Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Shien-Yin Teo, New York University (Stern)

Shien-Yin Teo

New York University, Stern School of Business

“I’ll try anything once – but I’ll plan as much as I can before!”

Hometown: Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but became Singaporean last year

Fun Fact About Yourself: As a kid, I participated in abacus and mental arithmetic competitions.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Southern California; Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts in Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Accenture; Management Consulting Manager

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? It was a toss-up between the breadth of specializations and number of opportunities for practical learning.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at NYU Stern? What makes you most nervous? I’m really looking forward to being part of a community of like-minded peers, being able to learn from some of the most renowned professors, and getting to experience both in New York City! I’m definitely most nervous about taking accounting and statistics classes – it’s been awhile since I’ve had to deal with numbers in a classroom setting.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? Tech and the City. I’m a big proponent of learning by doing, and what better way to make the pivot to product management during b-school than to actually start immersing myself in it?

What word best describes the NYU Stern classmates you’ve met so far? Why? Warmth! Everyone has been genuinely interested in getting to know their classmates, helping each other out by sharing any and every bit of information they stumble upon, and building a community.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working on the “cutover” plan for a banking acquisition — in layman terms, I was responsible for identifying and planning all of the technology-related activities that need to take place during the weekend where the acquired bank officially becomes a part of the acquirer bank. Everyone from IT, Front Office, HR, Legal, Customer Experience, and the C-suite was involved. With only 48 hours, there was almost no room for error! It really opened my eyes to the inner workings of a bank – and how the different departments interact with each other on a daily basis.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After the M&A gig, I started being staffed as a deployment consultant on all my subsequent assignments;  essentially, I’d work with enterprise clients to plan out how they cut over from existing systems to deploying and using new ones. It became clear that it was going to be my specialization, and I would have been happy to continue on that trajectory as it played to my strengths in problem-solving and stakeholder management. However, I realized that (1) I wanted to work on more B2C products vs. internal enterprise systems and (2) I was curious about doing more “business” type work vs. specializing in technology delivery.

While I did go to undergrad business school, I specialized in finance and didn’t spend as much time on business coursework such as marketing and branding. Working at Accenture also gave me a (much appreciated) crash course in technology and project management, but I wanted to supplement that knowledge with more business acumen.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I considered Columbia and Northwestern, but decided on NYU Stern after doing a campus visit last summer. (Full disclosure: I visited Columbia too, but couldn’t make it to Evanston.)

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? There wasn’t a particular question that stumped me, but I was asked a series of very specific questions about why I wanted to pivot to product management, how I envisioned Stern would help me do that, and how my work and leadership styles would play into that. I had heard, though, that the interview would be highly tailored to what I had written in my application, and it definitely lived up to that word.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started out by shortlisting schools based on diversity of curriculum offerings and recruiting opportunities (I wanted to go to a school that wasn’t “known” for finance and consulting) and location (I wanted to be in, or close to, a major city). I spent a lot of time reading MBA blogs and student reviews and talking to people who had done their MBA at the schools I had shortlisted (and also other ones to understand what they liked and didn’t like about their experiences, so I could keep those things in mind when making my own decision). I also visited two of the schools I had shortlisted, and watched and dialled into webinars.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Spending a lot of time on online channels with my soon-to-be classmates discussing everything from courses, apartments, traveling to the States… and getting through tasks that Stern has set up for us, such as updating resumes, defining action plans, refreshing our Math skills, etc.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? On a recent project, two of my colleagues and I were “seconded” to a 50 member team that was led and staffed by an industry peer. As two companies coming together not because of our own accord – but because of our mutual client – our differences played out in everything from communication styles, issue prioritization, and stakeholder management.

There was a moment where we had to decide whether to communicate a potential delay in the project to our client. My colleagues and I wanted to communicate that earlier, but the rest of the team disagreed. Ultimately, we were able to convince the team that we should do the right thing for our client, even if it wasn’t going to be the easiest. The client was understandably unhappy, but grateful that we had come forward.

This moment reinforced the importance of integrity in doing business. Even though I was a relatively junior “minority” on the team, I knew that deferring to seniority was not the ethically correct thing to do – and also being able to work with people who have different perspectives and priorities from my own. In business school, I’m going to meet and work with people who come from diverse backgrounds, have varying levels of work experience, and have different career goals and objectives. Acknowledging, embracing and collaborating with them is going to be key to both my and their success at Stern.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I have a lot of admiration for how Patagonia strives to make the world a better place for everyone. Stewardship is a value that many organizations claim to uphold, but Patagonia has taken the most bold and concrete actions to practice it. Its commitment to environmental stewardship is evident in how it encourages customers to repair their purchased items instead of buying new ones as replacements. Patagonia is also unparalleled in the ways in which it implements corporate stewardship (providing and subsidizing on-site child care, fully paid maternity and paternity leave).


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