“Good morning Prof. Peter McKiernan, Encik Nizar Idris, Alan MacIntyre, CDC Directors, Strathclyde Counselors, Fellow Graduands, proud parents, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Sarah Lim. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you a few reflections of my experience completing this MBA.
My ex-boss once asked me, “Why are you doing an MBA?”. “It is for my own personal development” I said. She then responded by saying “I’ve always wondered why people do an MBA. I guess it is useful for people like you, whereas for us (as she turned to look at her peer), we don’t need it”. At that moment, I felt sad that my line manager could be so discouraging and condescending. But I am reminded by a Chinese proverb which says, “the more humble you are, themore knowledge you will gain”. With that thought, I felt comforted that I will be consciously making progress in my learningjourney, and that she would not be a genius anytime soon. What my ex-boss said is a reminder for me that complacency can be a dangerous enemy, and humility can be a good friend.
The Strathclyde MBA course has taught me to see things beyond the obvious and pushes the limits of intellectual curiosity. How does Google make money? How many years did Amazon take to reach $1 trillion in market value? Why did the ride hailing company Grab have its humble beginnings in Malaysia? Can I have a show of hands – who has used Grab before? I understand that its co-founder finished work late one night with no better option for transport to go home and she thought of a solution. Are we, fellow MBA graduates, capable of the same, by observing and resolving societal issues, like how Grab did? The answer is a big resounding “YES!”. A professor once said to me, that education comes from the Latin “edu ka re”, which means, “to draw from”. It means this MBA equips us to question why things do not work and what can be done about it.
This MBA also has taught me that companies do not last long if they are only profit focused. In a 2015 Morgan Stanley study, it was found that companies that are socially responsible actually yield better returns than traditional investments and pose lower risk. Being lucky enough to have completed an MBA, I hope that we will take it upon ourselves to make sound business decisions that are sustainable for the long term good of society, the environment and our beloved country.
Ladies and gentlemen, completing an MBA is by no means a stroll in the park, and it has taught me painful lessons of perseverance. I recall completing my final paper in the dark without electricity due to a storm, and how my loved ones supported me throughout even when I could not spend time with them on important occasions. Let me share with you a story about my millionaire friend. He was told that with the level he and his team have done for their final paper, they will not get a Distinction. He called me and asked me if he should spend three more months to shape up his paper, to get a chance of getting a higher mark. His team mates were ready to throw in the towel, but he wasn’t sure what to do. I told him the story about Michelangelo, who was the artist responsible for the beauty of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel in the year 1512 during the Renaissance period. Michelangelo spent so much time painting the details of the person’s hair andeven their fingernails. People around him mocked him saying the equivalent of “come on, no one would even see it from down here!”, to which he replied, “They won’t be able to see it, but I know that it wouldn’t be perfect if I didn’t do it right”. My millionaire friend went on to spend the next 3 months perfecting his paper, and he scored a Distinction, as Michelangelo did, and his work is one of the greatest in art history. I suppose my millionaire friend didn’t have to persevere; why bother? He was a millionaire after all and owned several businesses and properties. How would he compare to another fellow student who is merely interested to just pass? Reflecting on this, the MBA brings to the surface, on what drives us as individuals and shows us if we can weather the storm. This MBA has certainly created a bank account for me, full of tenacity, that I can now draw upon for my future endeavors.
In summary, the MBA has taught me to embrace humility in the pursuit of intellectual curiosity, to use our sharpened capabilities to do good, and to persevere in the face of adversity, even when no one is looking. It is an honor for me to stand here before you, and I want to congratulate each one of you graduands, who have sacrificed more than one can imagine, but perhaps not more than those who have supported us at every step of the way – our family, loved ones, our professors, counselors and friends, and all those present here today, who believe in progress and a purpose, greater than ourselves. Ladies and gentlemen and fellow graduands, all the best, thank you and may God bless you.”
Written by Ms Sarah Lim, the speech was delivered during the Strathclyde MBA Malaysia Graduation Ceremony in December 2018.