The Chicago Approach Lives in Singapore


Our team recently had the opportunity to attend the - Executive MBA Council - conference in Singapore last month. - - One of the benefits to hosting the conference in Asia was the proximity to very senior industry leaders from the region. I was pleased to hear their perspectives on the business landscape during several panel discussions, but one in particular stood out.

During a session entitled “Leaders on Leadership Training,” we had the chance to hear from one of our Executive MBA - Asia alumnae, Goh Swee Chen, ’03 (AXP-2). Swee Chen serves as Chairperson of Shell Companies in Singapore and Vice President for Commercial Fuels and Lubricants - Asia Pacific, where she directs fuels and lubricants businesses in more than 10 Asia Pacific countries.

When addressing her experience at Chicago Booth, Swee Chen began by mentioning that no single rulebook guides decision making these days. “You wake up not knowing what will happen every day,” she said. “External shocks - floods, policy changes, etc. - can happen at any time.”  She explained that the Chicago Booth MBA helped her develop the ability to “think": to take pieces of information, connect the dots and draw conclusions to make good decisions. These skills, she reflected, are the keys to running successful businesses with integrity.

She continued by saying that it is no longer enough to be a big charismatic personality to head a business; you need to actually have hard skills, the ability to think holistically and use those skills to run ethical and successful businesses.

This resonated with me very strongly because it demonstrates the Chicago Approach in action and how Swee Chen uses it on a daily basis at the top levels of management at one of the world’s largest energy and petrochemicals companies.

At Chicago Booth, our approach to business education focuses on providing students with different lenses with which to look at problems. We provide a basis in fundamental disciplines like Economics, Psychology, Sociology, and a set of frameworks that allow our alumni to attack any problem that is presented. It’s not a set of pat answers to already asked questions; it’s a way to approach any problem that is in front of you - anticipated or not - in a rigorous, systematic and data-driven way. It was great to hear Swee Chen personally share how the approach that she learned here has helped her to be successful in her role.

Richard Johnson