Singapore, Silicon Valley, Stockholm: Learn to grow by going global
The rise of Asia and the power of data are two trends that cannot be ignored by anyone with an international career today. Understanding their global significance is even more crucial for anyone wanting a leadership role.
Amid the latest wave of economic turbulence, have you wondered how you could boost your own long-term prospects? When it comes to innovation, Singapore, Silicon Valley and Stockholm are three of the most renowned places on earth. But what else do this trio have in common?
The answer is that you can now visit and earn certificates from the first two – specifically from the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) – as well as an MBA degree, when you study the Executive MBA at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE).
The courses, Data Driven Analytics and Doing Business in Asia, have been tailor made for the SSE MBA in collaboration with SCPD and NUS respectively.
Doing Business in Asia: ‘the place to be’
Axel Berning, an executive with the Norwegian bank DNB, moved from Stockholm to Singapore in January to take up a new position as General Manager and Head of DNB Asia. A Swede, he has also lived in London and Oslo. But his ambitions changed following his decision to take the 18-month Executive MBA at SSE.
“The thing that made me actively seek this position was the Doing Business in Asia course,” he says. “I’ve always wanted an international career and going back to London, to the US or even South America would have been options. But after this course last September, I said ‘No, Asia is where I want to go’.”
He lists many reasons for his fascination with Asia: the rapid growth of economies other than China, geopolitical relations and the sustainability challenges facing a continent of more than 4.5 billion people (a recent trip to Mumbai highlighted the “mind-boggling” investment in renewable energy projects). It’s a world away from Scandinavia – combined population less than 28 million.
Of the Doing Business in Asia course, Axel says: “The course really adds value in terms of how to prepare yourself and the potential pitfalls. It’s not just sunshine and roses – you’ll face dilemmas from a professional and personal point of view. I’m working with people from Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultural backgrounds and you need to be mindful that they don’t act or respond the way we do in Europe. I knew what to expect but I’m still learning every day.”
Hilde Rannem Rostad, a Norwegian, is Axel’s class-mate on the Executive MBA, which they’ll graduate from in autumn.
Given Singapore’s status as a financial centre and the changing balance of the global economy, she says NUS “felt like the place to be” during their week-long trip to Singapore. Of the Doing Business in Asia course, she adds: “We’re a diverse group and we’re being challenged in terms of how we can have a growth mindset and expand our frames of reference.”
Data insights ‘where history is being made’
Oslo-based Hilde, a qualified lawyer, is Director Digitalization of Financial Services at OBOS, one of Scandinavia’s largest housing developers. The visit to Silicon Valley and Stanford was a dream come true, as well as being immensely useful in tackling the challenges of her job.
“I firmly believe that data is the new oil, so I’ve wanted to gain a deeper understanding of that for a long time,” she says. “I’m in charge of about 130 accountants, delivering accounting services to 5,000 companies. My main focus is to increase productivity and enhance quality through digital solutions and machine learning. To go to Stanford to learn about that was amazing.”
She is effusive about the talks by Stanford professors and star speakers, including Eric Colson, former vice president of data science at Netflix, that SSE Executive MBA students got to attend.
“One professor said every company is either already a tech company or it should be,” she recalls. “Going forward, I think leaders will need to be knowledgeable in this field, just as we’re required to know something about finance.
“We went to Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus just a few months after Open AI, with investment from Microsoft, launched ChatGPT. It was incredible to be where history is being made.”
AI also has important implications for his profession, says Axel. “The banking industry is under pressure from the market in delivering cost-cutting, so AI plays a vital role in this. Everybody’s talking about it, but the Data Driven Analytics course demystified AI and made it something tangible you can understand rather than just a techy buzzword.”
Personal and professional development/better equipped
Ranked the number one EMBA in the Nordics by the Financial Times, the SSE programme drives personal as well as professional development. Students find studying with talented peers from diverse cultural backgrounds and different industries especially enlightening. Rubbing shoulders with people who work in tech, healthcare, and engineering “helped me to think through and solve things in my daily life in a different way”, says Axel.
“It’s very important for me to always stay curious. A big takeaway for me is that there are different perspectives on every subject and you need to look at them to get to your own truth.”
Hilde, who entered SSE on a scholarship from the Norwegian-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, says: “The Swedish are the most innovative people in the world and I believe a lot can be gained from closer collaboration between Norway and Sweden.”
She’s also delighted with her own development. “Professionally, I’m a more strategic leader now. I feel I have a toolbox that I didn’t have before. On a personal level, it’s boosted my confidence; to have 50 amazing MBA colleagues cheering you on is something I wish everyone could experience. We all knew we would build a network but very few of us expected the deep friendships that we’ve gained.”
As for the network, it may prove even stronger than students would have hoped. “People in Singapore are very focused on academia, so it will be a door-opener,” says Axel. “Already, I was at a doctor’s office wearing a baseball cap with ‘Stanford’ on it. He said ‘Oh, I went to Stanford’ and all of a sudden we were chit-chatting around that.”
Stockholm, Silicon Valley and Singapore: with that trio under your belt, the world really is your oyster.
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