Biz Alumni 11 October 2018

Solving problems with analytics

When BBA alumnus Nelson Tan (BBA 2017) first applied to NUS Business School, he had no idea what he wanted to do for his career.  He also did not want to apply to other NUS faculties.

The decision turned out to be one of the best he ever made, as it was here that he discovered his passion for analytics. This discovery has led him to his current role as an associate focusing on regional operations at e-commerce platform Shopee. The firm is owned by Sea Limited, which counts Chinese giant Tencent as its biggest shareholder, and operates Southeast Asia’s biggest gaming platform Garena.

In his role, Nelson’s uses data to problem-solve across Shopee’s business units across the region. He also conducts data analysis to identify problems and run simulations.

In this article, Nelson talks about his journey, and how NUS Business School days prepared him for his role at Shopee:

Nelson (right) presenting in a competition organised by Supply Chain Asia.

Nelson: During the first year, the freshmen were required to take up a variety of modules to widen their exposure in various fields of knowledge. For me, Senior Lecturer Liu Qizhang’s course on Business Analytics – Models and Decision opened my eyes to how optimisation solves business challenges through data and analysis. He inspired me to focus on operations as a career.

Many modules have proven useful for my job, but if I had to narrow down to two, they would be “Advanced Analytics with R” and “Physical Distribution Management”.

The former helped me understand different manipulation techniques of handling data, while the latter provided me with the fundamentals of physical distribution system design (facility location, vehicle routing and fleet planning) and transportation. I apply the knowledge gained from these modules for my job daily.

Nelson (second from left) and his classmates, with Senior Lecturer Liu Qizhang (third from left)

At NUS Business School, I get to work on interesting projects such as improving F&B restaurant operations and creating recommendation tools for online coupon apps. I even had the opportunity to analyse the most suitable Pokémon for winning battles on Pokémon Go for one of my projects.

Joining the Business Analytics Consulting Team (BACT) was a key highlight of my business school journey. With BACT, I learned software tools such as Tableau and worked on real-life projects such as building sentiment analysis for a start-up and putting together a pricing strategy for a ride-sharing firm.

Nelson (second from left) with members of the Business Analytics Consulting Team

Take control of your destiny

Looking back at my time here, it may be a competitive curriculum, but you can explore what you would like to do, and the professors are here to offer career guidance.

You have full control of what you want to learn, so use it to your advantage. Ultimately, it is a tough but rewarding experience.

For current students, here are three tips that I believe will be extremely helpful as you continue on your journeys:

Be open to trying new things
While knowing what you want is great, it is also okay to start with a blank slate. For me, I discovered analytics and it became my passion.

Take advantage of opportunities to develop your interests
Join the numerous networking sessions and events that the School organises. Participate in hackathons and case competitions. Search for projects with companies, or even pester the professors for projects. You will also find out more about industry needs and trends.

Stay positive
The learning curve can be steep for fresh graduates. But think about it this way: If we, during our student days, can survive the hell period of week 10 to 13 (multiple projects and presentations), we can overcome a lot of challenges.

For more information on the NUS BBA programme, please visit http://bba.nus.edu.