Picking the right subjects can have a profound impact on which career you will eventually pursue. Choosing something you are passionate about may not always yield the best career opportunities, yet picking more conventionally popular fields of study may lead you to doing something you have no interest in.
This was precisely the dilemma Mr Toh Ghee Wei faced when he was deciding where to go for his university studies. “I was seriously considering law school because I thought it was a more practical option compared to what I enjoy studying — history.”
Thankfully, he was awarded the Enterprise Singapore Global Executive Scholarship in 2013 and he underwent the statutory board’s flagship talent programmes — the Global Executive Scholarship and the Management Associate Programme. The 26-year-old went on to study History at Columbia University in the United States, and later pursued a Masters in Global Governance and Diplomacy at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Supporting Singapore businesses
Currently an assistant development partner in the Real Estate Team of the Infrastructure Services Division of Enterprise Singapore, Mr Toh’s scope of work entails supporting Singapore hoteliers and developers in the areas of productivity, innovation and internationalisation. On the surface, his education may not seem relevant to his job, but the skills he learnt in his course of study are highly useful in his line of work.
“History taught me to pay attention to context and contingency. Studying history and political science has also honed my critical reasoning, and research and writing skills, which are important for my work, especially in developing and honing industry strategies,” he says.
Mr Toh also credits Enterprise Singapore’s Management Associate Programme for giving him the chance to work overseas.
He spent three months in New Delhi, India where he helped develop strategies to help Singapore logistics and manufacturing companies to expand into the Indian market.
This learning opportunity is what sets the Global Executive Scholarship apart from other scholarship offerings, according to Mr Toh.
“I think Enterprise Singapore’s Management Associate Programme is probably one of the few programmes that would send fresh graduates on a protracted overseas attachment to developing markets,” he says. “This is a major differentiator and a great learning opportunity because most of the global economic growth is coming from frontier markets like India.”
This experience has been highly beneficial for Mr Toh, as he helps Smart City solution providers who are keen to expand into Vietnam by understanding their value proposition and interests, and pitching their solutions to the relevant demand-drivers.
Mr Toh says the overseas experience has given him a better appreciation of the challenges that Singapore companies face overseas. As many companies attempt to expand into larger foreign markets, he believes more can be done to prepare them for the potential pitfalls of diving headfirst into new territories.
He feels that his learning experience has equipped him with the skills to help: “I try, in my work, to focus on initiatives that will make a difference to companies entering new markets.”