Shadowing the chief

02 May 2018 | Education
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(From left) Aven, Alexis, Emily and Gao Fei were presented with the CEOx1Day – Winner (2018) Award, having fended off stiff competition to accompany a CEO for a day

Four NUS students recently had the valuable opportunity to shadow a CEO for a day after clinching a coveted spot in the CEOx1Day programme.

CEOx1Day is an annual global initiative targeted at third- and final-year undergraduates organised by executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. The Singapore office is the first in Asia to launch the programme here. The Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG) at NUS facilitated a recruitment session for the programme. All the candidates — about a hundred of them — had to undergo a stringent selection process comprising an online application consisting of two essay questions and the submission of a CV, followed by a 15-minute telephone interview. Fifteen finalists then proceeded to the final stage — an hour-long face-to-face interview, after which seven successful students, including four from NUS, were chosen to shadow a CEO.

Yu Gao Fei, a Year 3 NUS Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) student, was matched with Mr Richard Bailey, HP Inc’s President, Asia Pacific & Japan. Gao Fei had the chance to travel with Mr Bailey to New Delhi. The day began with a conference call regarding the performance of various regions, followed by a meeting with HP Inc’s Managing Director of India, Mr Sumeer Chandra to review the performance of the team in India. Gao Fei also sat in on a meeting with Microsoft on collaborative efforts between the two corporations. The day ended with Gao Fei enjoying dinner with Mr Bailey while the latter fielded his questions about the day.

Such genuinely motivated employees can only be seen if they are given the autonomy to explore their potential. The analogy made me realise just how important it is to create an environment where both the company and team’s motivations are aligned.

As the CEO of Learnseeker, a start-up incubated at NUS Enterprise, Gao Fei said that his understanding of what it meant to be a CEO had been limited to the start-up ecosystem. “To me, being a CEO entailed day-to-day tasks that were more entrepreneurial and hands-on, as opposed to making managerial or strategic decisions,” he said.

Watching Mr Bailey in action has given Gao Fei an insight into what it takes to be a great CEO. He said, “In the span of one day, I was taken through the demands and the pressure faced by a CEO in fulfilling his or her responsibilities. Observing his work throughout the day, I realised that Richard demonstrated tremendous ability in management and leadership. I realised that being a leader required great sacrifice as well. His commitment was not merely to himself, but to a multitude of stakeholders including his organisation, his customers and his board.”

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Gao Fei (right) was impressed by Mr Bailey’s ability in management and leadership, as well as his depth of commitment

Year 4 NUS Business student Alexis Lee had the chance to shadow Mr Hari Krishnan, CEO of PropertyGuru Group. Alexis shared that the agenda for the day was specially tailored to reflect Mr Krishnan’s typical schedule, while offering her a diversified learning experience. The programme included a good mix of formal events such as meetings, and informal sessions such as chats and festive celebrations. There were also interactions with Mr Krishnan and other colleagues.

One of Alexis’ key takeaways was Mr Krishnan’s comparison of PropertyGuru to a jazz band, where members are able to give free rein to their creativity, yet still produce harmonious music as a team. Alexis experienced first-hand the embodiment of this concept when she saw the Chief Technology Officer and Lead Data Scientist speaking enthusiastically about their projects. “Such genuinely motivated employees can only be seen if they are given the autonomy to explore their potential. The analogy made me realise just how important it is to create an environment where both the company and team’s motivations are aligned,” she shared.

Having attended the programme, Alexis felt that there is no single definition of a good leader. “It is really up to us to see which qualities of a leader we can personally identify with. If these ideas are our own, we accord greater trust and faith in the leadership that we work under,” she explained.

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Alexis (right) benefitted from a customised programme at PropertyGuru Group, headed by Mr Krishnan

Year 3 NUS Business student Emily Eng shadowed Ms Elisabeth Staudinger, President, Asia Pacific, at Siemens Healthineers who was impressed by Emily’s enthusiasm and energy. Year 3 FASS student Aven Tong shadowed Ms Angela Kelly, CEO Singapore at Lloyd’s, who said that it was wonderful to spend some time with the young talent and showcase a little bit of what they did.

Students considering similar opportunities can check out CFG’s weekly eNewsletter every Thursday or log on to NUS TalentConnect to explore other interesting internships and jobs available.