MBA Uncle Mastering Business In Singapore

Reynold Dai talks about his time at Nanyang Business School and his exchange to Tel Aviv

BusinessBecause interviewed Reynold Dai about his experience of Nanyang Business School (NBS), NTU, in Singapore. The 36-year-old from China is now in the last three weeks of his MBA study at NBS and enjoying “the most stimulating period of the whole program.”

For five years from 2003 Reynold was a market analyst for industries like lighting, DIY, hardwares and auto parts. “In that capacity I had face-to-face contact with more than 250 top entrepreneurs, chairmen, CEOs and executives across China. Witnessing the economic miracle I was excited by the national energy I experienced every week.”

In 2008 Reynold decided to transform himself from a business ‘observer’ to a ‘player’ by joining China Wheel Co., the number-two car wheel manufacturer in China with an annual revenue of US$400 million. A brilliant opportunity to examine how the entrepreneurs had steered the phenomenal growth since the company was started in 2001.

Sadly in the beginning of 2009 a family emergency called for Reynold’s departure from the company. After his emotional recovery, Reynold teamed up with two of his high school classmates to launch an online distribution platform focused on medical examination. “Within half a year, I recognized that we entered the wrong battlefield and killed the project.”

Even after the fold of his start-up Reynold felt the burning desire to ‘master’ business and in order to start up again he recognized the need for hard skills such as strategy, marketing and finance aswell as so-called soft skills such as communication, negotiation, and leadership. “I looked for a rigorous, global top MBA program with a focus on Asia. Eventually I applied for NBS of Singapore, Indian School of Business (ISB), and IE of Spain. Between the two offers by NBS and ISB, I chose NBS for the credentials of professors, diversity of students from around 30 countries, and cultural context.”


Reynold with some of his friends (MBA family!) on his MBA

In taking a general MBA with a focus on strategy and entrepreneurship Reynold has found himself absorbed by strategy: “It is conceptual but makes the difference in corporate performance. The best and most inspiring course to me is Corporate and Business Strategy, taught by Professor Neo Boon Siong… He challenges us to think again, think ahead, and think across: think as a strategist to deliver excellence.” Reynold also recommends the Technology and E-business, Competitive Strategy, and Negotiations courses.

But the highlight for Reynold of the MBA was his exchange to Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel in his third trimester. “It was a great experience spiritually, culturally, and academically. At TAU, I encountered one of the most inspiring instructors in my whole MBA study, Prof Meir Karlinsky for pricing policy. In a mere five sessions he illustrated how to price to capture the value from microeconomic perspective.” You can read a full account of Reynold’s Israel experience at The Asian Correspondent.

Reynold was impressed by his MBA cohort, “my fellow participants from 27 countries are such an amazing group of talented, versatile, and energetic professionals that I have learned more from them than from textbooks. The fraternity fostered with them ever since day one is the single most meaningful product of the whole program. Thanks to all the guys for the support granted to the ‘MBA uncle’ from China!”

The MBA has given Reynold a greater understanding of himself, has a renewed sense of purpose and principles of life. As a Christian Reynold found the Church services at Grace (S.C.C.) Church particularly nurturing and empowering and found inspiration and purification after his visits to religious sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. “As a Christian, I totally agree with Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen, who stated that intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness in his article “How will you measure your life.” Reynold advocates that every MBA student or aspirant should read this short article in the Harvard Business Review.


The new Nanyang MBA cohort letting loose at the welcome drinks

Reflecting on his MBA study, Reynold has found it challenging, fulfilling and rewarding. He plans to return to China as he believes that he can have a higher impact on the lives of people around him by working in China rather than in Singapore. “I feel lucky that I am pursuing my MBA study at Nanyang Business School. And regarding my career plan, I will seek for a challenging and rewarding role in corporate planning/development. Within 3 to 5 years I aspire to be a strategy director with a large company in China. Then I may pursue an EMBA and seek a general management position.”

Reynold has three main pieces of advice for anyone thinking about studying for an MBA:

1. Have four to six years of job experience from at least two different job functions: “The reason behind is that conceptual courses like strategy demand students to relate to their experience and exposure to internalize the models for maximized learning. Students need to think at the level of general manager to capture the dynamics of management and leadership. (Of course there are many fellow MBA participants with two years of employment experience demonstrating exceptional capabilities and qualities, a WOW experience for me to reflect on myself.)”

2. Identify business schools with a strong reputation in specialisations that match their career interests. “Extensive research into the credentials of professors and talking to alumni and current students are critical.”

3. Talk to your seniors. “Once enrolled you need to talk to your seniors, especially those with the same specialisations, to get their perspectives. By doing these the candidate can allocate his/her limited time wisely, for time is always a scarce resource in any rigorous MBA program. 

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