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Patrick TS Tan was awarded his University of Strathclyde Business School MBA (with Distinction) in 2012 having studied part-time at our Malaysia centre. He’s currently working as a Consulting Project Manager and reflects here on his experience on the MBA, and particularly his experience of ‘Collaborative Learning’ whilst on the programme.

“The main reason why I embarked on an MBA was to develop a comprehensive understanding of all the different aspects that make up a business, ranging from finance, marketing, HR, operations and strategic management. In any career we wish to pursue (be it in marketing, investment, own business), the program must be able to help us be well versed with different aspects of areas of business. Another important reason is to acquire universal skillsets which will be in demand and applicable throughout our working careers such as critical thinking (asking the right questions, decision making), effective learning skills, writing skills and collaborative learning skills with peers from various backgrounds.

My key consideration in choosing an MBA is it must not be overly diverse and generic and must help exemplify a mastery of a field. I chose Strathclyde among many other programs because of its distinctive focus in the area of strategic management, while covering different aspects of the business. In this respect, Strathclyde is regarded as one of the top business schools in the world in the area of corporate strategy. Its program has truly broadened my perspective in the multiple aspects of the business enabling a greater appreciation of areas especially in operations, finance, accounting, marketing and strategic management.

Another important consideration is the program need to encourage brainstorming, provide collaborative environment (through group work on thesis, real life case studies assignments) to bring forth synergies working in groups which is very enriching, especially seeing how teamwork can produce amazing insights, approach and results despite the initial challenge of group dynamics i.e. working with different personalities and background (finance, marketing, IT, HR, Operations).

The other important consideration is the program’s flexibility of choosing electives in terms of where (local or abroad campus to work with lecturers and international students) and what (practical, relevant elective courses which are interesting and stimulating) to support our future career. Electives can vary widely in content, level of challenge, difficulty, depth and commitment required.

While the MBA journey was indeed memorable filled with invaluable collaborative sessions with peer workgroups from various disciplines, the biggest challenge I faced was managing study time, especially doing MBA on a part-time basis. Attending lectures or having brainstorming group sessions, completing assignments, working with supervisor on thesis, studying for examinations meant very few family holidays and hardly any weekend rest. To succeed, it is important to have the full support and understanding of family or loved ones.

One of the most valuable aspects of the program I found was the honing of our critical thinking skillset especially in strategic management i.e. clear statement of issue, break further down the complexity of issues and critically assess the environment in which an operation operates and its distinctive competencies with respect to the organizational goals. Changing one’s mind-set from the old mind-set (of accepting everything we read) to a new mind-set (which challenges important assumptions, jointly understanding, reflecting and negotiating process which help enhance cognitive commitment and critical self-validation) to produce thoughtful, intelligent and robust outcomes.

Another valuable aspect of the program is the collaborative learning approach of Strathclyde MBA program in our project/thesis and group assignments, as this helped provide opportunities to improve relevant “soft skills” which include leadership, teamwork and communications which is critical to management. It also helped provide the environment for networking with peers to explore potential business opportunities or seek future business partners. For me personally, I was fortunate to have made a number of good friends.

Since completing the MBA, I have started managing projects working with a regional team in my company. The MBA program has certainly contributed in improving my project management and decision making skills to produce thoughtful and sustainable/robust results and working across borders dealing with different cultures.

In retrospect, my advice for those who intend to pursue an MBA is firstly; get a few years of work experience prior to taking up the MBA program, as you would need to be able to relate and share experiences faced during the case studies of real life business problems to derive thoughtful, in-depth, robust insights.

Secondly, it is important to realize an MBA paper qualification alone does not guarantee success in moving up in the corporate career or starting own business. What an MBA provide is a good foundation to do so in terms of honing of one’s learning approach/skill, structured decision making, critical thinking and strategic thinking skills, soft skills and understanding of various aspects of business.

Finally, pursuing an MBA program requires much sacrifice of time, effort and funds. Therefore, it would be wise to (i) get support from the family, (ii) choose a program that is reputable, encourages team collaboration work through thesis and case studies assignment and provides flexibility of choosing electives in terms of where (local or at overseas campus) and what electives (practical, relevant electives) to support your future career.”

Patrick Tan Tai Seng and family

Patrick Tai Seng Tan and family