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Account of the 2015 Singapore trek

by Hui Lynn Tan (MBA 2015)
Singapore

26 August 2015: Introduction Session by Jonathan Kwan, Careers Consultant

The meeting room Marie II of York Hotel, Singapore was bustling with noise before the anointed time of 17:00. The first few questions thrown across the room were “Which college?! Have you got your accommodation?” followed by a few whispers of “Have you completed your summer reading?!”, and subsequently covered up by a louder echo “So…Where are you from?“. If the list of companies were not enough to interest you in signing up for this trek, the opportunity to meet current MBA students and to mingle with future MBA colleagues even before you reach Cambridge should entice you to sign up for the next international careers trek.

The session by Jonathan Kwan was aimed at preparing the us on how to maximise the opportunities available over the course of the next few days. “Step one: make small talk. Step 2: find a common ground. Step 3: follow up in a timely manner” was the mantra for the night. We learned the tips and tricks of how to walk into a room full of strangers and strike up conversations: the best places to stand, where not to hang out, the topic of conversations which are “guaranteed” to get the conversation going and which topics of conversation to stay away from, and of course, exit strategies if the conversations are not working out for both parties.

The first day of the Singapore trek ended with dinner at a restaurant within the Orchard area, if there is one crucial thing about the South East Asian culture, food is of utmost importance and if you need help on how to strike up a conversation in South East Asia, simply ask “What food is good here?!” and this undoubtedly keep the conversation alive!

27 August 2015: OCBC Bank

sinaporetrek-ocbc-229x205OCBC Bank was established in Singapore in 1932 following the merger of three local banks, the oldest of which was founded in 1912. It has presence in 18 markets globally, with over 630 branches and more than 29,000 employees worldwide. Over the next hour we were exposed to the culture of OCBC bank and the various career opportunities which OCBC Bank offers. Its emphasis on training is evident; the building we were in, the OCBC Campus, situated within Singapore’s Central Business District has a market value of SGD67 million and is solely dedicated to the purpose of conducting training. We were given insights on how to apply for a place on the Management Associate Programme (MAP) for postgraduate students, and the application process. We also had a productive Q&A session with two associates currently on the MAP, one of which was an MFin graduate from Cambridge. After the tour of the office, we had a mingling session with great food (what did I say about South East Asia) where we heard countless reviews about the pandan chicken (grilled chicken wrapped in a pandan leaf)!

27 August 2015: Deutsche Bank In-House Consulting

Our cohort continued our visit to Deutsche Bank where we were welcomed by its in-house consulting team and of course, trays of food and desserts!

We quickly learned the differences between an in-house consulting team and external consultants, from seeing strategies implemented and the results thereof. We also got a sense of the organisation structure of the team and its locations (London, Frankfurt, Bonn, and Singapore). Our European participants were excited to hear about the personal experiences of our hosts, having been transferred from Frankfurt, and India, into Singapore. We also learned how projects are sourced for the in-house consulting team, and how the team obtains feedback for executed projects. Innovation is key, and an in-house consulting team which is not a profit centre is well positioned to provide solutions which are unbiased.

29 per cent of the consulting team are direct hires from universities. MBA graduates are hired at consultant level, above junior consultants with two years’ experience. We had a wonderful time learning about Deutsche’s in-house consulting team. The exposure of working for an in-house consulting arm of an international bank promises international exposure and a challenging experience in a strictly regulated industry, particularly given the complexity of global business and the need to ensure compliance in all jurisdictions the bank operates in.

27 August 2015: Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd

sinaporetrek-mapletree-229x205If you are passionate about real estate, this is the place to be. Mapletree is a real estate development, investment and capital management company with a portfolio of retail, commercial, logistics, residential, industrial and mixed-use properties in Asia (with recent expansions into Europe, US and Australia). We saw before and after images of unwanted properties acquired by Mapletree, which were transformed into high-yielding real estate.

The Mapletree Executive Programme is open for application, with real estate experience not necessary, but the candidate must possess a passion for real estate. We were given a tour of the various models of real estate properties managed and developed by Mapletree in the office. Mapletree’s existing portfolio and future developments within the Asian region and beyond look amazing; if real estate is your cup of tea, then this will undoubtedly interest you.

27 August 2015: CJBS Celebrates: Singapore

We proceeded back to York Hotel for the CJBS 25th anniversary celebration. The celebration started with food (the samosa’s and chicken nuggets were to die for) and proceeded with a forum with Mr Loke Wai San, the MD of Novo Tellus Capital Partners. Mr Loke shared his personal experience with us, how he, with an engineering background, completed his MBA, and went into consulting before setting up his own private equity firm. We learned some hard facts about the working world, about how timing can be so important in our career decisions, and how effort put in is key to everything. Listening to the problems within the financial world, this session brought us back down to earth with a combination of great stories about innovative start up ideas (think: a condom delivery service), interesting consulting projects and how to make it in this globalised world.

