Writing this on board of GA821 from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta. I’m filled with both sadness and excitement. I’m sad that I left the family I made in KL, but excited to go back to school soon. This writing is also intended to help me sort out my thoughts and hopefully help you in one way or another. In this post, I’m focusing on the career journey and why I opted to do an MBA at INSEAD. In the next post, I’ll share specifically on the INSEAD application process and preparation advices.

P.S: Please feel free to contact me if you are interested to know more or if you have specific questions that I have yet to address here. Here’s the link to my personal website, but you can also contact me through LinkedIn or Instagram.

You can find Part 2 here. It will cover the INSEAD application process and my preparations.

Why MBA?

There are 3 key reasons of why I wanted to do an MBA.

The first is my childhood experience. When I was a kid, I had friends who seems to travel abroad every single holiday. To be frank, I was jealous every time I saw their Disneyland or plane pictures. My family were modest, and we couldn’t afford to travel abroad. In fact, the first time I went abroad was 2010, and that was because my mother had a business trip to China and I could come with her. I was ecstatic to see another country. I still remember that it was a Singapore Airlines flight, CGK-SIN, followed by SIN-Shanghai. I know that this doesn’t look like it relates directly to MBA, but this experience kickstarted my ambition to see the world.

The second is my experience living in Jakarta. The city is well positioned as the center of economic growth of Indonesia. People migrated from villages and small towns to Jakarta in hope of fortune. I daresay it’s the “Jakarta Dream”, much like how the Americans have “American Dream”. A key advantage of being in Jakarta is availability of good jobs. This is further reinforced with the rise of tech startups such as Gojek, Tokopedia, Shopee, Lazada, etc. But living in Jakarta also has some issues that fueled my desire to move. A key issue is the traffic jam and living cost. I lived at the outskirts of the city and I regularly took 1-2 hours for a one way trip (driving) from my home to office. Why not rent a room in the middle of the city? 2 reasons. First, because I work in Services/Consulting. I move around based on where my client is. Second, because rent is expensive and mostly with no facilities. Another key issue is inclusion. I think that we’re moving to a more conservative direction and I’m not comfortable with that. Some politicians are making it worse by utilizing divisive messages based on race or religion to win elections. This experience encouraged me to look beyond Jakarta in hopes of finding another place to call home. What do I need to do to achieve that? I need to build a strong foundation and network to be able to actually move abroad. Without a solid network, I wouldn’t be able to find a job or do business anywhere.

The last is my career journey. I’ve accumulated about 5 years of work experience and I reflected upon where I want to go in the future. My experience in tech, startup, and consulting showed me what kind of work excites me. I’m excited to work with people to create innovation and transformation. I prefer to forge new ways of working instead of just following the old. I believe open discussions with no hard feelings are extremely important. Finally, I dislike it when I don’t have clear goals. So with those in mind, what’s next? I would like to be a business leader that is known for transforming organizations. To go there, I want more experience in strategy development & execution leadership work. Unfortunately, based on my experience, I don’t have a proven track record yet of strategy development work and I don’t have a lot of leadership experience. And thus I want to improve those skills.

Combining all 3 drivers, my experience in Kuala Lumpur is an indicative sign that I’m going to the right direction. I lived in Kuala Lumpur for roughly 9 months, and worked on a blockchain project for a Resources company. I felt like it was a long holiday. I was able to comfortably live outside of Jakarta, and even though the work was tough, the team was awesome and the work was exciting.

So in conclusion, I assessed that an MBA would help me build skills and network quicker to be able to achieve my goals in the future.

Why INSEAD?

First thing I checked to find the right school for me was MBA rankings. Unlike other masters’ degree, MBA has so many published rankings with various methodology. Universities proclaiming “we’re a top business school in the world” is irrelevant. What’s relevant is what other people think about that university and MBA Rankings helps you understand what’s the general view or consensus about the schools. When you check most MBA Rankings, it’s highly dominated by the US schools, think Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogs, Booth, Berkeley. But there are several business schools outside the US that consistently rank great, such as INSEAD, LBS and HEC Paris.

