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Top Talk with Mike McNamara!
Jul 13, 2020

Every October, the School of Economics and Management would turn into a super hive of activities. The School Advisory Board of members, all of them are illustrious in the business world,would grace for 2 days at SEM, sharing their wisdom and business acumen to all fortunate to attend the lectures.

As a member of the Leadership Club,I was very lucky to have an up-close-and-personal tea and dinner with Mr.Mike McNamara, CEO of Flextronics (electronics OEM giant worth USD $30 billion) and Mr. Chris Galvin, former CEO of Motorola, in 2012. Word got it that the club impressed these two business giants so much that the comments they heaved on us had Dean Qian Ying Yi to implement ‘Top Talks with Advisory Members’ in 2013.

These were a series of lectures from the advisory board and opened to selected students only. Again, my lucky star (or the fact that I could also double up as a body guard) must have shone on me for I was selected to be the personal assistant to Mr. McNamara.

Thus, for three days, I shadowed Mr.McNamara and caught glimpses of his wisdom when he shared about leadership and culture in the company. I also hosted and moderated his lecture for over 60 master students.

One of things that he shared about was how the younger generation of executives seemed to be less resilient, and couldn’t seem to take hardship well.

In hindsight, this seemed to be the case in Singapore as well, and I guess that was why the MOE wanted to bring students overseas to do CIP as part of the ‘out of the comfort zone’ training.

Mr. McNamara also had a very interesting perspective on President Obama’s leadership. Which I shall tell you only if you ask me personally.

The highlight must be when I was selectedto go to the Fishing Platform (钓鱼台),China’s political residence to host foreign dignitaries. So it was from afar, that I caught a glimpse of President Xi Jin Ping.

The absolute highlight however, was when I got to take a photo with Jack Ma Yun,executive chairman, Alibaba group which is the biggest e-commerce platforms in the world.

Similar to my former profession as an English teacher in Singapore, Jack Ma was an English teacher in Zhejiang province. And when he went to the States for a month in the late 1990s, it was a life changing experience. To cut the long story short, after some trials and failures,he finally set up Alibaba and thence, Tao Bao. And shopping was never the same again.

I found him to be a great inspiration. I look forward to this year’s Top Talks and even though I should have graduated by then, I do hope that some day in the future, I will also conduct a lecture to my grand juniors as a member of the advisory board.


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