We sang happy birthday to CJBS with a sense of pride, proud to be part of this family, excited for what we already know will be an amazing year with the Cambridge MBA class of 2015/16.

28 August 2015: Unilever

Given that we were overfed the day before, I skipped breakfast and was excited for the promising day ahead. Not disappointed, our visit to Unilever started with free flow of Lipton tea, coffee, juices, soft drinks, and the highlights: Ben and Jerry’s and Magnum ice cream! A different take to breakfast indeed. We were quickly exposed to Unilever and all its brands, each of us counting the amount of products we use in our lives which we never knew were under the umbrella of Unilever. Emphasis were placed on the various products which promote the company’s overall strategy: to achieve sustainable living and reduce environmental footprint. We saw how various brands and campaigns were launched to achieve this purpose, such as Dove’s Self-Esteem Project and Campaign for Real Beauty, Knorr’s products which are low on salt, but strong on taste to improve health. Of course, we were then introduced to the Unilever Future Leaders Programme and its application process before a tour of the premises.

28 August 2015: A.T. Kearney

We were swiftly welcomed into the meeting room with smiles and enthusiasm. Shaking hands with each and every one of the presenters, we immediately felt how personal the environment is at A.T. Kearney. We soon learned that the company prides itself on being the most personal firm in the industry. Partners are invested in associates and provide daily feedback and training. Associates are expected to meet clients on the first day of the job. The three things we learnt a consultant must have were: diligence in taking notes, top interpersonal skills, and analytical rigour. As we happily wolfed down more food at the buffet spread in the office, we met many consultants within the firm and learned more about their personal experiences with A.T. Kearney (the buffet is a fortnightly event for all employees to mingle with one another). All in all, it appears that this is a great place to work for, with promises of great exposure and a steep learning curve.

28 August 2015: Google

This is quite possibly the place everyone was most looking forward to visiting. Google receives a total of three million applications a year globally, the interview process takes three to four weeks before the candidate’s profile is presented to the US for approval which may take another two to three weeks. We took comfort in the fact that 50 per cent of the Googlers are not of a computer science background, and quickly learned what Googley and Googlieness mean! After the presentation and a Q&A session, we jumped to our feet for a tour of the Google Singapore office. From microkitchens, nap pods and x-boxes to massage rooms, table tennis rooms to microkitchens (a promise that food will always be within reach of all employees) to alcoves for employees to organise small meetings, and the main cafeteria. Some of us could not help but wonder where we would get our work done! I stop at this point because I received a text from a fellow friend from the trek who commented: “Don’t forget the chairs!“. So yes, the chairs in the meeting rooms of Google Singapore looked as if they came from Mars but were so well suited for lectures (with an adjustable, extendable arm for writing) we were rather disappointed when we received a resounding no from Conrad Chua (head of Careers at CJBS) and Sarah (MBA 2014/15) that the chairs at CJBS do not look like that.

28 August 2015: Gallup

Our last visit on the Singapore trek was to Gallup, a strategy consulting firm which delivers extraordinary impact through analytics and advice. We were introduced to the who and how by which Gallup became the best in market research, knowing extensively the attitude and behaviours of employees, students, and citizens. Gallup has published books which are bestsellers worldwide, with employees from Facebook required to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 test prior to employment.

To finish off the visit we were given a tour of the office. It was personal, with employees’ names on the doors followed by five of their strengths, rather than the usual designation. Droplets were passed around when a fellow colleague has provided you help, which are then pasted onto walls and cubicles as a reminder on how helpful you have been to others and how you have made an impact on someone else’s life. Career opportunities are readily available online, and the current MBA students were asked if they wanted to stay on to complete the online application!

28 August 2015: The Finale

sinaporetrek-finale-229x205We then moved on from Gallup, each to our own hotels but not before saying goodbyes and promising each other of a great year ahead! A few of us went on a food journey to Esplanade where we ordered almost everything, from Chilli Crabs, to fried oyster with omelettes, satay, roti john, hokkien mee, barbeque wings, grilled sting ray!

We waved each other goodbye knowing in our hearts we will be embarking on a journey of a lifetime. If the above companies (and food) does not attract you, the fellowship with your soon to be colleagues should entice you to sign up for a trek. The support which we have received from one another, the arrangements to share cabs and rides from Heathrow to Cambridge and the exchange of information even before reaching Cambridge has itself been truly rewarding.