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Strategy by name, strategy by nature: The valuable life lesson you learn in the world’s best MIM program

For Victor Ong, the Strategy & International Management (SIM) program at the University of St.Gallen was about three things: strategy, solutions, and society. He told MASTERGRADSCHOOLS how learning about strategy helped him to see the bigger picture - in both his life and his career.

In short

How the SIM encourages you to leave your comfort zone

Victor Ong may have graduated from the St.Gallen SIM almost 10 years ago, but the lessons he learned during the program are still relevant to his career and personal life today.

SIM stands for “Strategy and International Management,” and it’s the strategy part of the program that continues to have the biggest effect on Victor. Now back working in his native Singapore as a Finance Manager at the Ministry of National Development, he told MASTERGRADSCHOOLS how exposure to real-life scenarios brought to life classroom theories about strategy.

“The teaching faculty is outstanding,” he says. “There are real-life scenarios where you actually get to go to companies, hear CEOs talk about business strategies and think about better ways to devise better strategies.” (00:28)

So far, so normal. Many similar management programs around the world would also claim to help you apply the learnings from the classroom to the workplace. But in the SIM, there’s a slightly different twist on it. 

Because of a unique rule that the program has in place, students are forced to apply these learnings in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s something that not only instills an international mindset in its students, but also shows them how the things they learn during the program can be applied in any professional setting in the world.

“There’s a rule in place on the SIM program whereby you’re not able to do your internship or your humanitarian project in Switzerland or your home country. It really encourages you to leave your comfort zone,” says Victor. (00:43)

Learning to find the missing pieces of the puzzle

The St.Gallen SIM is a world-renowned program and has been named the best Master in Management in the world for 12 years straight by the Financial Times. The reasons for that are numerous, but among them is the program’s focus on the bigger picture. Strategy by name, strategy by nature.

But, when St.Gallen teaches strategy, they don’t teach SIM students a template that they can simply cut and paste into different scenarios. Victor says during the SIM he learned the importance of being able to adapt a strategy depending on different factors – something that is brought into even greater focus in a place like Singapore.

“SIM for me stands for strategy in motion. It also means that strategy must be relevant to society. Living in a multicultural society like Singapore, which is very welcoming to foreigners, we must also think about how our strategy affects each and every person in society – and then understand whether there are better strategies,” he explains. (01:49)

This helps SIM students to look beyond obvious or proven solutions to business challenges. By placing a business challenge in a wider context, you can start to better consider the ramifications your decision may have on wider society.

“It teaches you to think beyond the intuitive solution and see whether there are missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that form a better solution. So, you learn not to go immediately for the simple, tested, and proven solution, but to assemble pieces to create stunning architecture,” he says. (01:05)

From SIM to Singapore

Victor emphasizes that the name recognition of the SIM program goes a long way. It goes without saying, he believes, that a graduate of the St.Gallen SIM is well-prepared for success in the world of business.

“That is the advantage of studying St.Gallen University’s SIM program,” he tells us. “The identity of a ‘SIMmie’ is very recognized and there is a continuity regardless of which country you decide to continue your career in.” (03:10)

Fittingly, Victor’s renewed focus on strategy and seeing the bigger picture allowed him to take a step back after his graduation to consider his next steps in life. Having met his now wife in Switzerland, they decided they wanted to apply the concepts they learned during the program to their home nation of Singapore.

“We decided to continue our career back in Singapore to try and contribute to this small island nation,” he shares. “We wanted to see how we could apply the concepts of the SIM’s strategy in motion in the respective areas that we work in.” (02:36)

Victor’s SIM experience taught him many things, but perhaps chief of all was the ability to take a step back and assess the bigger picture. It’s something that can be applied not only in business, but in life itself. Maybe it wasn’t the lesson he was expecting to learn in the program, but it’s the one that ended up shaping the next steps in his life.

If you’d like to get in touch with SIM students directly, head to the

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