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Becoming a better leader

Published on Friday, 18 May 2012
MGSM alumna Lillian Lee has emerged from her studies with a broader management mindset.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

Lillian Lee was born in Canada and finished her education at the University of Calgary, majoring in general management and graduating in 1998. Lee thought Asia might be a better place to pursue her career. 

She was no stranger to Hong Kong and had often travelled here while growing up. She enjoyed teaching English to children at an education centre.  

But things changed drastically in 2003, when Hong Kong was hit by the Sars outbreak and Lee decided to move on.  

She joined CPA Australia as a committees and communication officer, studying part-time for an MBA at Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) from 2004 to 2007. Lee is currently spending quality time with family and friends and preparing to turn a new page in her life.

What prompted you to pursue an MBA?
Basically, it was my boss at CPA Australia who encouraged me to do so. Besides, my parents also greatly supported me. They suggested that I should further my studies for personal development as well as career advancement.

What are the reasons behind your choice of school?
Flexibility to fit into my busy work schedule, a broader choice range of subjects, and the teaching faculty being the same wherever this programme is being taught, as well as the flexible programme structure which allowed me to start with the Master’s programme and articulate into the MBA track. Besides, I like the fact that the teachers all come from Australia.

Did you fund your own studies or did your company subsidise the costs?
My company partly subsidised the costs.

How did you balance the demands of your job and your studies?

Even with good time management skills, there were still times when you would have to sacrifice your studies for work. One of the great things about MGSM is that the teaching staff are all very understanding and helpful. They would ask you to come earlier to the next lesson to catch up if you missed the previous lesson. Also, if you have any questions, they can be contactable by e-mail and phone. I was also very lucky to have great colleagues and classmates who helped me out with my studies and provided emotional support.

What were the major challenges of your MBA studies?

It must be managing the rigorous study structure and intensive course work and assessment. Besides, working in a group comprised of students from different industries, experiences and countries is no doubt another challenge. In fact, it is definitely challenging at the beginning when you didn’t know your classmates, but it got easier once you got to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

During your studies, what kind of support did you get?
I definitely got a lot of support from the company I worked for at the time. For example, when I had to attend class at certain nights, I was allowed to leave earlier. The professors offered me assistance, such as being reachable either by e-mail or phone any time. Studying while working was no easy task, as sometimes I felt so unmotivated. I have to thank my family and classmates, who gave me great emotional support. My classmates were all very friendly. We were like a big family.

How did you expect your MBA to help you with your career or personal life?
At first, I was hoping for a promotion at work, but I gained much more. By the time I finished, I had five team members reporting to me. MGSM places great emphasis on providing updated content and practical tools, as well as lots of management and leadership experience sharing. It has helped me become a better leader with a broader management mindset.

What happened to your career right after graduation? How do you see yourself several years down the road?
The programme did help me fulfil my dream of getting a promotion. One year after graduation, my team expanded to nine members. The following year, I changed to a regional role and established a new Asia marketing team. Last year, I changed to work for another organisation and relocated to Singapore to complete a one-year stint with one of the Big Four accounting firms.


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