2021 MBAs To Watch: Maria Katrina Volante, National University of Singapore

Maria Katrina Volante

National University of Singapore, NUS Business School

“Go-getter. Knowledge warrior. A proud Filipina determined to create ripples of change in the community.”

Hometown: Metro Manila, Philippines

Fun fact about yourself:
I am a magnet for fun misadventures.
Exhibit A: I once signed up for an off-road motorcycle cliff ride, not knowing I will share the same regular-sized motorbike with five other adults.
Exhibit B: I spelunked while wearing doll shoes and carrying a leather bag as I had no idea that we were going inside a cave. Unexpected moments are always the best!

Undergraduate School and Degree:
University of the Philippines – Diliman
Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Strategy Associate, Manila Electric Company (Philippines)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? BillionBricks (Singapore)

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:


  • President, The NUS MBA Energy Club
  • Co-Editor, The NUS MBA Student-Led Newsletter
  • Ambassador, The NUS MBA Programme – Class of 2021
  • Member, Women in Energy Asia
  • Member, World Vision – Women of Vision

Awards and Recognitions

  • Sole Recipient, The NUS-Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Scholarship
  • Student Leadership Awardee 2020, Graduate Business Forum
  • Global Finalist, Kellogg Energy Case Competition 2020
  • Regional Finalist, Venture Capital Investment Competition 2020
  • Silver Medalist, Lawn Tennis – Mixed Doubles, MBA Olympics 2020
  • Women We Admire, Women in Energy, Enrupt

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?
Receiving the Graduate Business Forum Student Leadership Award (SLA) in recognition of my achievements as first female president of The NUS MBA Energy Club has been one of the key highlights of my MBA journey. The SLA is conferred to MBA students from across the globe who have exemplified leadership, innovation, and commitment within the business school community and beyond. I was deeply honoured to raise the NUS flag up high and represent women leaders in a male-dominated industry.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am the first in my family to pursue an MBA abroad. We come from humble beginnings and having earned this incredible opportunity to study at a prestigious business school is a huge achievement by itself. I know this is just the start of even greater things in my career.

Why did you choose this business school? Experts say that the global economic centre of gravity is shifting towards the east, and so it will be strategic for me to gain exposure and establish my professional network in Asia. NUS was the best choice for me given its strong regional focus, excellent reputation, and alumni network. On top of that, it is strategically located in Singapore, one of the world’s most innovative and competitive economies, where several multinational corporations operate and a vibrant, multicultural society lives.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?
It would be Associate Professor Joel Goh, my Managerial Operations and Analytics professor and one of Poets & Quants “Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professors.” Beyond his impressive credentials, his passion towards teaching is what I truly admire. During class, Professor Joel creates a positive, engaging, and safe atmosphere which inspires us students to broaden our thinking and speak our minds. Even outside the classroom, he makes it a point to get to know his students and give career advice via coffee chats and group lunch sessions.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
I wish I were bolder, braver, and more open in terms of attending networking sessions, reaching out to people even if they were not from my area of interest, and signing up for totally unfamiliar classes. There is never a better time to explore and test your limits, both personally and professionally, than during the MBA.

What surprised you the most about business school? I always had this impression that the environment in the business school is cutthroat and highly competitive. To my surprise, it turned out to be very collaborative and nurturing. On The NUS MBA, we often say “high challenge, high support.” Yes, schoolwork can be demanding, but your classmates, professors, and school administration are always willing to guide, help, and motivate you every step of the way.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I personally visited the NUS campus and had a chat with an admissions manager prior to submitting my application. I thought that simple initiative was helpful as it allowed me to ask and learn more about the programme beyond what could be found in brochures and websites. Further, it helped me reflect on how well the programme fits my career aspirations, which in turn was useful as I wrote my essays and prepared for the interview.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am very fortunate to have met many inspiring people in my cohort. Probably the one I admire the most is Kelvin Ling, a part-time MBA student, manager at a global energy firm, cleantech startup founder, competitive runner, and a dad to two kids. He is evidently our cohort’s superman, and I am amazed by how well he manages to wear multiple hats at the same time. His passion, humility, and character are truly commendable.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?
The MBA experience is all about interactions and peer-to-peer learning, and it was hard to imagine going through this journey with just a Zoom gallery in front of you. The first few months were difficult, but NUS Business School was quick to adapt and ensure that the pandemic did not significantly disrupt our learning experience. Classes were conducted in hybrid teaching mode, educators were re-trained to teach hybrid effectively, face-to-face events were held to the maximal extent possible, and digital channels were maximized to sustain engagement. Eventually, students got used to the new normal and have started to regain, if not improve, their drive, focus, and productivity.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was inspired by my dad to pursue further studies. He is in the development management sector and has done extensive consultancy work in emerging markets. I admire his grassroots approach in making the world a better place, and I am hoping I could achieve even just a small fraction of what he has accomplished so far. I thought pursuing an MBA and exposing myself to global realities would better equip me in following his footsteps.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Work in a multicultural environment and lead a diverse, talented team.
  2. Become a mentor to young professionals.

What made Kat such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Kat has packed in an amazing number of activities and accomplishments into her MBA journey. I also heard Kat talk about her personal experiences in a series of talks and was impressed by the adversity she has overcome by this stage in her life. I am also struck by her commitment to broader causes such as women’s issues and clean energy. Kat is one well-rounded MBA student who is going to make a big splash in the business world.”

Professor Nitin Pangarkar
Academic Director, The NUS MBA