By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Hands up if you thought that the career trajectories of political science majors were limited to public service or international diplomacy. The truth is, political science — and most other disciplines of social science, for that matter — can springboard a career in nonprofit work, private enterprise, education, media, and, of course, politics and policy. In today’s globalised economy, the skills of research, analysis and communication nurtured by the study of social sciences have proven vital and versatile in a broad range of industries.
Relatedly, a polytechnic education is known for offering students exposure to real-world opportunities and challenges. Building on the competencies gleaned from a diploma programme, a degree in the social sciences can prepare graduates to become global changemakers, adept at navigating an increasingly borderless and collaborative economy.
Polytechnic and SMU graduate Darren Yeo, now an SMB Sales Representative (Pakistan, Indochina and Brunei) at Amazon Web Services (AWS), found that the SMU Bachelor of Social Science (BSocSc) degree enabled him to be agile in tackling complexities and solving problems — a dexterity that is especially valuable in a world with increasingly blurred boundaries.
“A lot of companies have based their Asia-Pacific or ASEAN headquarters in Singapore, and regional relevance is a key criterion for any job opening,” notes Darren, who was first offered an internship at AWS when a recruiter learnt that he had undergone an overseas internship with a startup in Jakarta, Indonesia, through SMU.
“As a political science major at SMU, we gain a lot of exposure studying political systems outside of Singapore. For example, the module ‘International Relations in East Asia’ focuses on relationships between countries in the region. It helps us to breakdown the complexities of these relationships, and explains why countries act the way they do.”
Through the global lens
As Darren navigates the diverse markets of Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos in his current role, he realises how politics and culture are also very much interrelated. Often, a country’s political situation reverberates through everyday lives, touching all echelons of society, interactions, tradition, and economy. Knowledge of international relations deepens the awareness of cross-cultural sensitivities and empowers better communication among colleagues and clients from other nations.
“We tend to shun the subject of politics. But if you’re able to approach politics from an objective perspective and not from an emotional point of view, discussions on politics can make quite good conversations,” he candidly quips.
Moreover, the SMU School of Social Sciences (SOSS)’s interdisciplinary approach nurtures students to be well-rounded, insightful, and versatile in tackling problems from multiple perspectives: It offers four primary majors – Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, and PLE (Politics, Law and Economics), and three second majors – Arts and Culture Management, Global Asia, and Public Policy and Public Management. To give students an extra edge, they are also encouraged to read a second major or a second degree programme at the other SMU schools.
Insights into building meaningful interactions
For Darren, being able to delve into modules across majors and even Schools provided wider and deeper insights into human behaviour that helps guide his strategies in regional sales. For example, psychology and sociology modules shed light on how individuals may receive and respond to information in unique ways.
“The study of social sciences makes you sensitive to the fact that humans are different. You’re aware that people react based on their social backgrounds, psychology, or the political systems that they live in,” shares Darren. “Being in sales allows me to meet people from all walks of life every day, and having this constantly at the back of my mind allows me to adapt my interactions accordingly.”
Traversing the journey from poly and uni, into the working world
Darren’s personable nature was cultivated as a Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, studying Tourism and Resort Management. There, he discovered a passion for interacting with people from all corners of the globe but was not sure that the hospitality industry was a right fit for him.
He banked on the competencies he had picked up in polytechnic to further his education at SMU. Although he was also offered a place in another university, Darren recalls being drawn to the seminar-style classes and smaller class sizes at SMU. Having juggled multiple projects with different teams, and undergone the assessment structure prevalent in polytechnics, his transition to SMU was made all the more smoother.
“The volume of group and project work might come as a shock for some freshmen, but coming from a polytechnic, I was already familiar with that,” remarks Darren.
“Writing papers was part and parcel of the tourism and resort management programme, so it was a very natural transition in terms of the work format. And, of course, polytechnic taught me the importance of internships, which is emphasised at SMU.”
The ability to craft compelling narratives came in handy at AWS. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made headlines for banning Powerpoint presentations in meetings, favouring “narrative memos” instead. The rationale is that the creation of such memos requires clarity of thought on a certain subject.
Having produced an average of five papers a semester during his time at SOSS, Darren had honed his writing chops. His intellectual lucidity and effectiveness at communicating were also strengthened at SOSS with the help of dedicated faculty who steadfastly guide students on how to discern key content from academic readings in order to develop cogent arguments.
Ultimately, Darren enjoyed the flexibility of an SMU degree and being able to take modules from other disciplines at SMU. He even counts ‘Spreadsheet Modelling and Analytics’ offered by SMU’s School of Computing and Information Systems among one of the most useful modules.
“Try to explore the flexibility that you are given as an SOSS student,” says Darren.
“The social sciences are your core, they are what you’re comfortable with. But just because you’re comfortable doesn’t mean you should just stick with it. Break out of your comfort zone and seize the opportunity to broaden your learning.”
Ready for the multidisciplinary and transformational education SMU has to offer? Apply to the Bachelor of Social Science today!