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​​Connecting students with alumni

Published on: 18-May-2020

The Nanyang Business School (NBS) Alumni Mentorship Programme was introduced in 2019 to foster the spirit of giving back and connect current NBS students with NBS alumni mentors from different industries around the globe.

Through this partnership, students gain invaluable life and career guidance, industry knowledge, and professional connections; and ultimately enhance their personal and career growth.

As the first cycle of the programme draws to a close, we catch up with a mentor and his two mentees who share their experiences in the Alumni Mentorship programme.

Question: Share more about yourselves.

Mentor: I am Bryan Pang, working as a Chief Risk Officer in Sinolending Pte Ltd, based in Shanghai.

Mentee 1: Hello, I am Madeline Tai, a final year business undergraduate student pursuing a major in Business Analytics and a minor in Translation.

Mentee 2: Hello! I am Cheong Jing Fu, a final year business undergraduate pursuing a major in Business Analytics.

Question: What motivated you to join the programme?

Bryan: I was approached by the NBS Alumni Office to join the NBS Alumni Mentorship programme. Since I have benefited tremendously from my university days’ mentor (who was a AIESEC board member), I was happy to contribute in any way I could. The only reservation I had was if I could put aside adequate time to mentor the students.

Madeline: During my preparation to go to Shanghai, China for my internship under the Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme (OEP) in semester one, I chanced upon the email invitation from the School’s Alumni Office regarding the Alumni Mentorship programme. The alumni team informed us they could try to find us a mentor based in the overseas city we were going to that semester. After finding out more about the programme from the alumni team, I decided to enrol myself.

I also believed it would be great to meet a mentor, who is a fellow Singaporean as well as a fellow NBS alumnus, who can guide me in my career planning and share his experience as a Singaporean working overseas.

In addition, as I would be graduating soon, I wanted to utilise this opportunity to think about my career plans during my overseas internship and thought it will be a good time to seek advice from a mentor.

Since it was my first time joining a mentorship programme., I did not have any fixed expectations. I joined the programme with an open mind and l looked forward to learning as much as I could from my mentor and his experiences.

Jing Fu: I recalled during my freshman year when we were required to choose a specialisation at the end of the year, I did not know what I wanted to pursue for my future career, and I felt lost. I hoped to have a mentor who could advise me based on his/her experiences and guide me to position myself successfully for the future. Since then, I started to keep a lookout for mentorship programmes.

When I came across the NBS Alumni Mentorship programme, I was very excited. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be attached to an NBS alumnus or alumna and receive mentoring from them. Furthermore, the mentorship programme gave me the opportunity to listen to the mentor’s journey and experiences, and thus giving me a better idea on how to navigate my career upon graduation.

However, I was embarking on an overseas internship in Shanghai during semester one. I was disappointed when I was told initially that there was no mentor available outside of Singapore. Fortunately, I received another email a few weeks later stating the availability of an NBS alumnus in Shanghai, who was keen to join the programme as a mentor. I immediately connected with my mentor, Bryan, and that was the start of my fruitful journey as his mentee in the programme.

Question: What are your key takeaways/ valuable learning from this programme?

Madeline: During my internship in Shanghai, I was considering whether I wanted to pursue a career overseas after I graduate. Through the mentoring sessions with Bryan, I realised that it was not easy working overseas – we would be away from our parents who are turning old and if we had kids, we would have to think about their future as well. Hence, I came to a realisation that pursuing a career overseas would need proper planning.

Another takeaway is never stop challenging yourself. Bryan had quit his full-time job to set up his own business. Many might think that at his age, he could retire after his kids had grown up and entered the workforce, so why trouble himself by starting a business which involves risk and volatility? However, this was something that Bryan had already planned for and he pursued it regardless. This taught me that entrepreneurship has no boundaries –not only the younger generation, who have nothing to lose, can become entrepreneurs. One should always dare to challenge oneself and pursue one’s dreams. Only then can we find great fulfilment and purpose in life.

