The UCLA-NUS EMBA Experience

  • Had a professor say our degree was useless and the same professor said it was women’s own fault for not negotiating despite the fact women, unlike men, are often punished for negotiating instead of being rewarded.
  • UCLA appeared to handpick only a few people in our program and scheduled a session for their academic senate review of the program at an inconvenient time for APAC. To their credit, they rectified this, but only after they were called out. They did listen to our feedback during their Academic Senate review and seemed to take it very seriously.
  • The issue of China treating Taiwan as a part of its territory (Taiwan is an independent country that China regularly threatens to invade) was treated as a joke in class. This infuriates me as a Taiwanese citizen, especially given the unthinkable unfolding on eastern edges of NATO. To be told explicitly and implicitly threatened when I complained about the professor’s behavior that my “e-mail should be withdrawn” was totally unacceptable.
  • An invasion of Taiwan by China has been mentioned casually so many times in class that I’d go numb to it except it’s not hyperbole to say I and the people I love most could literally be murdered.
  • Many of the professors are incredibly accomplished. They’ve imparted wisdom I will benefit from for the rest of the 30+ years left of my working life.
  • Great faculty and staff, especially Angela Mughal at UCLA who coordinated an unforgettable segment in Spain. I came into first contact with the program through Sharon Quah at NUS, and that first conversation really nudged me into thinking this is the right program for me. Jaime Tan and Jolene Tan have been unsung heroes coordinating so many logistics in the background for our NUS segments during the especially difficult pandemic circumstances in the first half of the program.
  • Learning from your peers from all over the world. You can learn a lot of the class content on Coursera, but you couldn’t learn from the collective wisdom of your classmates. This is what you go to business school for.
  • I’ll say right here, you have no idea how small your world is, even working at a big global company and doing international stints, until you are in a group this diverse and accomplished.
  • A curriculum tailored to help leaders make better decisions. They’ve thought about the right breadth and depth to teach in this format. It’s facilitating the difference between taking away a learning vs a factoid. You can tell the education was designed so we can apply learnings immediately towards many contexts.
  • Understanding aspects of business I’m less familiar with, especially finance, accounting, and marketing. I feel a lot more confident in working with certain kinds of numbers, eg. accounting, business statistics, economic indicators, that I had less experience with but can see how it can be a game changer.
  • I’ve had higher caliber job pitched to me on LinkedIn compared to before.
  • Validated and strengthened my skills working in an international environment. These collaborative and cross-cultural skills often are overlooked when working in your home markets and something that fell by the wayside during the pandemic. It was great to sharpen those reflexes.
  • Contextual leadership is the key to working in different environments, especially at this career stage. Learning how to work with different mindsets in terms of country background and industry background because more important at this phase than your subject matter expertise in many cases -> I have the quote written down that “Keener introspection facilitates greater external influence” and “learning to see things differently breeds opportunity.”
  • In our careers being a T-shaped person is something I’ve admired mentors for being, the EMBA education is great for making people more flexible across fields.
  • At 36 when I started the program I was on the younger side in the class. I personally feel lucky because I inadvertently now cultivated a big global group of mentors.
  • Learning while doing. We’re all employed full time and, many people switched jobs, wrote books, and started companies during the program. I personally went from a big enterprise to start-up and felt like the classroom reflected my world and vice versa.
  • A big cornerstone project for me was our Management Practicum project where we consulted for a company, Pterodynamics, for a GTM strategy. I learned a lot especially about the Defense industry, which I have a lot of interest in, how to research new verticals, met dozens of interesting industry experts, look at financial projections, and learned how to manage a consulting project, totally hands-on experience that would be difficult for me to encounter in my current career path.
  • The people. The most important thing about picking a program is that they curate a group of peers of a caliber and commonality. Everyone in the program is exceptional. The international experience and multilingualism that characterize our cohort is such an important social glue. I could not have gone out and found 45 people like this in the real world despite my best efforts at networking. In some ways our experiences feel more connected to each other than peers in our home markets.
  • Everyone in our cohort is invested in our mutual success. We’ve gone out-of-the-way to help each other out. I look forward to doing this for the rest of our lives. The ability to be able to call an expert who will take time for you is so valuable. Given the diverse professions of the cohort, this is such a life multiplier.
  • A reality in life many people my age have noticed is that most many don’t want you to be successful and or find growth threatening or just have given up on dreams. Finding a group of people who are already so successful yet still driven to become better is a gift.
  • Starting this program in the pandemic really softened us all. I’m a New Yorker who stayed behind in the pandemic during those dark days in 2020, and it had been so hard for everyone. Rediscovering a sense of community was healing for me. It really brought us closer.
  • I’m sure I’ve made some lifelong friends and have bonds based on shared goals and values I couldn’t have found anywhere else. The West Coast culture with an APAC focus brought together the right people for an exceptional experience.
  • The most important things I’d say I learned with my peers aren’t learning how to make better presentations or do better market analysis, but how to manage relationships, conflicts, and growing my capacity for compassion and empathy. It’s the last thing I quite frankly expected from this experience, but are the most valuable ones I’m walking away with.

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Bessie Chu

Bessie Chu

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Product Manager working in privacy preserving machine learning. Taiwanese-American. Optimist in a realist’s clothing. Bit of a contrarian.