Then the next question was, “In an ideal world, where everything goes according to plan, where do I want to settle down in the long term?” For me, the answer was Europe/Australia/Canada. Thus, the school I picked need to have a strong name in those 3 regions.

And finally, “what industry do I want to go to after MBA?”. As I wanted to go to strategy development and execution leadership, I looked for schools that produces a lot of strategy consultants.

Combining the answer of the 3 questions, INSEAD becomes a natural choice for a few things:

  • It’s a highly regarded business school with alumni all around the world.
  • There’s more than X nationalities in a class, and there’s 3 campuses (Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi). There’s flexibility of where I want to be based on, and it’ll help me experience many cultures quickly. Both will help me understand what kind of culture I’m most comfortable in.
  • It’s basically the “consulting school of the world” where most graduates go to Strategy Consulting.
INSEAD Singapore Campus

Thankfully, INSEAD has a campus in Singapore. I managed to visit the campus and set up a time to talk to Aidan from the MBA recruitment and marketing team to understand more about the school and the admission process.

Aidan shared to me about the school’s diversity, and the admission director’s (Minh Huy Lai) passion on inclusion. That was the first thing that resonated with me. After that we discussed on what INSEAD is looking for, he emphasized the international experience requirement, and open mindedness requirement. When I say open mindedness, the school will pit you with people from very different culture that without being open minded, you’ll struggle. Then we discussed my career journey, and which parts he thought I need to emphasize in the application. Finally he shared the results of the program for current students and the strength of the INSEAD alumni community. This discussion cemented my decision to apply because I identify with the school’s values and directions for students.

In Summary

Based on my childhood experience, Jakarta experience and career journey, an MBA is a great way to achieve my goals. Then based on school reputation, geographic location and industry focus, INSEAD is the school of choice for me.

Read the part 2 of this post for the application process and preparation advice!

Within the past 3 months, I have been working with Accenture’s Innovation Hub in Singapore to focus on developing new demo asset business case, and facilitate client workshops. The Innovation Hub is a physical space where we host client workshops, and showcase demos on how Digital can transform businesses. But keep in mind, that we are not R&D focused. We’re focused on building a business case that caters to business needs. You won’t find a technology that’s just ‘cool’ in our hub. You’ll see stuff that has business value first and foremost.

Last week, I had the great chance to deliver a demo and presentation to our Accenture’s Africa & Asia Pacific leadership on how the connected worker looks like in the near future, empowering industrial employees to be safer and more productive. Although the technology have been introduced since quite a while back, we’re just entering the phase of mass adoption and scalability.

The technology that I showcase in this occasion are a combination of smartglasses by Vuzix, IoT sensors installed in an asset, and tablet. Basically, this is showcasing how workers will communicate with command centers and supervisors in the future, and how industrial facilities can be monitored and controlled remotely. If you want to see it and interested in exploring how you can start on a Connected Worker initiative in your company, connect with me and maybe we can arrange a visit for your company!

In this post, I want to cover 3 key things you need to analyze to justify the investment of connected worker initiative.

First, how much value will come from a safety perspective? The US spends nearly 60 billion USD due to injuries in the workplace, making it a good idea to invest to lower even just 10% of that amount.

Second, you need to forecast the ROI from the added productivity. We can look at this from savings in replacing in-person inspections with remote inspections, first time fix rate, total time to resolution, and remote training. (Read more here)

And third, an analysis on how using digital impacts employee engagement is also necessary. Gallup showed that highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. (Read more here).

Quantifying all these benefits will help you build the business case to invest in the connected worker. Of course the numbers presented might not apply to you, so due diligence becomes important.

Lastly, you can read more on the thought leadership piece from a few consulting firms on Connected Worker:

This post is a reflection and thoughts on diversity and inclusion. Something that you will definitely find as a value in any multinational companies across all sectors! From Microsoft, Accenture, McKinsey, Amazon, etc, all of them are making commitment in being inclusive, and they have dedicated teams and employee volunteers to support the effort. In Accenture, we have the I&D Team, we have Pride Allies, Women Mentoring Program, mental wellness, disability, etc. There are efforts to be inclusive all over the organization. It’s amazing when I can hear on a day-to-day basis that someone is coming a bit late/going back a bit early to drop off/pick up their kid, and there’s no one that comments “wow, he/she is using that kind of excuse not to work!”. Personally, I’m currently part of the pride ally network, while continuously looking for other ways to be involved in the I&D initiatives.

