2020 MBAs To Watch: Corinne Mae M. Ablaza, National University of Singapore

Corinne Mae M. Ablaza        

National University of Singapore Business School

Philippine energy developer turned global sustainability banker, but also an island girl who teaches yoga.”

Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Fun fact about yourself: I am a certified yoga instructor. I took a short hiatus from work to pursue one of my lifelong dreams of taking an intensive 200-hour yoga teacher training. I teach yoga not because of profit, but because I believe in the benefits that the practice has for the mind and body. I want to help people who need healing both mentally and physically.

I am also a florist. I founded a floral styling and online delivery business back in the Philippines which made a 54% net profit margin in my first year of operations.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of the Philippines Diliman – Bachelor of Science in Business Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Energy Development Corporation (EDC), Head of Strategic Planning & Budget

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale (NORD/LB) under Structured Finance, Singapore

Where will you be working after graduation? Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale (NORD/LB) as a Structured Finance Associate for renewable energy & infrastructure investments

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  1. The NUS MBA Achiever Award Recipient
  2. Vice President of The NUS MBA Students’ Council AY 2018-2019, overseeing Council operations and 12 MBA Clubs’ schedule, budget, and activities
  3. Co-Founder of The NUS MBA Sandbox Speaker Series
  4. Head of Assistant Facilitators of The NUS MBA Launch Your Transformation Program
  5. NUS Business School Class Ambassador
  6. Class Champion for Commencement Class Giving 2020
  7. Represented The NUS MBA at the Graduate Business Conference 2019 held in Paris
  8. Moderator for the NUS Business School Postgraduate Fair 2019
  9. Student Ambassador for The NUS MBA Experience Day 2019

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was selected to lead 10 other MBA peers as Head of the Assistant Facilitators for The NUS MBA’s flagship “Launch Your Transformation” program. The compulsory program was an intensive five-day management communications boot camp for the new intake of MBA candidates. What we made them do was not easy, as we pushed the students out of their comfort zones in a safe and supportive environment.

In my section, I remember one Japanese student who was very quiet and reserved. He really struggled to deliver a short speech in front of an audience as he often forgot his words and felt so nervous. As his facilitator, I asked him to deliver his entire speech again but this time in his native language. Although the majority of the audience did not understand Japanese, his energy level and his presentation delivery changed immediately! He was confident and expressive, and everyone in the room could feel the sudden change in how he communicated. Throughout the week, he worked on his communication skills. We trained him to deliver in English but with the same confidence as he would deliver in his own mother tongue. It was so fulfilling to see my fellow MBAs, whom I mentored, become more confident and outspoken after participating in this five-day boot camp.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At NORD/LB, I helped to close a 100MW solar portfolio deal (50MW refinancing and 50MW plant to be constructed) in Australia. The transaction is the largest certified green loan by an Australian renewable energy company and its combined portfolio is expected to generate renewable energy sufficient to power ~49,000 homes, or an equivalent of ~225,000 tonnes of C02 per year.

This deal is close to my heart because this was my first finance deal since I took a leap of faith to make a career switch, which also involved a move to Singapore and a change in the industry. I was so accustomed to building energy projects from a developer’s perspective. This time around, it was very refreshing and insightful to be working from the other side of the fence as a financier. This experience allows me to move closer towards my goal of contributing to sustainability and growing clean energy investments, particularly in developing markets.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Assistant Professor Joel Goh was my professor for Managerial Operations and Analytics. Apart from his impressive credentials, I am amazed by the high energy he brings to every single class. I will always remember the practical and valuable lessons he taught through case studies and his own personal experience. Through him, I stretched my thinking and developed a rigorous framework of approaching a business problem. I can truly say that taking his class alone made my experience at The NUS MBA worthwhile!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The annual MBA Olympics is easily my favourite tradition. The Olympics is a great opportunity to come together as one NUS MBA family in friendly sports matches with the other five MBA schools in Singapore. The competitive spirit and camaraderie of the NUS MBA students come alive during this period, as we spend days (and nights!) practising and preparing for the different sporting events in order to maintain our title as the defending champion for three consecutive years! It shows that the NUS MBA students are not only intellectually gifted but well-rounded and athletic too!

