Ask Ganesh Muthupalani about his learning experiences, and he’ll tell you they’ve happened in some unlikely places – in the back of a Gojek car in Bandung, over a coffee chat about jungle gyms, and debating with friends, old and new, in Copenhagen. For the NUS Business student, learning has been a dynamic, ever-evolving journey that includes travelling overseas for internships and case competitions, witnessing real firms at work, and picking the brains of business leaders around the world.
When Ganesh enrolled to study business in 2016, he did so because he believed that business is a sustainable way of creating value. “Many things we see of value around us are actually driven by business. Businesses have the power to break the existing limits of human capability and push it forward, like Google and Apple have done,” he said.
Ganesh was exposed to a broad range of business modules, including marketing, management and organisation, and business economics, that gave him a comprehensive foundation that was not limited to his major, accountancy. The theories and knowledge Ganesh gained in the classroom soon took off with a plethora of opportunities to learn in different cultures and contexts. Besides representing NUS in case competitions in locations around the world, from Denmark to Canada, he also embarked on extended learning experiences, such as with the Bizad Leadership Development Programme (BLDP), which is tailored to nurture students’ leadership potential.
The BLDP saw Ganesh travelling to India and China on a whirlwind immersion programme, where he learnt from academics, start-ups and venture capitalists on the ground. It also gave him the opportunity to be mentored, one on one, by an eminent business leader. In recalling how this mentorship has impacted him, Ganesh shared, “I was particularly inspired when my mentor shared that career progression should be seen as a jungle gym where one hops horizontally instead of being insistent on climbing up a vertical ladder. This drove me to be more open-minded and courageous to swing horizontally and seize new opportunities.”
Another highly impactful experience, Ganesh recalls, was his three-month internship in Bandung, Indonesia with an Artificial Intelligence company called Prosa.Ai, which he undertook under the NUS Overseas Colleges programme. There, he worked on translating and explaining the company’s Natural Language Processing technology in simple, accessible terms.
Besides enjoying the work, Ganesh also greatly relished the experience of living and working in a different culture, one with its own norms and practices – for instance, every meeting at Prosa.Ai would begin with a prayer and formal greetings to the seniors and juniors. Ganesh met the challenges of cross-cultural communication with aplomb and humility, such as through brushing up on his Bahasa Indonesia (which he had already started learning before the internship), and chatting with locals – from his colleagues to the drivers he met on his Gojek rides – to find out about the way of life in Indonesia.
“Having this exposure taught me what it is like to understand someone else’s culture and gave me first-hand experience in bridging that gap. I think this is the most valuable part of my internship and I’m pretty sure I can replicate this learning with other people that I will meet in the course of my work,” he said.
These experiences in the real world have helped keep Ganesh’s learning relevant – he doesn’t shy away from engaging his professors further when what they are teaching seems different from what he has observed. This critical perspective is further honed by a personal drive to keep an open mind, and to continually learn and reinvent himself, both within and beyond the classroom.
Besides taking advantage of the broad range of modules at NUS – from analytics to Bahasa Indonesia and Chinese, both languages he is working on mastering – Ganesh also uses his free time to work on pet projects related to other personal interests like programming. An example is a web interface that he created to filter out hidden gems – good but relatively undiscovered videos – on YouTube. As he shared, “This diverse range of pursuits has helped me to look at things from multiple viewpoints. And these make my experiences uniquely mine.”