Asia School of Business

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To the class of 2019: I know today is a super super exciting day for you: Today I am going to give you a speech.

Why ASB?

This question was asked many times before I came here. It was asked many times while I was here and I’m sure it will continue to be asked many more times after today. Having now gone through the entire experience as a student, today I would like to do one thing and one thing only – to answer this question: Why ASB? But first, I’d like to begin with a delightful story about a man who is known to be right about a thing or two, Albert Einstein…

In 1951, Einstein was teaching physics at Princeton University. One day he gave an exam to his senior class. After the exam, the teaching assistant, looking very puzzled, came up to Einstein and said “Dr Einstein, something is not right. The exam that you just gave, isn’t it exactly the same exam that you gave to exactly the same class a year ago?” “Yea yea” said Albert Einstein “it’s exactly the same”.

The assistant was baffled. He said “But how could you possibly do that?” Einstein smiled and said “Well the answers have changed” … The answers have changed. In other words, what was true in 1951 is even more true today, and even more true in this part of the world where the answers are changing not by the years or months but sometimes every day. This became evident to us through Action Learning.

Having collectively done almost 200 projects across all sectors, industries and countries, we could clearly see that organisations today, big or small, government or private are all struggling with to find new answers to the same old questions in this era of globalization, of the internet of things, of digitalization. What has got us here will no longer get us there. What works in Europe or US might not work in South East Asia.

And even within this region, what works in Singapore might not work in Malaysia or Vietnam. And there are simply too many variables to solve for. So, if you ask me Why ASB, the first part of my response is “because the answers have changed”. And it is ASB that equips us with not the answers but the thinking, the methodologies, the moral and ethical principles, the cultural and social awareness, the patience and determination, the sharp and smart skills to figure out these new and constantly changing answers, particularly for this region and to really make major footprint in the rapid development of South East Asia.

For that, I want to thank everyone at ASB for affording us this invaluable learning opportunity. Special thank you to Tan Sri Dr. Zeti, to our Board of Governors, to Bank Negara and MIT for your incredible support and to Charlie for your great leadership. My second part of the answer is because ASB is in Malaysia. Malaysia might not be the obvious choice for many when thinking about getting an international MBA or just getting business and management education in general.

But having been here for 20 months, I know that it has to change. There is no better place to be if you are serious about learning and making an impact in this part of the world. It is not just because of the geographical location, the diversity or the openness of the country, it is also because of the wonderful people that you have here in Malaysia. Malaysia welcomed us with open arms.

Your kindness, your extraordinary hospitality, your irreverent sense of humour, your brilliantly unique way of using English – everything has become so familiar and I’ve truly fallen in love with this country. At least I know my love is real when I was on an overseas trip recently and suddenly had a craving for Nasi Lemak …They say home is where the heart is. And if that’s the case, I will be very happy to call Malaysia and KL home. So, thank you Malaysia. Terima Kasih!

And lastly and also most importantly, it is because ASB is the place where I get to meet people like you, class of 2019. It has been an absolutely incredible ride and to be honest I would not have it any other way. I’ll admit that I’m feeling a bit sad that today is our last day at ASB. But hey you know what they say. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”.

And if I think about the memories that we’ve shared and the waves that we’ve ridden over the past 2 years, I know that I should be smiling non-stop for the next few months (Maybe even longer if I don’t have to get a job…) When I left Vietnam 10 years ago, my mom told me this only one thing. She said, “wherever you go, the most important thing is that you leave those with whom you cross paths with a little more happiness and a little more hope”.

Today I’m leaving ASB feeling more hopeful and happier than ever and I think that’s all because of you. I hope that you feel the same too and I hope that I have contributed to that in some way. And if you think that I did, please tell my mom – she’s seating over there – so that she can be proud of me… It is truly amazing how 36 people from 12 different countries in 5 continents with different backgrounds, cultures, religions became so close.

We’ve seen each other in our best moments and not surprisingly our weakest moments too. We pushed each other to the limits and beyond. We argued, we fought and we learned from one another. And at the end of the day, we supported each other through thick and thin no matter what. You are among the smartest, funniest and bravest people that I have the privilege to call friends and I cannot be more grateful to be a part of this incredible family. I will miss all of you so dearly.

“There are good ships, and there are wooden ships. There are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships, are friendships. And may they always be!”

Congratulations class of 2019 and from the bottom of my heart I wish you the very very best.