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Networking and overseas internships are prepping him to run his own start-up
By Pearlyn Tham
SUSS strongly encourages students like Mr Daniel Lee to take on internships to improve their portfolios and gain exposure to the working world before graduation. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA/FRENCHESCAR LIM

Online and on-demand classes free up SUSS scholar’s schedule so he can also pursue other interests that nurture his entrepreneurial spirit

The dynamic world of start-ups has always fascinated Mr Daniel Lee.

The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Scholarship holder had his first encounter with entrepreneurship at just 16 years old when a family friend offered him a three-month internship with her headhunting start-up. Some of his job responsibilities included organising travel itineraries and meetings.

This experience fuelled his love for learning beyond the classroom and inspired him to take up a human resources course at polytechnic after seeing the impact that human resources can have on the lives of the job candidates and their families.

More on this topic: Helping disadvantaged children: What drives her passion to be a social worker

After graduating from Singapore Polytechnic in 2018, Mr Lee furthered his studies at SUSS where he is now in the third year of his four-year Bachelor of Human Resource Management course at the S R Nathan School of Human Development. The SUSS scholar is also doing a minor in financial technology.

On why he chose the school, the 24-year-old says that one main reason is its flexible curriculum. As the university has a unique mix of full-time students like Mr Lee, along with part-time ones who are working adults, the curriculum caters to their different schedules and lets them plan their timetables accordingly.

For both virtual and online classes, students are graded in terms of class participation in person or on online discussion boards. Online lessons are taught by an instructor and have a fixed schedule.

Virtual lessons, on the other hand, are pre-recorded classes available on the school’s intranet and students can choose when and where to access these classes. There are also weekly consultations for those who require extra coaching.

This new way of learning, with its large degree of flexibility and trust in the students, is a huge pull factor for Mr Lee.

“I really appreciate the flexibility of being able to choose how and when I want to learn,” he says.

The flexible learning model frees up his schedule for him to focus on his interests outside of school. For instance, he can work part-time or take on internships – something that the school strongly encourages students to do so they can beef up their portfolios and shape world views for working life.

“Many students may rush through university to graduate, but for me, I want to savour the journey to do the things which I can only do as a student.”

Mr Daniel Lee, recipient of the SUSS Scholarship

For the same reason, Mr Lee signed up for the SUSS Venture Builder Programme, which creates a highly immersive, incubator-like environment for start-up talent and budding entrepreneurs.

Open to all SUSS students, the programme lets applicants experience a three-month work attachment overseas in partnership with other universities in the Asian region – wherever “there are entrepreneurial opportunities”, according to the school.

For Mr Lee, it was BINUS University in Jakarta, Indonesia where he was mentored by in-residence entrepreneurs for his project which consists of an intersection between blockchain and human resources.

As he had to interview customers for feedback and speak with business leaders for their advice, the stint taught him how to problem-solve through pivoting and adapting solutions in response to constantly changing market demands.

Cherishing time as a student

“One of the skills I picked up during my attachment overseas was networking. In an unfamiliar environment, I had to think on my feet in difficult social situations. This is a crucial skill as building trust and establishing relationships are critical in my field,” says Mr Lee.

As a SUSS scholar, Mr Lee has enjoyed additional opportunities to network for his future.

Scholars are invited to take part in many activities and events within the university, such as open houses, seminars and community involvement projects. They also get to mingle at the scholarship awards ceremony.

On top of that, the bond-free scholarship gives him more freedom in his schedule.

“The scholarship frees me up to have more time to do the things I am passionate about and pursue my interests both within and outside of school,” says Mr Lee.

“Many students may rush through university to graduate, but for me, I want to savour the journey to do the things which I can only do as a student.”

Mr Lee is currently working on an early-stage start-up outside school hours, an experience that he says will give him insights into the intricacies of running a business such as seeking funding and ensuring product-market fit.

Working on school projects with part-time students – who have family and work commitments – has not only widened his network of contacts but also taught him to accommodate everyone’s schedules.

Looking ahead, he is confident that what he has learnt will be transferable across industries when he eventually joins the workforce.

“Skills in human resources can be used in any organisation as it is all about serving and working with people,” says the SUSS scholar.

“However, my career goals are less about getting ahead – I am more influenced by my need to live a life with no regrets.”

Preparing for the working world

Students who are enrolled in a full-time programme at SUSS must clock at least 24 weeks in total for their work attachments, as part of graduation requirements. These can be done locally or overseas at any start-up, small and medium enterprise (SME), multinational corporation (MNC) or social service organisation.

This is to enhance their employment readiness by gaining valuable real-life work experiences and building up their interdisciplinary skills and competencies.

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