northumbria University. However, those on soft skills have been especially useful as they help her to strategise better in her business and engagement in the non-profit sector.
Says Ms Chia: “The assignments and master’s dissertation had great meaning for me — for their relevance to a proverb by Confucius, which basically says that a person can only understand something by trying it out himself.”
Beyond academic pursuits
What she finds particularly interesting about her MBA journey is how she has developed into a more self-aware and strategic leader.
“Age is not an obstacle for someone who seeks self-improvement through continuing education; and pursuing a postgraduate degree is not about getting a better job but, rather, getting the job done better,” she says.
Taking on the part-time MBA programme came with many challenges but Ms Chia proved her mettle by rolling with the punches.
She says: “I have always managed my time well, but this journey took time management to another level for me in terms of discipline and planning.”
Although her MBA course is done, Ms Chia is not resting on her laurels. She intends to do more research on the subject of self-awareness in effective leadership that she completed for her master’s dissertation.
“Moving forward, I hope to continuously learn and share my knowledge, skills and experience gained from my life, work and studies with others,” she says.