Lastly, I have learnt to be grateful. I remembered that Bryan once told us that he personally benefitted from the guidance of others and that was why he wanted to give back by guiding others as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from him and I hope I will have the ability to mentor others in future.

Jing Fu: I really learnt a lot while in the NBS Alumni Mentorship Programme. First and foremost, I managed to learn more about myself in terms of my own strengths, weaknesses, interests, and goals for my future career. Through the various discussions and mentorship exercises, Bryan and I shared our experiences which enabled us to truly understand how we can leverage these experiences to plan for our future. As Bryan had been working overseas in China and Sri Lanka for more than 10 years, I gained from him a clearer perspective on an overseas career, and how to be open to opportunities beyond Singapore. It was through my interactions with Bryan that made me reflect upon my personal goals and motivated me to consider working overseas after I graduate.

In addition, beyond career insights, Bryan shared with me about his personal life and how to balance family and career. While it is necessary to be driven in our professional pursuit, it should not be at the expense of our personal priorities and family. There is a need to ensure a good balance to truly succeed in life. I am extremely grateful in this aspect, as I gained more clarity about topics such as financial planning and work-life balance.

Last but not the least, my most valuable takeaway from the programme is not only having a mentor, but most importantly, a friend for life. The mentorship and friendship formed with Bryan did not merely end after the conclusion of the mentorship programme. Bryan and I keep in close contact with each other. I am glad to have found a mentor and life-long friend who I can seek advice at any time. In addition, the networks forged with my peers and other mentors during the programme are also very valuable for my own learning and growth.

Question: Tell us something new that you have learnt about yourself through participating in this programme.

Bryan: There was this session which I needed the mentees to prepare their life map and mine to share with them. It was the first time that I had literally spent a good half day reflecting on my past 50 years, determining what were the high and low points in my life. I came to realise that a major part was family events. It got me thinking what is important in life and how I would like to live and experience my next phase of life.

Madeline: I have learnt that I value simplicity. Often, we get so caught up with the numerous things in life such as work, internships, projects, etc. that we forget to slow down and appreciate and live life for the moment. Being able to take a step back and have a conversation with my mentor every month was something that I enjoyed, as it allowed me to pause and reflect upon the greater things in life and not just be caught up with day-to-day activities. It is this kind of simple things in life that makes me happy.

Jing Fu: Through this mentorship programme, I have gained clarity in terms of what I truly want for my future career and life – I want to pursue an overseas work opportunity if I had the chance. Moreover, this programme helped me to reaffirm my aspirations to become an entrepreneur.

Question: Recount your most memorable moment/incident you had with your mentor/mentees during programme.

Bryan: There was a meeting in October with the mentees which coincided with a visit from my sister and brother-in-law in Shanghai. I decided on a road trip with all four to Xitang old water town in Zhejiang, which was an hour and a half drive from Shanghai. The five of us had a half-day trip and we enjoyed one another’s company. We saw many visitors dressed up in Tang dynasty outfit for a local Tang outfit photo competition and it felt as if we were in a movie set! We took a lot of photos and it was one of my most memorable moment.

Madeline: There is always this perception of millennials changing jobs frequently, which is something that society views negatively. Yet, there are others who think that one should change jobs frequently to gain as much experience and exposure as possible. Hence, during my last mentorship session before I returned to Singapore, I asked Bryan about his views on this issue. His reply was whether you change jobs or not was not important, the crucial point was whether you were learning when you were doing your job, If you felt that you were no longer learning, then you should switch to another job to learn something new. It enlightened the job experience that one gain is about quality and not quantity, and that one should always embrace lifelong learning.

Jing Fu: The most memorable moment I had was the visit to Bryan’s office. He had invited me to his office and introduced me to a few of his colleagues. I had the opportunity to see the similarities and differences in work culture between China and Singapore. I also interacted with a few of his colleagues and learnt more about inter-cultural working styles.

Question: Did you face any challenges during this programme, and how did you overcome it?

Bryan: I did not face much challenge during the course since I had organised management trainee programmes in my company, and I am familiar with the requirements. In addition, the mentor guidebook provided by the alumni office further helped in my preparation.

