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Leadership Roles On Campus Help Zac In Work World

Leadership roles on campus help Zac in work world
Never stop learning and it will definitely help you to progress and survive your marathon of life, says Zac

Zachary Liew Ter Chiang, or “Zac” to friends, is a recent BSc (Business Administration) graduate of the SIM-State University of New York at Buffalo programme, specialising in Financial Analysis. He enrolled in this degree as it gives him real world knowledge and basic understanding of the global business environment.

"I chose the UB programme because of the way the classes were taught. In an American education system, students are granted the flexibility to learn in their own way. Projects and assignments often have guidelines but with enough freedom for us to truly think and to present our own unique interpretation. To me, true education does not consist of only providing fact and figures, but to encourage independent thinking and personal development."

Kick boxer, all-round student

In his student days at SIM Global Education, Zachary was actively involved in many CCAs and events. With his pleasant, boyish demeanor, it is surprising to know that Zachary is a Muay Thai kick boxer and finance manager for the SIM Muay Thai Club.

He was also vice-president of the SIM Investment & Networking Club. His leadership roles in these CCAs offered him many chances to work and network with many students and potential employees. He also had the chance to plan workshops and seminars to help educate the student body on financial literacy.

In addition, Zachary benefited from the various personal development initiatives (career planning workshops, co-curricular activities and overseas exchange trips) that SIM organises for its students. In particular, he was in the All Rounder Student (ARS) Development Programme in 2011.

"In the ARS programme, I had the opportunity to learn from Industry experts and share with students information on career planning. We did this through workshops on personal leadership, grooming and dressing and interview skills. I also had the opportunity to attend networking sessions with potential employers, and was even assigned a personal career coach."

Later that year, he was involved in the Singapore Spotlight Youth Exchange where his team planned and executed activities to facilitate cultural learning and exchange among international students within SIM.

In August 2011, Zachary attended the 2nd University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Thailand, organised by Humanitarian Affairs UK and sponsored by SIM.

"During the symposium, we heard the personal stories of global leaders who have made a positive impact in helping the disadvantaged and the world. We also had the opportunity to visit children's homes and learned about the children’s lives. This trip enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of the humanitarian need and re-affirmed my desire to contribute to the lives of others,” he says.

Scholarship network

Zac is also a recipient of the SIM GE Scholarship Award. The scholarships – with no strings attached – are awarded to outstanding students in academic or cultural and sports performances. The award pays the students’ school fees.

In 2011, Zachary together with five other scholars, set up the SIM GE Scholars’ Network with the aim to bring all scholars together and provide them a platform to contribute back to both SIM students and society. From the initial 20 members, the network has since now grown to 64, comprising both current students and graduates.

Unlike other UB students who took a semester off school to complete internships, Zachary made the choice to not do so. Internships are usually seen as a good chance for students to work and experience working life before graduation.

"Given the flexibility of UB in allowing us to arrange our own modules and semesters, I was able to complete my studies one semester earlier. For me, I would rather finish my programme early and start work right away.

Good taste of working life

“However, internships can give students a good taste of working life and perhaps even an opportunity in the same company after graduation,” he adds.

When asked how different has life been for him after entering the workforce, Zachary felt that transition to working life has been quite smooth for him. He credits it to the previous experience of working in a corporate-like environment during his days in the Air Force.

However, he does agree that the pressures, deadlines, and constant search for information in the workplace do present new challenges.

“It makes me appreciate the support structure and guided learning while in college. With the increased responsibilities and the long hours each day, it is extremely important to prioritize and work smart.”

Career choice

Just like any other student, Zachary needs to make career choices after graduation. His first job at Credit Suisse required him to handle large volume of requests from external parties while working a mixture of APAC and Europe hours. Facing a steep learning curve, he have to adapt and learn fast in an environment of high performing individuals. Despite the challenges that he faced, Zachary found his work experience in Credit Suisse both enriching and fulfilling.

“I appreciated the wonderful office concept of being able to simply dock my laptop anywhere in the office to enjoy various working environments. For example, I would be found in the ‘quiet zone’ if I had to concentrate on a piece of work and did not want phones ringing around me. At other times, I could be working among indoor plants and with natural light in the ‘garden zone’. I also enjoyed that team goals were set, fostering teamwork, and mutual support and motivation.”

To Zachary, being able to work in an environment of challenge and efficiency has pushed him to achieve new levels of personal potential and performance.

Zachary is currently under the Administrative Officer Scheme in Singapore Airlines. This programme is similar to other graduate and management associate programmes in the employment market where qualified applicants are selected after going through rigorous rounds of assessments and presentations. They would have the chance to rotate and work in different departments of the company before deciding on which department they would return to.

“I have come to appreciate the tremendous value this creates for personal development and learning as an individual. With each rotation, we have new opportunities to develop and excel. Although I have not been in SIA for long, I have come to appreciate the responsibility and autonomy given to me, and am learning and growing faster than I ever had before.”

Parting advice

His advice to graduating students: “Some students might have the impression that they should work in a role relevant to what they had studied. However, this is not necessarily true. Do not be afraid to explore and choose a less obvious path.

“A career is not just a job. You have to know what your long-term career goals are and make decisions that will slowly steer you in that direction. In the first few years of your working life, monetary incentive should be of the least concern. You should always grab all opportunities that come along, to learn and widen your knowledge.

“As the saying goes, Learning is a lifelong journey. Never stop learning and it will definitely help you to progress and survive your marathon of life.”

– Interviewed and written by Eunice Lim Yun Yi, SIM GE scholar. Published in VIBES magazine, March 2013; posted online, March 2013