Supatra Lee

Programme: Global Online MBA

Education: BSc Electrical and Electronics Engineering, New York University Abu Dhabi

Role beginning at Imperial College Business School: Corporate Project Manager, Telekom Brunei Berhad

Professional background

Just after starting my MBA programme, I transitioned into a more strategic role as a Corporate Project Manager at the Project Management Office. My main tasks will be defining the company’s strategic roadmap, aligning priorities amongst management and driving strategic projects.

Before Imperial, I worked as a Technical Project Manager for a fixed-line broadband operator in which I acted as a focal point between the technical and marketing team, focusing on the charging system and value-added services.

Choosing an MBA at Imperial

I decided to study an MBA because I believe that a great technology leader is one who is well-rounded; who understands different aspects of technology, business, finance and investment. After gaining experience in project management and system engineering, I want to build my portfolio and strengthen my experience in business domains, particularly in business strategy and analysis. My goal is to progress into programme management roles and analysing and solving problems on bigger scales, to support the company’s and nation’s vision. Having an MBA opens up opportunities to transition into a more business-focused role.

I chose Imperial College Business School over other business schools that I was admitted to because Imperial is one of the world’s leaders in science and technology. Its vision to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship is aligned with my personal goals and aspiration to become a leader in tech. In addition to that, having a reputable MBA from a world-class, top-ranked university like Imperial will allow me to be competitively positioned for the future and respond to my company and nation’s needs with confidence.

Funding my MBA

My MBA is funded partly via my savings and partly via sponsorship from my husband. I did not have the full funding completely available at the start of my MBA and getting a student loan was one of the options. I’m fortunate to have a supportive husband who values education and is committed to support me financially. As an MBA holder himself, he has greatly benefited from the positive learning environment and different skills he learned from the courses. His MBA has also helped him to progress in his career.

Because of this, we are confident that the benefits that I will gain from my MBA education (knowledge, experience, networks, connection, status) far outweigh the financial investment that we make.

Learning in a safe environment

I find the most rewarding part of the programme is the opportunity to explore and learn business-related topics in a safe and structured environment, especially when I did not have any prior knowledge about the business world. By linking theories to real-life examples and case studies I, can reflect, understand and realise why businesses adopt certain strategies and their effectiveness. It also keeps me constantly thinking about what improvements I could suggest to my company and what it could adopt in terms of products, marketing, vision alignment, change management and more.

A highly motivated cohort

I would describe my cohort at Imperial as highly motivated and intelligent people who aim to make a difference in this world and society. They take their work and studies seriously, but at the same time, enjoy life to the fullest. I have had interesting discussions with many of them, together with new insights.

Working in groups

Before starting the online MBA, group projects were part of my biggest concern due to the challenges of working online with teammates in different locations. My experience so far has been great as my syndicate team and I have found an effective way of working and communicating. We made the effort to build rapport over induction week, get to know each other, and set a fixed schedule to meet online once a week via Zoom to discuss assignments or just to check up with one another. Usually, we will brainstorm for ideas in a group and one person will be nominated to compile a final write-up for submission.

Learning from passionate faculty

The faculty are passionate and knowledgeable in their area of interest. Lectures are carefully planned and structured in a very engaging manner. Theories are always coupled with real-life examples that I find stimulating. As they have connections with faculties all around the world, sometimes, we get access to exclusive case studies.

Studying via The Hub

I manage my online study by setting weekly study goals and maintaining the commitment. My experience with The Hub is, so far, enjoyable. The materials are well-structured and very easy to follow. Unlike live lectures, for a harder to grasp concepts, I have the flexibility to pause lecture videos, process the materials, rewind and re-watch the lecture videos. The activities and discussion boards are also stimulating. In a live class, we might only be able to hear opinions or viewpoints from a few people due to limited time, but in The Hub, we can read everyone's responses.

I manage my online study by making use of the free slots that are available in between my daily activities. What I find very helpful is that the modules in The Hub are broken down into several sub-modules with an average time of 15-30 minutes. This breakdown assists me in setting small goals each day and helps me to plan my time accordingly. For example, I can utilise my lunch break or the small timeslot before my gym workout after work to get some modules daily. For sub-modules that require longer hours, I can park them momentarily and come back to them later.

Work, life and study balance

The most challenging part of the programme is not the content of the programme, but the discipline and commitment to maintaining a balance between work, life and study. Time management is very crucial to ensure that I’m on schedule for my weekly studies, especially when work or other areas of my personal life demands more of my attention and effort.

I have been handling the balance quite well. My husband has been very supportive and adjusted our family time according to my study schedule. This is possible because both of us are aligned in our goals and hence understand that a certain level of sacrifice and compromise is necessary.

It helps to inform family members, friends and superiors that you’re doing an online MBA. I’m fortunate to have a superior at work who did a part-time MBA herself and is supportive of my decision to do one. Occasionally, I do miss out some social events to catch up with studies, so having family and friends’ support is very important. I also have to be more flexible when it comes to my personal schedule, like exercise and travel. Time management and compromise are key here.

New opportunities

The Global Online MBA has opened up the opportunity for me to transition into my new Corporate Project Manager role. This has allowed me to gain exposure to crucial business management tasks such as defining the company’s strategic roadmap, aligning priorities amongst management and driving strategic projects. The programme has given me the foundation and credibility to discuss business strategy with my colleagues and superiors. It has also provided me with a stepping stone to advance and transition into a different field in my career.

Applying my Global Online MBA learnings in real-time

Since my current role as a Corporate Project Manager deals mostly with the strategic roadmap and programme management, the MBA has provided me with the foundations to see things from a bigger picture and a business perspective. The Marketing module has given me a good understanding of how my company stands in terms of product positioning and what can be done to improve customer loyalty. Managerial economics has allowed me to understand the concept of supply and demand and the dynamic that will happen in the market if my company enters into a price war with its competitors. Organisational behaviour has given me some perspective of leadership and vision alignment, and the things that could be done to unite all the staff in the company.

Career goals

With new knowledge and new experience in the business and management domains, I plan to leverage my MBA to progress into a programme management role or consulting role. It will open new opportunities should I decide to switch industries that I have no prior knowledge in, as the MBA preps you with general business management skills.

I want my work to have meaning, impact and contribution to society. My career goal is to be in a leadership position that drives ICT. I envision myself managing different stakeholders to work together to build innovative business cases and designing state-of-the-art, consumer-centric tech solutions. I want my work to be for a great cause and would like to venture into social entrepreneurship. I hope to inspire young people to work in technology and encourage an innovative mindset among the community.

The Personal Leadership Journey

The Personal Leadership Journey has given me an insight into my current strengths and weaknesses, and areas of my personal development to focus on. I also appreciate the structured programme with different personal milestones that encourage us to achieve different leadership or career goals throughout our MBA journey.

Advice to prospective students

Before applying, I did have doubts in my mind if an MBA would be suitable for me as someone has been working in the technical domain. There were worries about the huge financial investment, adequate working experience, and the commitment required while holding a full-time job. But my advice is to just do it, as the experience and knowledge that you can gain from the MBA are fulfilling.

Programme: Global Online MBA

Education: BSc Electrical and Electronics Engineering, New York University Abu Dhabi

Role beginning at Imperial College Business School: Corporate Project Manager, Telekom Brunei Berhad

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