Asia School of Business

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The Face of an MBA in a Pandemic, According to this ASB Grad


An interview with ASB alumna, Zoe Tate

Unprecedented times translate to unpredictable industries. And this uncertain future has left many in a state of constant worry. For some, amidst the confusion and events of 2020, they chose to take advantage of these current changes by upskilling themselves with an education that will equip them with the agility, resilience, and skill to thrive in a fast-changing world.

Asia School of Business (ASB) alumni, Zoe Tate, is one such person who believes her MBA education has positioned her well for the future. Recently, leading MBA platform Poets & Quants had the opportunity to sit down with Zoe, in conjunction with the premium CentreCourt MBA Festival event — to hear about her experience pursuing an MBA in a pandemic, and all that ASB is doing on the forefront of global-tier education.

A life-changing course of action

“My first introduction to ASB was when a group of 4 students came to my startup, to give us strategies and insights to grow the business,” said Zoe. Here, Zoe is talking about students that were involved in ASB’s flagship Action Learning projects, which her startup was one of the hosts. ASB’s Action Learning curriculum is an immersive and rigorous module that allows every one of its MBA students to experience working with corporate, start-up, government and NGO hosts to join them on-site with selected projects.

Upon experiencing first-hand ASB’s Action Learning approach and even visiting the Kuala Lumpur campus a few times – Zoe quickly found herself enrolling as a student. ASB’s MBA program features the rigor and quality of MIT Sloan School of Management (MIT Sloan) set within the culture and environment of Asia. Here, students from all parts of the world gain an immersive and rewarding experience of combined perspectives between American and Asian learning methods.

According to Zoe, it’s this type of diversity that allows ASB to become a truly dynamic and engaging environment for an MBA. “There are students here that come from very varied backgrounds, in terms of their nationalities and their experience.” “You’re constantly negotiating what you learn, where you go, and how you approach problems,” Zoe told Poets & Quants.

Zoe continues to emphasize that because of ASB’s continued search for solving modern problems with modern solutions, it’s an organization that will be beneficial to its students in both the long and short term.

An MIT Sloan-infused syllabus, every step of the way

But how does the ASB curriculum integrate with that of MIT Sloan? Zoe’s personal experience in classes taught by highly-rated professors from MIT Sloan were nothing short of insightful and life-changing. “We’re so lucky that we get to be taught by them. They come for one week, and they teach their entire curriculum that’s usually a semester-long in one week,” Zoe says.

Visiting professors find creative ways to teach an entire semester’s worth of education within that time, as the small class size ensures that students get sufficient time with the professors. (Back at MIT, classes by these top professors are often at maximum capacity and students rush to enroll each time a class is announced – something that ASB students don’t have to compete for.)

Each class is nothing short of a quality experience as Zoe notes. “It gives you a global perspective and you would be able to anticipate in your mind how you’re going to use whatever you’re learning [in class] in your next project; it’s certainly a privilege.” Encouraging avid participation and fostering an active, curious class environment is yet another way MIT Sloan’s values are so prevalent at ASB.

Beyond the classroom to the real world

Zoe, who recently graduated in 2020 after completing her MBA in a pandemic, says that when it comes to her post-MBA working life, she knows that she’ll be ready no matter where in the world she finds herself. “When you learn from the MIT professors, you get a more global perspective. That, of course, is excellent if you want to work on a regional level, or if you want to solve problems from [different] industries or add skills that I have never experienced on my own.”

Zoe has already had some experience in International Development and SMEs. However, armed with an ASB education, she’s able to go beyond her initial scope of work, allowing her to find the bigger picture and see things on a larger scale. Ultimately, this is proof that education doesn’t stop on a professional level either.

Zoe highlights that even while completing an MBA in a pandemic, she was able to grow a natural skillset of three important traits that any company around the globe would accept with open arms. Those are: leadership skills, mindfulness and a strong spirit of teamwork.

“You’re in very close proximity with your classmates all the time, be it in the classroom or if you’re travelling or just socially,” Zoe says. As 2020 hit and students continued pursing an MBA in a pandemic, with many dialing in via Zoom, participation levels remained intense.

“Through all of these interactions that you have in this very diverse environment, you learn to identify what are your skills and what you can bring to the table.” Future-proof skill sets are imbued in all of ASB programs and teachings, in line with their Smart x Sharp DNA (a new framework for rethinking ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills) and the ASB promise to completely transform students into extraordinary, unconventional, future and market-ready leaders. Naturally, ASB’s Smart x Sharp culture shines through its Action Learning projects and the careers that graduates and alumni go on to build.

Pursuing a transformative MBA in a pandemic

Even as COVID-19 raged on, the resilience and resourcefulness inculcated at ASB allowed Zoe to keep a level head while pursuing an MBA in a pandemic. “[Southeast Asia is] such a dynamic region with a resilient economic growth and huge youth population as well with more investors being interested in the region; I have no doubt that Southeast Asia is going to recover from this.”

As for Zoe’s advice to aspiring ASB students? “Go in and be ready to be surprised. Have an open attitude, because you cannot predict the experiences you’re about to have, or the things you’ll learn and discover,” says Zoe.

Watch the full Poets & Quants interview with Zoe.