Recent BBA alum Jason Ng (Class of 2016) says life at NUS Business School is never a dull moment. The founder of The Dive Ship talks about his passion for diving and how his path ended up with him setting up his own shop.
The Dive Ship started even before I graduated. I was in Year 1 when my friend and I just spontaneously decided to go on a scuba diving trip. I thoroughly enjoyed it – the serenity underwater, meeting underwater organisms that one cannot imagine and see diving as a challenge to constantly improve my techniques and skills underwater.
Subsequently, I was fortunate to go on the NUS Business School exchange programme at Stockholm University. While there, I travelled around Europe and decided to explore the seas as well. As I explored, the experience got me even more excited. So when I came back to Singapore, I shared my passion with my university friends. I brought them out on dive trips, got my scuba diving instructor license and started teaching as a freelance instructor. I would bring small groups of people to Phuket in Thailand, Malapascua in the Philippines and Tenggol in Malaysia; and even to far-flung places such as Durban in South Africa and Okinawa in Japan for a taste of diving.
I decided to start The Dive Ship in year three. Starting any business is really not as glamorous as it sounds. For me, besides training instructors to help out with the business, I manage relationships with partner dive centres across the globe, oversee equipment sales and servicing, organise dive trips and manage employee relationships.
That’s where lessons in finance, marketing and law came in handy. Finance helped me with coming up with budgets and pricing; marketing taught me how to organise projects; while law lessons gave me an understanding of the legalities behind setting up a going concern.
I always loved the sea but never thought that it was a business opportunity. NUS Business School not only helped me recognise the opportunity but also provided me with the knowledge and skills essential to start a business, with modules such as marketing, operations management, business law, accounting, and management. These modules and professors taught me how to make a business viable and sustainable.
Along the way, I really appreciated the mentorship from Professor Ravi Chandran for his business law knowledge and Professor Ang Swee Hoon for marketing advice. But more than that, all my professors encouraged me and provided the moral support in my venture. Even my schoolmates would chime in with tips on how to make the website better and one even modelled for the website!
I really feel NUS Business School played a huge part in helping me start and sustain my business. I had the opportunity to work in China, Canada and Sweden during my summer breaks. Later, I took a year off my studies to work as an investment intern at UBS. These stints got me out of my comfort zone and nudged me to consider possibilities outside the usual employment paths. That gave me courage to start my diving business. I have to thank NUS Business School for opening pathways to such opportunities.
While being idealistic helps one to dream, pragmatism is needed to see the dream come to fruition. So upon graduation, I worked in the financial sector. Despite spending long periods overseas on my full-time job, I still oversaw the management of The Dive Ship. It is definitely a balancing act, but with time management well honed during my NUS days, it’s definitely manageable.
A degree is more than just the content or the modules offered. It offers the opportunity to build a network of relationships, to learn both soft and technical skills as well as communication skills, and provide an environment for personal development. It prepares you for your working life.
My advice to current students?
Be hungry. I sent out 100 copies of my resume to look for an internship during year one. Hardly any company wanted to hire a first year student. But persistence paid off and I not only secured an internship, but it was based in China. Pretty cool for a freshman!
Be positive. Rejection for internships or full-time roles will come but you just need to get used to it because it is part and parcel of job applications. As NUS Business students are all smart, competition is keen and grades may get depressing at times. Look beyond grades and see how else to improve the next time.
Be foolish. Challenge yourself to think out of the box. Do something that others haven’t; and question everything and learn from other successful businesses, people and competition.
For more information on the NUS BBA programme, please visit http://bba.nus.edu/.