Reuben Ong (BBA/MC '05) is the Director of Hanwha Asset Management in Singapore. He reflects on how the leadership lessons he learned as a student in the Tauber Institute have contributed to his dedication to professionalism and humility throughout his career.
Q: What drew you to the University of Michigan?
I was initially drawn by Michigan's vision of "an uncommon education for the common man" and reputation for all-round academic excellence. That along with the uniquely loyal and passionate alumni base that is ever-present literally thousands of miles away here in sunny Singapore, where I am from, sealed my decision to attend Michigan. Speaking with alumni, you sensed that they genuinely viewed their Michigan experience as something truly special and life-changing. Arriving on campus for the first time and immediately feeling the sense of pride, inclusiveness, and opportunity during the welcome week was something I will never forget - something I hope my 2 young sons will get to experience for themselves one day. For someone who grew up in a tropical climate, the Ann Arbor winters are another story altogether, but you can't win them all!
Q: What sticks with you as important lessons learned while at the Tauber Institute?
I applied for and was fortunate to be accepted by the Tauber Institute as a BBA/MC candidate. I was keen to supplement my business and liberal arts-focused education with exposure to coursework in industrial engineering, particularly in the areas of systems design and product development.
While the Tauber Institute offered truly unique academic opportunities to learn from world-class professors in various operations-focused disciplines, what stuck with me most during my time at the Institute were the life lessons learned during the LeadershipAdvantageSM program - which were delivered through a fantastic combination of instruction, discussion, and real-life case studies.
What I took away most from my time at the Tauber Institute is that the program will create special opportunities for us to develop as leaders and be part of causes and organizations much bigger than ourselves - we have the responsibility to better the lives of our co-workers, customers, and stakeholders and this can be achieved by simply conducting ourselves with the highest level of professionalism and leading with humility.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your work life today?
I currently work as a private equity investor back home in Asia. My job can be simply described as allocating private capital to what we believe to be the best ideas and opportunities within our investment mandate while working with our investee funds and companies to deliver winning outcomes to the ultimate beneficiaries of our investments, many of whom include public servants and pensioners.
The rapid rate of adoption of new technologies across all aspects of the business has driven disruption and change at an unprecedented pace. The way we approach supply chains, product development, and data analytics strategies has changed massively in the space of a few years.
I think what is most challenging (and rewarding!) in my work as an investor is the velocity at which today's world throws ever-changing problems at you to solve, further reinforcing the need to continue being a lifelong student of business while having the flexibility and humility to continually evolve the way you think about critical business issues.
Q: What advice would you give to current or future Tauber students?
The opportunities and camaraderie of the Tauber program are special and unique. I would say pursue the classes and electives you are truly interested in, even if they might seem to have no immediate relevance to your near-term intended course of study or work. Follow your true interests and instincts and "trust that the dots will connect". I was fortunate to have taken elective coursework in ergonomics and product design purely out of interest - today, that particular set of coursework has given me a foundation to understand and appreciate such processes in several investment opportunities across technology, manufacturing, and logistics. Finally, always have fun along the way and embrace all the opportunities to connect with your classmates outside the classroom to hear different perspectives - the tailgates at the Big House and late-night discussions at Ashley's are what you will look back most fondly on at your time in Ann Arbor. As always, Go Blue!