There are also widely available resources on why it can bring value to the organization. UBS proved that LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace can boost a firm’s financial performance and gain a competitive advantage over peers. McKinsey released a report that reinforced the persistence of relationship between diversity & business performance. CloverPop showed that being more inclusive in your decision making can make better business decisions faster. In 2017, Deloitte shared that 69% of executives put priority on diversity & inclusion.

If we want diversity & inclusion effort to actually be meaningful, we require participation from everyone. An inclusive culture doesn’t happen because the CEO says we have to be inclusive, or because Wall Street says that they want the company to be inclusive so the stock price goes up! An inclusive culture happens because the employees and the leaders are consciously making effort to be inclusive!

That brings me to the first question:

What does diversity & inclusion means for you?

I love a mantra I heard when I was in Microsoft.

Come as you are, do what you love

Now, whether it actually happened on the ground was another matter altogether. But the mantra itself is solid and reflects what diversity & inclusion means for me. Being inclusive means supporting an environment that allows you, me, and everyone else to be authentic. Being authentic means acting in ways that genuinely shows how we feel, without the concern of negative implications, without the need to tailor personalities to be accepted.

I used to hear people give a “be authentic” advice. But then when I’m authentic and straightforward, they get mad! Talk about confusing. (Honestly, this is similar to when your boss says “I’m open to feedback and have an open door policy. Please do share all your concerns with me”). Oftentimes, I think a “be authentic” advice means “be more expressive in sharing what I want you to tell me”, and isn’t that frustrating?

And when I mention inclusion, I really do mean everyone. No discrimination based on gender, age, marriage status, country, orientation, religion, whatever. An idea or contribution doesn’t have any less value if it came from people you don’t like!

Then the next question,

Are you actually inclusive?

Repeatedly saying “we need to be inclusive” is not enough. It needs to be backed up by actions from each and every one of us.

Reflect on yourself:

  • Do you assume that people who work differently / less hours are less committed to their work?
  • In meetings, are you disregarding opinions/views/suggestions from certain people?
  • In meetings, do you talk over some people a lot? (E.g: cutting off the more junior employees or women)
  • Is your team made up of similar profiles? (E.g: similar race, religious views, gender, etc)
  • Are you making jokes/comments at the expense of certain group of people? (E.g: “Don’t be such a girl”)
  • Are you expecting your team to work late because you also work late?

Honestly, if you answer yes to any of those questions, I’d say that you have some work to do and dig deep on why you do it. Of course those questions are not exhaustive, but it gives you a start!

Personally I’m still not perfect, and that’s why I love getting feedback on how people feel when they interact with me. I’m fine with being called straightforward (to the point some can be surprised), but what I’m watching out is if someone feels bullied/discriminated because of what I did. Without the people that gave me feedback, I wouldn’t have realized my own shortcomings! Like they say, it’s easy to find fault at others, but it’s hard to find your own fault.

To close, this is a great resource from Catalyst on how you can be inclusive everyday

inclusive

#InclusionStartsWithI

In this final part of the narrative, I will focus on the external factor, the supporting media in which you communicate with. The media formats that we typically use includes:

  • Paper to write on
  • Handouts (slides, graphs, data, etc)
  • Slide decks

The general value of supporting media is to reinforce/clarify the message you want your audience to get. To review whether you should use the media or not, ask yourselves:

  • Is my media distracting my audience’s attention away from me? – Don’t let your media be the main actor.
  • Can the media help me illustrate my point? – Don’t use media for the sake of using it. Have a clear goal on why you’re using it.

And don’t forget to also review what kind of media can be used in the venue of the presentation/discussion. For example, you won’t use a slide deck with videos for a discussion at Starbucks due to the noise around the area and lack of space to project.

