Preparing students for the global workplace

With the cosmopolitan nature of the current workforce, the ability to work with people of different cultures and nationalities has become increasingly important now, more than ever.

With that in mind, the GE Global Leader program was organised to inculcate cultural intelligence in students in preparation for them to work in a global setting.

Organised in collaboration between General Electric (GE), Common Purpose, and Monash University Malaysia on 18 September 2017, the four-day event saw 34 local and international students from various varsities in Malaysia participating.  

During the program, students were exposed to numerous activities that surrounded the theme of ‘How do smart cities ensure that they are inclusive’.

This included activities that explored the diversity and the differences of opinion and experience of participants; the diversity of views surrounding leadership; along with field trips to several companies.

In his opening speech, Ong Pan Yen, Executive Director of Monash Malaysia, shared the remarkable growth of Sunway City from a tin mine in the 70s and 80s to the satellite city it is now. He also touched on how transformative leadership helped in its creation, as we see it today.

“In the case of Sunway City, Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, Chairman of Sunway Group, took it upon himself to transform the landscape of this city,” said Ong.

Elaborating further on leadership, Ong explained that there are many levels of leadership, adding that at a higher level, leadership becomes more purposeful, and involves making life better and helping to make the world a better place.

Linking this back to the development in Sunway, Ong highlighted how Tan Sri demonstrated these qualities in the development of the township.

“Of course he can’t do all these alone. You need to have conviction and then you need to have a team around you. He had this vision of restoring the ecosystem, if you go down history, you can see how Sunway has transformed.

“It is not an easy job - first you must have a vision, then you must be able to work with people, share with them your conviction, convince them, then stick to, and execute your plan. Leadership means working with people,” he shared.

The success of a student entering the working world very much hinges on a few crucial skills that needs to be harnessed. Innovation and leadership, just to name a few, are imperative in shaping the future of students.

To this end, General Electric has built on its reputation of developing a continuous stream of leaders and placing innovation at the core of its existence to cement its position as one of the foremost conglomerates in the world.

“General Electric is one of the 12 companies that started the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. The other 11 are no longer in existence now. The reason GE has stood the test of time is because it continuously innovates and changes. We invented the first MRI machine. Seventy-percent of jet engines in the world are made by GE, and 50% of all the power that is generated in the world is derived from equipment made by GE,” said Mark Rozario, CEO of General Electric, Malaysia, in his opening remarks.

“There are lot of inventors from universities, but it is really not worth anything unless you commercialise it, and that’s what GE is really good at. GE cultivates leadership, and this program is all about leadership. GE invests a tremendous amount in developing leaders, we spend about US$1 billion just on leadership programs,” he added.

Meanwhile, Archana Bhaskar, Senior Program Manager (Asia-Pacific), Common Purpose, Student Experiences, shared some thoughts on the boundaries that exists between people of different backgrounds and how these boundaries are overcome.

“People are initially quite hung-up about the way they view things, but the minute you put them with people who are different, they have a better sense of what they feel, and a clearer sense of things. The minute they open their minds to another perspective, they end up learning more about themselves and about other races, cultures, and how to navigate through diversity,” she said.

Hannah Silvasich, an Australian MBA student at Monash Malaysia, shared her experience having chosen Jakarta, Indonesia for a posting, without having any prior knowledge about the place.

“I didn’t know anything about Jakarta. I landed on day one seeing the slums. The sheer poverty surprised me. The expatriates in the office had bets on me not surviving. They thought it would be too much of a culture shock. I proved them all wrong and I outlasted some of them,” she said.

She accentuated the importance of resilience and willingness to open our eyes to the outside world.

“I did not just survive in Jakarta, but I flourished. Resilience is one word that is still stuck with me today. As a person, we can live, work, and study anywhere. We shouldn’t be limited by boundaries, or nationalities,” she added.

Meanwhile Sai Aishwarya Chelliah, a final year Mechanical Engineering student of Monash University Malaysia, shared some home truths about Malaysians in terms of stereotyping people and highlighted the importance of learning how to appreciate people from different backgrounds.

“When students from Monash’s Australian campus come here, no one really sits and mingles with them. We Asians tend to stick together with our own people. I think over the years I have realised that we should take a step back and study the communities of the people of where they come from and realise that there’s a certain personality and value that they bring from their own country that we can learn from,” she explained.

Aishwarya also spoke glowingly about the objective of the program, having spent time studying with students from all over the world in Monash.

“I think the skillsets that I learn will be used not just in a multicultural working environment, but also when you’re dealing with individuals because they have tailored the program in such a way that helps us pick up or sharpen certain skills which are essentially PR skills,” she added.