Happy 2021! It’s been more than 4 months since my last article, and maybe you thought I gave up on this blog. Not at all! I recently started on a Master in Technopreneurship and Innovation, and have been busy with projects and assignments over the weekends. Going forward, I will probably be able to share new posts around once a month.

Deciding on and starting this programme was a struggle for me, but I hope this honest sharing encourages you. Knowing how to apply the tools of Career Development doesn’t insulate me from mistakes or feeling doubt and uncertainty.

Background and setback

A reason I left my first job was a desire to be involved in the technology and innovation space. Despite the recognition and success at work, I still felt like an outsider. Although I’ve dabbled with R and VBA, I do not have any certification in fundamental skills like data analytics or programming. Having spent 2 years managing and implementing projects, I thought it was time to take the next step.

Among the skills I wanted to pick-up, I found Artificial Intelligence the most cutting edge and compelling. After searching for a bit, I found an AI course offered at one of the local universities. Aside from affordable tuition fees and part-time schedule, a big draw was no requirement for a primary degree in computing. This made it more accessible for career switchers like me from other disciplines to gain acceptance.

Despite what I thought was a decent interview, my application was rejected. The admissions committee felt I lacked the programming skills to keep up with the pace of classes, advising me to take the modular route. Since I knew I would not have the discipline to finish, I decided to shelve this idea.

Changes at work, stumbling onto the programme

At work, I found myself moving away from project management to business process re-engineering. This involved starting new business functions trying new technological innovations, which I enjoyed. I began to wonder if perhaps I could try starting something of my own instead of always working for a company.

I was still keen to further my studies, so I searched along this new idea. This was when I stumbled across this Master’s programme. It was relatively unknown and unremarkable, not a prestigious programme like an MBA. The positives were an interesting curriculum, straightforward admissions (no GRE/GMAT or academic referee), and generous study awards up to a full bond-free scholarship.

With the COVID-19 pandemic situation worsening, I thought it was a good time to start upskilling. I applied for the programme, with half a mind to reject if I wasn’t able to win at least a study award. Things didn’t quite work out as I thought, however.

Financial grant roller-coaster

Gaining acceptance was not difficult. Besides my degree transcript and CV, I had to get 2 referee reports from my supervisors. I also wrote 2 essays explaining (i) a possible business idea and (ii) how a scholarship will help me reach my goals. After a 1-1 interview, I was offered admission. Getting a scholarship, though, was more stressful than I anticipated.

There are 2 tiers of financial assistance offered by the school: a full scholarship, and a partial study award. Although I attended the panel interview for the partial study award a couple of weeks after accepting admissions, the outcome took a long while to reveal. This made me discouraged and confused as I thought I did well enough to be offered at least an award. As much as I liked the programme, I felt it was not quite worth the price of an MBA. I contemplated dropping the programme, but this meant forfeiting the substantial deposit I had paid. Thankfully, I waited.

Some 2 months later, I realised the reason: I was being considered for the full scholarship. The university was waiting for the second panel interview before informing me of the scholarship decision. I was relieved, but thankful to be considered for a higher tier scholarship I regarded as a moon-shot.

Despite preparing extensively, the one question I didn’t have a good answer to came back to haunt me. The interviewer wanted to know whether I had done anything entrepreneurial before. I hadn’t, so I tried to explain how I had been intrapreneurial at work. Unfortunately, I think they were looking for something more concrete.

I received the outcome of my financial award application soon after. Though I did not win the full scholarship, I was glad for the partial study award.

Reflections after starting

4 months into this 2-year programme, I’m thankful I didn’t give up. What I’ve learnt has helped me understand businesses and start-ups much better. I also gained a new appreciation and respect for marketing, which I used to dismiss as fluff. I look forward to share relevant lessons with you in subsequent articles.

Is it worth the money and time getting a Master’s degree? For me, it is. I want to strengthen my brand as an innovator, learn how to run a business, think like an entrepreneur and connect with like-minded individuals. For these purposes, this programme is a good for me. You need to define your own purpose and value, then decide if the programme you are considering is worth it.

I want to emphasise: the certificate itself doesn’t do anything. Rather, it is what I do with the certificate that matters. Whatever course you choose, it is ultimately what value you create with the knowledge you’ve gained that makes a difference. This value is what gets you noticed, and what wins you the job.

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