Unless your goal is for that media to stand on its own, there’s no reason for you to have word-for-word explanations inside the media.

Paper & Handouts

Imagine if you’re illustrating an idea to your boss over coffee with a paper. You will not write everything you’re saying, but you will definitely write your calculations, graphs, keywords, design ideas, maybe flowcharts.

Handouts should also do the same thing. If your handouts includes research reports / long essays, you might as well give it to your counterparty beforehand and ask them to read it first. If you give it to them during your time with them, there’s a good chance they’ll just read it there and then. It’s a waste of time that could’ve been used to discuss the matter together.

The acceptable form of handouts should be graphs, charts, or tables that’s not chock full of writing.

Slide Decks

The same logic can also be applied to slide decks. On my first project with Accenture, the slide deck that we used was full of words and was intended to be able to stand on its’ own. Word-for-word quote from the client:

You are competing for my attention with your own slide deck.

This is the same thing that goes through my mind if I see a slide with 1,000 words in it, written like an essay. I don’t have enough mental capacity to both read and listen. So rather than focusing on the presenter, I focus on reading the slide.

You can see a lot of these slide deck issues in the Death by Powerpoint slideshare by Alexei Kapterev.

Some general guidelines that I use to develop a deck:

  • It has to be aesthetically pleasing, no compromises – if you can use image/graph/chart to illustrate, then do so. Don’t depend on written format. A slide just of 1 image in the background and 1 sentence in the foreground is much stronger than a slide of 4 bullet points with white background
  • 1 slide should have no more than 3 images (not counting logos or icons). If you mention company names, consider whether it makes sense to include their logo inside the slide
  • Use the highest possible resolution that you have for images, and use transparent background for logos
  • Maximum 4 sentences (or 50 words) in a slide
  • The presentation should finish within 20 minutes. To extend your audience’s attention span, consider this article from Forbes.
  • Only 1 point to be made per slide
  • Colours that are not too in your face, with contrasting colours between fonts and background/images
  • Have at maximum 3 key takeaways and reiterate it at the end of the presentation. Your audience is unlikely to remember anything else.
  • Practice delivering the presentation and time it before actually presenting it for real. Don’t be overconfident.

A sample of presentation that I made : 2016 Fintech Presentation

Takeways

These are what I hope you get from this series of writing:

  1. There are multiple factors that makes a great communicator/presenter, focusing on one and neglecting the others are not enough:
    1. Your story needs to be concise, clear, compelling, and convincing
    2. Be mindful of the meaning that can be inferred from your body language
    3. Your media must be the supporting character in your communication, not the main actor
  2. Practice is key and repetition helps you be better

This article is part 2 of 4 on engaging communication.

The first component that I’ll cover is the storytelling. It’s how you pack your message, in such a way that it invokes the feelings that you want from your audience. This is not a new concept, Nancy Duarte of Harvard Business Review already did a piece on the topic in 2012, but it’s amazing how people treat storytelling as if it’s rocket science, it’s not.

In essence, the issue with most presenters are that people see the presentation with only a single point of view, theirs. I’m not saying that this is wrong, but this needs to be supplemented with the audience’s point of view.

Telling people that they should do something doesn’t work.

You need to build a narrative to bring them to the right state of mind, easing them to do what you want them to do.

Remember from my first article, our interactions on weekends and weekdays feels different. What makes your weekend stories more engaging than your weekdays? Check out this framework!

MessagePack2

To begin with, you should make it clear. Why should your audience care about your message? This can also be called a lede to your story. Merriam webster defined lede as

The introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story

Your lede should be short enough to not lose your audience in the middle, but long enough to make a clear point on why your audience should care.

On weekends this can be as simple as

  • “You’ll never believe what happened to me last week…”
  • “I heard you’re doing a coffee shop right? I just read a good research on it yesterday!”

These kinds of message starts with what the audience will get from our message, from our conversation. We can start applying this to our normal weekday interactions! Instead of “This is our agenda for today. I’m going to share with you about our Q3 performance” why not “Our Q3 results was not as good as we hoped. Let’s analyze how we can recover in Q4“.