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the NUS MBA because I knew this was the place to be if I wanted to advance my career with a particular focus on the fast-growing economies in Asia. Born and raised in the Philippines, I understand the struggles and challenges faced by developing countries. I know in my heart I wanted to serve my country. First, I needed to learn from more progressive economies like Singapore. This beautiful country is a melting pot of diverse cultures with very efficient systems and disciplined society. As we can see with all the developments today, the opportunities in Singapore are endless and The NUS MBA in Asia’s best business school is a clear pathway for me to tap into the richness of what the Lion City has to offer.

 What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Understand yourself and your motivations for applying to a B-school. Once you have created a deeper self-awareness, you can now set your intentions and goals. NUS Business School looks beyond academic qualifications or achievements to focus more on your aspirations and your potential. Since The NUS MBA has a great student/faculty ratios with accessible interaction with the faculty, the school carefully handpicks each unique individual based on the diversity he or she can bring to the table. If your authentic self is clearly reflected in your application and manifested during the interview, then your chances of getting in can increase!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Many people perceive the NUS MBA program as heavy on theories as opposed to actual application. The first semester may be more focused on knowledge and hard skills as core modules are introduced to strengthen our fundamentals. However, through club activities and access to the larger communities at NUS, I was exposed to numerous networking and industry learning opportunities. I also had the chance to participate in several case competitions and a global immersion program to London.

By the second semester, I was able to leverage the foundation established in the earlier semester and really dive deep into areas I found most interesting. This was through the myriad of elective modules and the experiential learning component which provided me with additional practical experience. For example, through the MBA Consulting Project, I spent five months guiding a non-profit organisation (NPO) to develop its long-term strategic plan. My consulting team and I conducted intensive research and analysis and presented our findings and recommendations to the NPO’s board members.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could repeat my MBA experience all over again, I would take the opportunity to immerse myself even more in the extracurricular activities and events the MBA clubs offered. There is never an uneventful weekend throughout the program and before I knew it, the 17 months just flew by so fast! Looking back, I would have attended more industry talks, participated in more interactive workshops, and joined more networking events even if it was not my targeted industry or area of interest. There was so much to learn by just being there.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Shikha Malhotra because of her strong passion and proactive advocacy for gender balance and women empowerment. This is not just among peers but throughout the entire school. She is a natural leader and influencer who has made a strong impact to the school in so many ways, including connecting people together, moderating external panel discussions, and representing the NUS MBA across the globe.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Growing up, my father was a huge influence in my education and career choices. His extensive experience in clean energy solutions and passion for addressing climate change inspired me to also pursue an energy and sustainability track. My father spent close to two decades in the clean energy industry working in at least 12 Asian markets. He shared with me the challenges and roadblocks he often encountered, as well as creative business approaches to address these issues. He once told me that he was working towards creating a sustainable future which he may not even be a part. This is what inspired me to keep learning, keep solving problems in ways I can, and keep sustaining what we have for future generations.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I want to lead the closing of a large clean energy investment project in Asia. Second, I want to grow my own business venture to support climate and sustainable investments in developing markets, particularly for my home country, the Philippines.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as a person who helps others, a person who leads by example, and a person who makes things happen.

Hobbies? When I’m not on my desk, you can find me practicing yoga on the mat, cooking in the kitchen, or swimming in the sea (as a born and raised island girl on the beautiful beaches of the Philippines).

What made Corinne Mae M. Ablaza such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Corinne has been an influential and effective student leader in her MBA cohort and has continued to be a well-liked and respected member and contributor of the NUS MBA community. During her MBA candidature, Corinne integrated well into our diverse cohort with students from more than 20 cities, actively contributing to numerous group assignments and case studies and securing good grades.

Corinne also struck a good balance between academics and active participation in the program’s experiential learning and extra-curricular school activities. Most notably, she was one of the student leaders responsible for organising numerous student-led initiatives and impact projects. Corinne has been an excellent ambassador of MBAs in general and the NUS MBA in particular. I am confident that she will continue her strong contributions and make the NUS MBA proud of her accomplishments as an alumna.”

Associate Professor Nitin Pangarkar
Academic Director, The NUS MBA Program
National University of Singapore Business School


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