Studying business for his business

Despite his busy work and class schedules, entrepreneur Kevin Tan pursues his MBA at NUS Business School with zest

Mr Tan feels that lifelong learning is especially relevant in times of economic uncertainty.
Mr Tan feels that lifelong learning is especially relevant in times of economic uncertainty.PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

THE life of an entrepreneur is hectic and unpredictable, but Mr Kevin Tan remains motivated to attend classes at night.

The 31-year-old entrepreneur is currently pursuing a parttime Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School.

Mr Tan is the director of cutQ, a mobile app start-up he co-founded in 2013, which allows users to pre-order takeaway food via the app and collect it at the store. 

Lifelong learning journey

One of the reasons that prompted Mr Tan to pursue an MBA in 2015 was his belief in lifelong learning, which he feels is “especially relevant in this time of economic uncertainty”.

He recalls: “When I was deciding what was next for me on my learning journey, some people told me that as a founder of a start-up, I would learn all the things that one normally learns in an MBA course.”

During his stint as a senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to starting his company, Mr Tan pursued professional qualifications offered by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) and CPA Australia.

He adds: “I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Bernard Yeung, dean of NUS Business School, and he advised me that the MBA provides structure, guidance and perspective in decision making, which is invaluable to any entrepreneur.”

One of his modules, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, while similar to his own entrepreneurship journey, also offered him new insights.

Mr Tan says the input of the lecturer and the perspectives of his teammates who came from different industries led to his group producing a more well-rounded presentation deck.

Even though he took the module over a year ago, Mr Tan sometimes still refers to the presentation as a guideline when preparing his own presentations.

Another module he enjoyed was Management and Organisation.

Students participated in experiential games and activities and learnt about the different ways that miscommunication may occur due to differences in culture, power and the implicit and explicit rules in an organisation.

“This module helped me to understand and work better with people, enabling me to build more meaningful relationships with my team and merchants,” he says.

MBA students also have opportunities to participate in overseas study trips and exchange programmes.

Mr Tan went to Mannheim, Germany, on an eight-day exchange programme on entrepreneurship, where he visited start-ups and a German incubator facility.

Juggling act

“Most part-time students prefer to take short courses, which usually run for one or two weeks.

“This allows us to broaden our experience without significantly impacting our work schedule,” says Mr Tan.

He adds that the flexibility of the MBA programme allows him to plan his classes according to his schedule.

“This allows me to reduce the number of classes in semesters when cutQ requires more attention, and increase it when time permits,” he says.

In the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of applications for the part-time MBA programme.

Mr Tan takes two or three modules each semester and attends lectures twice or thrice weekly.

He sees group work and group assignments as opportunities for meaningful interaction and networking between students.

He typically has several client meetings before he rushes off for lectures at 6pm.

“I try not to schedule client meetings too late in the afternoon and definitely not on exam nights so that I can be on time. But I am not always able to control my time,” he says.

The lecturers are accommodating and make exceptions for students who have to attend make-up lectures on other lecture slots during the week.

“The workload I take on each semester adds to the demand of producing a good quality project.

“It is important to be realistic with regard to capacity and not over extend oneself and compromise quality output; and to prioritise and have good time management,” he says.

Enlightening experience

There are plenty of opportunities for networking, including talks and networking sessions.

Mr Tan finds these very enriching as he has met lecturers from other faculties such as the Institute of Systems Science, where he also attended a short programming course.

Says Mr Tan: “I find my postgraduate journey a very enlightening experience.

“It has given me a healthy balance of knowledge skills development and networking opportunities, which have been invaluable.

“The ability to exchange ideas and listen to business leaders share their journey enabled me to gain unique insights and perspectives.”

He advises those who want to pursue an MBA to find out about the different options and pathways on offer.

He says: “I have found something truly satisfying and fulfilling to undertake despite my busy work schedule.” 

Download PDF version of the Postgraduate Studies I supplement