NUS MBA 17 July 2013

Meet the very first graduate of the NUS MBA Double Degree with Yale University

It is not every day that you get to be the very first graduate of a new program – that is truly one milestone graduation!

michael tiopanMeet Michael Tiopan, the first graduate from the Yale University School of Management (SOM) Master of Advanced Management (MAM). This programme is the latest addition to NUS Business School’s suite of Double Degree programs.

Michael completed his MBA from NUS Business School, and MAM from Yale University School of Management. He is the first graduate representing NUS Business School, among the Yale MAM graduates.

What is so unique about this program and why did Michael enroll in it? We sat down with him to find out this and more. Below are some excerpts of the interview:

Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

I am a business consultant with vast experience in engineering industry, mainly working in various parts of Asia on Oil, Gas & Chemical related projects. I left the engineering field, to seek entrepreneurial opportunities and acquired a tertiary school in Singapore to manage operations before pursuing the NUS MBA programme. I attribute a lot of my success in MBA and MAM education to my entrepreneurial experiences where I got a lot of my hands-on training.

After gaining substantial business experience, I wanted to pursue a business education that provides a gateway to global leadership, by leveraging my existing local network in Asia – and NUS Business School offered this perfect opportunity.

Please tell us about the Yale School of Management (SOM)’s Master in Advanced Management (MAM) and how does NUS MBA fit in it?

To me, Yale SOM’s MAM program is an excellent complement to NUS MBA. The whole experience is more than sum of its parts.  For this programme, typically, students complete their full-time MBA from NUS Business School, and then enroll in a one year, full time MAM program at Yale’s School of Management. In the MAM program, one can expect to be exposed to some of the America’s best educators, thanks to the opportunities that NUS Business School provides.

Professor David M. Cromwell, for instance, who teaches the Venture Capital and Private Equity course at Yale, brought with him years of experience as the President and CEO of JP Morgan Capital Corporation. Besides having a great sense of humour, his teaching style is unconventional. Refusing to just follow the Harvard Business School Case Study Method of teaching, he wrote his own creative case studies that involve a lot of real-life researches, valuations, and negotiations which are emotionally charged at times. Posing as the character “Gremlin” monster (which he says will always appear to disrupt deals in real life), he makes himself available online on Skype almost 24/7 to answer any queries with light hearted-yet-insightful replies. A fun class indeed! Where do you get to learn from the best leaders, in such a fun way?

Why did you decide to pursue a Master in Advanced Management degree? And why specifically Yale NUS programme?

I was very attracted to the Yale NUS program when I first learned about it. It was a bit like love-at-first sight: risky, but meaningful. It was risky, considering the program was very new and interesting, and I had to be away from my family for a period of time. It was, however, meaningful, considering the excellent reputation of the institutions involved; with NUS being one of the top business schools in Asia, and Yale School of Management being one of the premier institutions in the US. Both these institutions provided a huge opportunity for lots of learning and networking.

I was also attracted by the program concept – bringing together the most promising management students from elite non-US business schools to Yale, to exchange ideas. After studying the program structure, it was the meeting with Yale SOM’s Dean, Professor Edward A. Snyder, which sealed the deal for me. I was very impressed with his leadership, humility and vision for the exclusive Global Network for Advanced Management, a network of elite non-US business schools, including NUS.

What feature of the programme helped you the most?

Yale- NUS MAM program’s main focus is training the future leaders for business and society and this has had a great impact on me. Yale SOM and NUS, both, really live by it. This makes many of us desire to not only learn how to seek profits, but to consider other aspects as well that have impact on the people around us locally and globally, making business sustainability a real possibility. This realization is very much needed considering the problems that the world currently faces, ranging from the alleged greed in the financial sector to the environmental problems in several economic powerhouses.

Overall, the whole Yale SOM student body is close-knit, and very helpful to one another. Also, the diversity of the students is really a big plus. NUS Business school certainly helped me build a great network; in addition, I had the opportunity to build close friendships with not only Yale MAM students, but also with many members of the larger Yale University student body as well.


Michael (first from the left in the bottom second row) with the inaugural group of Yale SOM MAM graduates. Michael is the first graduate representing NUS Business School

Michael (first from the left in the bottom second row) with the inaugural group of Yale SOM MAM graduates. Michael is the first graduate representing NUS Business School

You are the first graduate of this programme.  What are some of the tips you’d share to anyone who wants to enroll in this programme? How can they make most of their time?

This is a very unique program, which is truly meant for global leaders; however, it is short in duration. My advice to prospective students would be not to repeat my mistake of being in the “honeymoon” mode at the start of the program. It is important to put on one’s game face from the get-go.

Since the program is rather short, as compared to NUS MBA, one would have almost no time for “honeymoon”. There will be things like career events, networking events, academic exercises, and whatnot that will swarm the MAM student from the moment the course begins. Thus, it is important to prioritize, be ready to roll with the punches and enjoy the process along the way. Who knows, this experience may transform your life, as it does to mine.

The Commencement 2013 ceremonies just finished at NUS; what are your thoughts about your experience in this program and the NUS Business School community, in general?

Both NUS and Yale have added a lot of value in my life. Although my wallet is now considerably lighter, and much sweat and time has been spent solving business cases and making new friends, it is all very worth it. In general, I think it is important to study smart, play hard and make lots of friends along the way. Relationships matter!

NUS Business School is indeed a global leader in Asia. For aspiring management professionals in Asia, like me, who are based in Asia, and aspire to learn globally, it truly provides a platform to learn from global leaders due to its international tie-ups with some of the best business schools in the world. It has been such a wonderful & interesting experience at Yale. For me, the Yale SOM MAM programme would not have been possible without such a strong support from NUS Business School management team

To the graduating students, congratulations! Enjoy the day! I believe we should never rest on our laurels and continuously improve. In the wise words of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, we should continually ask ourselves “Is this necessary for survival and progress? If it is, let’s do it.”

Want to chat more with Michael? Connect with him on LinkedIn here or if you want to learn more about the double-degree MBA programmes offered by NUS, please click here