Madeline: As an introvert myself, one of the challenges I faced during the programme was sharing some of my personal beliefs with others, especially to someone whom you just met. I overcame this gradually, by first taking a more passive role of listening to both Bryan and my fellow mentee, Jing Fu, when they shared their thoughts. After which I eventually pursued a more active role of asking more questions and voicing my own opinions.

Jing Fu: One of the challenges that I faced was time management. Often, there was a need to plan and coordinate both my mentor's and my schedule to arrange suitable timing for the mentorship sessions. We had to keep in mind of our mentor's busy schedules, as well as prioritise our workload. This presented some challenges at times as a few mentorship sessions had to be rescheduled due to last minute changes. However, I overcame this challenge by planning out my schedule and commitments ahead of time, as well as consistently communicated and updated my mentor with regard to any last minute changes. This helped to forge a mutual understanding between us and allowed us to proceed with the mentorship as planned. As a mentee, I also believe it is basic courtesy to commit and prepare the necessary materials before each mentorship session to ensure we get the most out of the session. Since our mentors are taking time off their busy schedule to provide advice and guidance, it is only respectful that we do so.

Question: As the programme draws to a close, do you have any parting words you would like to say to your mentor/mentees? 

Bryan: I remembered both Madeline and Jing Fu were quite worried and stressed in the first couple of meetings as they were both new to the cities and were trying hard to figure out their way around. Since this was the first time they were living away from home, I am proud that they have adapted well and grew to enjoy what Shanghai has to offer. The world is the oasis and I hope they will take the plunge to explore and not to get too comfortable back in Singapore.

Madeline: Jing Fu and I were quite lost when we first arrived in Shanghai, so we are very thankful that Bryan always checked in on us to make sure we are adapting well to the new environment. I would like to thank Bryan for his guidance, be it career planning or life in general, throughout our time in Shanghai. I wish him all the best in his new career as an entrepreneur and hope that he stays safe and healthy during this COVID-19 period! I hope to meet him when I am back in Shanghai!

Jing Fu: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bryan for the mentoring sessions and the insightful discussions we had for the past six months in Shanghai. I am very happy to say that the discussions had allowed me to better understand my goals and priorities in both my career and personal life, and also helped me to plan a clearer path for my future.

I also appreciate the countless advice and the sharing of his personal experiences which allowed me to realise the opportunities available beyond Singapore, and also pushed me to be more aware of my strengths, weaknesses, values and goals.

Though the mentoring session has come to an end, I am glad that the friendship and relationship with my mentor will continue. I wish Bryan all the best in his future endeavours. I hope to meet you again in the future.

Question: Any advice for fellow alumni/ students who are deliberating whether to sign up for this programme – what would like to tell them before they embark on this programme and how can they make the most out of it?

Bryan: My only advice is to be like a sponge and absorb whatever learning that the programme has to offer and enjoy! When you look back in your 50s, you will realise that this programme may be a high point in your life.

Madeline: This mentorship programme has taught me that the learning process should be both ways – for a mentee to learn from the mentor’s experiences and also for the mentor to learn from a mentee’s perspective to better comprehend the younger generation. To make the most out of this experience, sharing from both the mentee and mentor is essential to encourage discussion and critical thinking. I encourage my fellow NBS peers and juniors to sign up for this mentoring programme with an open mind as it is only through open discussions that you can truly learn.

Jing Fu: For those who are deliberating whether to sign up for this programme, my advice is to go for it! Whether you already know what you want or still unsure of your options for your future career, I can guarantee that you will gain a lot by participating in this programme. The guidance, network and discussions through this programme will definitely provide more clarity and confidence as you embark on your career upon graduation.

To make the most out of this experience, I would encourage my fellow NBS peers to join with an open mind. Participate actively during each session, and do not be afraid to seek for help or advice from your mentor. It is fruitful to also do some reflections on your own after each session to better understand yourself and your aspirations. Do keep in touch with your mentor regularly, even when the programme concludes.

Take this leap of faith, and I am sure you will be able to learn a lot and launch yourself to greater heights!

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