Then you need to make it compelling to your audience. This means painting a vivid picture in your audience’s mind. This can be the picture of the situation, this can be the ideal version, the facts, or even the worst case. Here I give you a few samples on how you can make it compelling:

  • Examples
  • Research facts
  • Analogy
  • Metaphors
  • Personal experience story

A key word that I love to use during my presentation/speech is imagine. It is one of the most powerful word that I can use. By starting my presentation with an “imagine” scenario, I can ease the audience to step into another person’s shoes and to let them think in a different way.

For example, if you want to share about financial inclusion, you can start with something like this

Imagine you’re living in a world without banks. You don’t have debit cards, you don’t have credit cards, you don’t get corporate loans, you cannot transfer cash easily. This is the reality for 64% of people living in Indonesia.

After you are sure your audience can imagine your story, then you need to convince your audience of your credentials and the validity of your message. This is highly dependent on the context of the conversation and previously established credentials. If you’ve known the person well, this part should be minimal, maybe slight reiteration, but don’t dwell on it, otherwise you’re getting boring. For example, if you’re selling an IT solution, you should mention what other companies have used the solution, how it impacts them, what’s the measurable outcome, is there any ROI?

And your whole story must be concise. If part of it doesn’t support your overall point, you might as well not put that part in. This is harder than you would think. If you ask me to speak for an hour, I don’t need to prepare. If you ask me to speak for half an hour, give me one day to prepare. If you ask me to speak for 15 minutes, give me 3 days to prepare.

This framework can be applied to a myriad of situations. You can use it to talk with clients, you can use it to tell a  story to your friends, coworkers, whoever it is! Of course, even if you have crafted the best story in the world, there’s still 2 more components you need to watch out for, which will come in the next 2 articles!

Stay tuned!

This article is the introduction and will be part of a 4 article series on engaging communication.

Have you ever compared the interactions you have on weekends or night out with friends with the interactions you have with clients/coworkers? For me, the discussions, the interaction, the communication with friends are much more engaging. I believe the same goes for you, or everyone really. When I look at people’s eyes during the weekdays, I often see dead fish eyes, unenthusiastic and bored.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can start improving our communication skills, our quality of interactions throughout the day, that we can bring our whole selves, that typically appear only on leisure time, to even business meetings and work!

That is the premise of this series, to be able to communicate effectively and engagingly. To bring your A-game, regardless of the circumstance.

We need to be reminded that as technology becomes more pervasive in our lives, there are more and more distractions available to take us away from being in the moment. Why does this matter in this series? Because with more distractions, people have more ways to ignore you.

Imagine 100 years ago, if you want to ignore someone talking, at most you have a book/paper or just leave the premise. Now? Whip out your phone ladies and gentlemen, because you have an imaginary text that you absolutely have to respond right this instant!

An interesting article by the Independent on British attention span lists these as the fastest ways to get people bored:

  • Listening to people moaning / gossiping about a stranger leads us to tune out after 6 minutes
  • In calls with clients/customers, employees gets bored after 7 minutes
  • While watching TV, an average adult loses concentration after 7 minutes
  • Listening to chatty colleagues gets boring after 9 minutes
  • Phone calls with family and loved ones gets boring after 9 minutes
  • Motorists loses focus and goes on ‘auto-pilot’ after 10 minutes
  • Finance related meetings or conversations loses people after 10 minutes
  • In meetings, people lose focus after 13 minutes

This paints a dire picture on how much time you have before you lose that person in front of you. But it’s not all bad, the article also mentioned that attention spans are longer in situations which involve friends or hobbies, such as:

  • 15 minutes for a good book
  • 24 minutes for a movie
  • 29 minutes for a social engagement such as going out with friends

As you can see from the list above, most of the things that makes people lose focus easily is related to work/office, while going out with friends tops the list on the things that makes people focused for a longer time. This relates back to the key point of this series mentioned in the beginning of this article, that there’s a great difference of result & quality of interaction between work related stuff and hobby/friends related stuff.

Therefore, we need to start improving our communication skills in order to improve our quality of interactions everyday.

