Magdalene Loh, an alumna of TIEMBA Class of 2016, is the Senior Vice President and Head of Innovation at Prudential Singapore (“Prudential”). Under her leadership, Prudential received recognition from APIX (API Exchange platform which counts amongst its co-founders the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the World Bank’s IFC) as an Anchor FI. Magdalene also received the Innovation at Work Award at the 2021 APIX Awards for her personal contributions in advancing FinTech entrepreneurship and innovation. Magdalene first started her entrepreneurship journey with one of her classmates during her time at TIEMBA (Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA programme). During this interview, she summarizes her work journey into three words derived from the Holland Code vocational assessment: E-Entrepreneurial, C- Conventional, and S-Social, or in other words, “to be helpful and have lots of fun” in her ongoing pursuit of an ikigai life with a meaningful career.
Thanks for sharing your story, Magdalene! This interview was originally published by Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA.
Entrepreneur: Multi-Fields Profession
“To be entrepreneurially useful, we have to be adaptive, adapting and learning to the new situation and tasks quickly. Once we have grasped understanding and knowledge, we are able to ask the right questions, get things done and innovate to help everybody get better outcomes.”
Making a contribution to the corporation, denotes her to be a better self.
Magdalene obtained her undergraduate study at the National University of Singapore in Law, engaging in her career as a lawyer after graduation for a few years in Singapore. That was the time that enabled her to be specialized and professional in the legal field. She later joined Prudential as in-house counsel. With the experience accumulated, she built up her trustworthy image and reputation with people around. She was engaged and deep into the law fields to be knowledgeable.
Opportunities knocked when her leader recognized her talent and profession. In 2010, she was invited to join the regional office in Hong Kong, first as Regional Legal Counsel and then, in 2014, taking on a green field role as Director, Government Relations. Reporting to a career diplomat, Magdalene set up the GR function across the 13 markets that Prudential was in at that time. Even though she had little knowledge at the beginning, Magdalene responded with deep observation and desktop research before taking the lead and learning from her boss to efficiently understand the context and underlying logic. She highlighted that in encountering something totally novel, the key to get the most out of the opportunity is “never stop learning”. With all the effort, she obtained the sense of achievement from formalizing all the critical government relations work as a full-fledged function within Prudential, building up the framework, and then scaling it across all the business units across Asia ultimately.
Conventional: Inner and Outer Innovation
“To be conventionally useful, we have to understand the context, help to build up corporate culture and alien innovators to managers so that mutual understanding would help accelerate the process. Make sure that everyone in the team is innovative so that the whole team moves forward to the future.”
Making innovation in the community, inspires her to be a better self.
During her time with TIEMBA, Magdalene met her co-founder there who was her classmate, exciting her with the spirit of continuous learning. She then started her first entrepreneurship adventure. The key takeaway was again continuous learning, recombining, and re-constructing, and being innovative. Evolving a start-up means she had to have very board-based knowledge and master all the kinds of stuff. She learnt a lot from the experience, and especially became a more competent all-rounder, and helping the startup build up a solid foundation in the process.
Thanks to the start-up experience, Magdalene was able to smoothly transit to head up Innovation at Prudential Singapore when the opportunity arose. Her first priority in this corporate innovation role was to actively inspire other colleagues to be disruptive this time. Corporate culture and internal incentives mechanisms are critical to smoothen out the innovative constraints. A key part of Magdalene’s role is to ask the right questions, quickly gain a good understanding the key ideas and to be the bridge between talents and business owners, mobilizing more colleagues and teams to deliver innovative new projects. Her achievements also include being the value stream lead to deliver the then-groundbreaking e-claims AI solution in 2018 as well as helping Prudential to be the first insurer in Singapore to offer its Integrated Shield Plan on an app in 2020. Magdalene continues to push the boundaries of corporate innovation in her latest projects focused on nutrition and on scaling innovation across the Prudential Group globally, driven by the desire to help Prudential’s customers and community get the most out of life.
Social: Career Design to Make a Difference
“To be socially useful, we aim to help generations improve the sense of career so that they can be acknowledged and prepared for the future during the early stage of their life. We help social mobility through building up children’s career scopes and mindset.”
Shouldering the responsibility to society encourages her to be a better self.
Outside of her Prudential work, Magdalene is a career game designer. The career simulation game she designed is based on the academically peer-reviewed WITGRITFIT framework and it helps students and young adults build up their sense to know, understand and consider the nature of future careers. Games are disruptive and effective to engage Gen Z participants to understand how to better navigate the world of careers through role-play and scenario design so that they are able to grasp career knowledge gradually. Through playing with over 5,000 students and young adults, it has been observed that children understand and internalize career principles better compared to learning in the classroom or instructors.
Magdalene is passionate about career design as it helps with social equity: many studies have shown that children from low-income and underprivileged backgrounds often have less exposure to the more prestigious or better-paying careers. By starting career conversations at a younger age and in a manner that resonates with these young people through the game environment, we empower them to explore and access good careers by taking the right courses and internships earlier on. Combining the very effective learning tool of “Live-action role-play” with solid academic research in career design has now helped over 5,000 students and young adults better prepare for careers and help them to be ready for the future competition and become more socially mobile.
Magdalene is always motivated by the desire to contribute to others, the company, and society as a whole. During her time with TIEMBA, she met her lifelong friends who inspired her to continue learning and engaged her to the first start-up experience, which fundamentally led her life further to be adaptive and disruptive. She thanked the opportunities that Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA expanded her social circles where she encountered various talented persons who can be inspiring business partners, friends, and even life mentors.
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As a participant, you will exchange perspectives within an elite, dynamic, culturally diverse class of experienced managers and be part of two powerful alumni networks. TIEMBA is where life-changing leadership development meets the technical mastery of key business disciplines. And both make an immediate impact on your organization. It is the best of East and West, learning and working, technical knowledge and soft skills — in a single programme.
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