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TIEMBA participant Keng Hsu: Limitless possibilities with fellow classmates


Keng Hsu, an Australian Chinese, participated in the Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA Program (TIEMBA). Hsu was born in Taiwan and moved to New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore over the last 35 years. A self-described "banana" who longs for a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, Hsu has worked as a Fortune 500 executive and started several start-up businesses he sold to multinational companies. He is currently Group CFO of a Singapore-based life sciences company backed by sovereign wealth funds and healthcare investors.

Chinese roots

Hsu spent most of his childhood in New Zealand and never visited the Chinese mainland until a few years ago, when he did business with Chinese partners. He described himself as someone with a multi-international background - traveling often across Asia, the United States, and Europe - but with Chinese roots. Hsu said he wanted to recognize and explore his cultural heritage through Chinese exposure. Through communication and adventure with classmates, professors at TIEMBA, and anyone else he met, he came to understand China's view from the eyes of a Chinese. Hsu said that after his experiences, he is confident in his ability to narrate the Chinese perspective, and it has improved his ability to deal with Chinese partners and customers.

Keng Hsu (middle in the first row) and his classmates

The depth of insight into China from TIEMBA's education is unparalleled due to the program's history and vast alumni network. But fellow Chinese classmates, who took their international peers inside their lives, provided non-Chinese classmates with the day-to-day perspective of a local's eyes. Such insights can hardly be learned at a foreign campus.

Professional professors

Hsu said the professors and staff in TIEMBA are unexpectedly international, passionate and dedicated. The entire supporting team is very open-minded. He said he was amazed at how progressive the teaching team was, and said the training was solid and vigorous.

Keng Hsu (second on the left) brainstormed with his teammates.

One of the most fascinating modules in TIEMBA was "Strategic Talent Management," Hsu said. Professor Swee Hua Lee explained how the value of the S&P 500 consists mostly of intangibles, and how this intertwined relationship is influenced by employees and the company. "Will you love me forever" was the phrase he used to emphasize how a company needs to pursue sustainable growth to ensure the company and its employees remain loyal and positive toward each other. Another analogy about the role of love between a company and its employees was both practical and insightful, Hsu said. Lee referenced Confucius' quote, "To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge," in one shark picture, said how there is a lot of potential for us to become more aware of our blind spots in work and self-growth. Hsu said he learned a lot about human management during the course.

Making lasting alumni connections

Hsu did not see the TIEMBA as a program, but as an important step in a journey to re-calibrate his goals and purposes. To that end, his classmates were there to assist and share their experience and wisdom. Hsu said he could constantly tap the alumni network to update his knowledge. Since the nature of business keeps changing and moving to new stages, mutual knowledge is essential to understand our accelerating world, he said.

Keng Hsu (center) with his classmates

TIEMBA also become a place where classmates could test ideas for future work or business concepts. The group's dynamics expanded Hsu's ability to understand diversity in culture and business in a way that otherwise would not be possible. For example, Hsu said when he was taking a company public on the stock exchange, he was told ESG (environmental, social, governance) was a suggested addition to a company's prospectus. At the time, as ESG was a new area of focus for most companies, there was little guidance on applying this to an IPO filing. One classmate, Natalie Chen, ran a consulting firm focusing on ESG topics for the niche purpose of IPOs. He reached out to her and was able to get much-needed answers about what to provide the bankers via the specialist consulting firm (PIE Strategy). With the help of Chen and other classmates, he found a deeper understanding of the task and how to overcome it. He said he expects these relationships will continue and further blossom as time continues.

Hsu said he would use three words to summarize his journey with TIEMBA: empowering, elevating and family. He said he was empowered by the program with more understanding of his Chinese heritage, deeper business understanding, and a strong alumni network. Hsu said he was proud and privileged to be part of TIEMBA. The program gave him the knowledge to further his career and develop his skills, and to move forward confidently – supported by a family of classmates and alumni.

Source: EMBA Programs