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Achieving Certainties

As the saying goes, “two things are for certain – taxes and death”. As dark as it may sound, it probably is right. However, to me, it signifies an achievement. An achievement of a contribution to the economy for the former; an achievement of a life fulfilled, for the latter. In the same light, my MBA journey has been about achieving certainties.

My name is Robin. I was born, raised and educated in Singapore, but have spent a large part of my career outside of Singapore. As a management consultant for eight years, I spent most of my time travelling across Asia Pacific for work. The CEIBS MBA marks my second stint in China, where I previously spent two years during my consulting career. This time around, I’m on a journey of achieving certainties.

One of the earliest certainties I’ve achieved in my MBA thus far is a trip to the student lounge every night (almost), downing a few pints of beer with friends as we enjoy a moment of relief from classes.

For most other things, uncertainty still clouds over. I’m not certain as to how my career will unfold or where I will be after my MBA. Achieving these certainties will be difficult, no matter how small they are. But I guess that’s what makes this journey valuable. The upsides are unlimited, and for you to ascertain. Here on in, let me share my MBA journey – a quest for certainties, going through contemplation, confusion and most importantly commitment.

 
Our student lounge - favorite place in CEIBS

 

Contemplation

The decision to pursue an MBA at CEIBS was not a straightforward one for me. Prior to coming here, I had eight years of management consulting experience and had reached a relatively comfortable position in the firm. Pursuing a full time MBA at this stage of my career led to constant querying from peers, colleagues and family.

Diligence is extremely important at this stage. From the very start, CEIBS was one of only two schools I was choosing between. I shall not go on about how you should think about this, but in short, consider carefully where and what you want to do after your MBA. Truth be told, you will never be convinced with the decision taken at the end, but at least make sure you have contemplated sufficiently and in a reasonably diligent manner. The “China Depth, Global Breadth” proposition of CEIBS stood out for me. I spent close to two years contemplating the decision before submitting my application. The consultant in me even built a financial model and a 20-page PPT deck to review my decision. I deeply regretted it. Thinking too much.

 

Confusion

Eventually, I received an offer for admission, accepted it, flew to Shanghai in style, and settled in quickly. Six months into the MBA programme, questions still linger. Confusion accumulated on a daily basis, especially as my lifestyle had to take a complete reversal. My friends who have done an MBA would often tell me that this is the “fading honeymoon effect”. At this point, you start to question the decision made, and form hypotheses about how you would regret it at the end. Fret not, this stage of confusion is normal. Drink and forget about it.

 

Commitment

This is perhaps the most fulfilling stage of the MBA. It is a gradual process, and requires a lot of self-actualisation. Over the first six months, I’m glad to have been able to find my commitments in the midst of confusion – commitment to learning, commitment to others, and commitment to myself.

In all honesty, it was challenging to head back to school after so many years in the workforce. Lacking in youth, I did not look forward to the recurring classroom schedules and suffocating examinations. But I soon discovered that the learning was so much more enriching outside the boundaries of the seminar room. I’m grateful to share the same cohort with a group of brilliant individuals from all over the world. One of the most humbling learning experiences I had was to take part in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) with Boss Amy, Kunal, Andrew and Leonardo. What I had learnt from each of them made all the hard work worth it. We were eventually selected to represent CEIBS to take part in the competition regionally and globally. I was committed to learn and win with this team.


CEIBS VCIC Team (From left to right: Leonardo, Andrew, “Boss” Amy, Robin, Kunal)

From the second term, the CEIBS syllabus started to become a lot more interesting. I headed to Nanjing with 40 other international students, learning about the globalisation strategies of remarkable local Chinese firms. The first-hand experience was an eye-opener. Then after the end of term 2, I had the opportunity to visit Tel Aviv in Israel, one of the most vibrant start-up ecosystems in the world. Another eye-opener, and an enriching once-in-a-lifetime experience. From there, I found myself committed to learning from and with the best in this institution.


Group picture taken in Tel Aviv at an Israeli kibbutz

Nevertheless, the MBA journey is not just about learning and career advancement opportunities. One-third of the way through this journey, I’ve gained groups of friends whom I can call family in Shanghai, which has been one of the most rewarding aspects of an MBA. We share our stories, experiences, struggles and joy over our shared favourite beverages – friends I’m committed to growing and completing this journey with.


Birthday party with friends – a Jumbo event

Finally, commitment to myself was the one that took me most time to come to terms with. From day one of the MBA, everyone was told that, “If you do not transform yourself in this time, it would have been a waste of tuition”. Implied within, is a need for self-realisation. For some students, self-realisation drove their decision to do an MBA. For others, an MBA drove the self-realisation process. I belonged to the latter group, and there’s nothing unfortunate about that. In hindsight, I appreciate the chance for self-realisation during my MBA journey. With the students, alumni, faculty and business leaders I’ve met and interacted with, my self-realisation process had become a lot more fruitful. Learning from these people, I’ve been able to better realise where I needed to work on and clearly map out personal development plans. From there, I was committed to self-actualisation.


Shanghai Night

Uncertainties still remain, but for now, I’m certain of how I’d like my MBA journey to turn out in the next 12 months. Certainly, I’d like to continue finding more certainties as the MBA goes on, but for now, I’m happy with the earliest certainty that I’ve achieved.