I believe there are 3 key points in interactions, all equally powerful when properly used.

  • Message/Story Packaging
  • Body Gestures
  • Supporting Media

Each of these points warrants a following article and will be the next 3 parts of this series. Look out for the next parts!

 

Recently, I took up an interest in photography. It was spurred by the fascination of capturing moments and the ability to print it. I used to take pictures, but only with my phone. When I printed some of them last year, I was both happy and sad. Happy to see a lot of great results, but sad to see blurs, bad exposures, and grainy results. In the end, I procured a mirrorless camera that’s easy to use, that’s not expensive, and that has a lot of lens selection for the future.

I ended up choosing the Sony A6000 + Kit Lens + f1.8/35mm lens. This writing serves me as a reminder to the key basic learning points of photography that I learned within my first 6 months with the camera that helped me take better photos.

The image below perfectly captures the first thing I learned about camera, understanding all the damn newfangled numbers on the camera screen! A quick explanation on what these are:

  1. ISO – how sensitive the film/sensor is in capturing light. This setting impacts noise & sharpness. The lower the ISO, the less sensitive it is.
  2. Aperture (F-something) – how much light goes through the lens. It impacts amount of light & depth of field. The smaller the number, the larger the aperture. The depth of field effect can create the so-called “bokkeh”
  3. Shutter Speed – how long the light will be exposed to film/sensor. A low shutter speed freezes movement, while a high shutter speed gives a movement effect in the photo. The faster it is, the more light is required in the photo. The rule of thumb to avoid shaking is to use 1/Focal length. For example, if you use a 50mm lens, then use 1/50 shutter speed. The photograph I put as the featured image on this post is taken with a 30s shutter speed where you can see the coffee staff people’s movements.

Cheatcard_85x55_300dpi_RGB_web_en_CC-BY-ND

Of course, all 3 have impacts to one another, which is captured by the Exposure Triangle below. If one of the variable changes, at least one other should also change to maintain a good exposure. Source : PhotographyLife

triangle

The next important part is about photo composition. In photography, composition is used to guide the viewer’s eyes towards the most important elements of the photo. A few basic techniques includes:

  • Leading lines – A leading line paves an easy path for the eye to follow through different elements of a photo. Usually they start at the bottom of the frame and guide the eye upwards and inwards, from the foreground of the image to the background, typically leading toward the main subject. Sample that I’ve taken that utilizes this below.

Picture1

  • Depth of field – Bringing a 3 dimensional feel to a 2 dimensional media
  • Symmetry & patterns:
    • Symmetry – the creation of an image which can be separated into two equal parts (this can be horizontally or vertically). Both of the separate parts of the image should then look same, or if not the same should look similar. This can also be seen from the above picture that left and right elements are roughly the same.
    • Pattern – repetition of an element in a photograph. This element could refer to anything; whether it is natural or manmade. This is enhanced by the fact that thought-provoking Patterns can occur when solid graphical elements such as shapes, colours, tones, and forms or lines continue to repeat themselves.
  • Perspective/viewpoint – Changing elevation when you’re taking a picture such as by kneeling can change the feel and the sense you get from a picture. A great example in the article is if you were to photograph a young student being scolded at his desk, you would likely shoot the image from a higher viewpoint—from the vantage point of the dean or principal about to assign punishment—or you would chose the lower perspective from the student’s point of view with the towering power figure looming overhead.
  • Framing – Technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene
  • Rule of third – Mentally dividing up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, as shown below. You then position the important elements in your scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet. You can turn on the option to show these lines like below in a typical digital camera.

RuleofThird

As a buy recommendation for people who are interested to start on photography, I recommend to get a Mirrorless APS-C camera such as Sony A6000 or Fuji X-T20 and at least a tripod. After a few outings, I realized I needed a tripod to help capture movement with high shutter speed! So I procured a cheap one from Amazon to help.

Of course, with the advancement of cameras embedded in cell phones, we cannot discount the capability of phone cameras, there are a number of filters, pro mode, and apps to empower you to take great photos with your camera.