Insights from an Insider: Joseph Hwang

By the SMU Digital Marketing Team

The pace of change in today’s dynamic work environment requires a workforce that possesses skills and knowledge extending beyond what traditional university education provides. To address this, SMU’s interactive pedagogy and experiential learning framework prepares students for the realities of a fast-changing economy. Notably, its curriculum integrates real-world experience into programmes such as SMU-X, where students work with actual clients to solve problems; and student-led activities and clubs (CCAs) to give them a “safe” training ground to develop their skill sets and explore their interests.

SMU School of Social Sciences undergraduate Joseph Hwang heartily endorses the university’s approach, citing his years with co-curricular club Conjunct Consulting, Southeast Asia’s first social change consultancy, as a catalyst for picking up “key transferrable skills including communicating and liaising between tech groups and users”.

He adds: “Best of all, it was where I learnt to manage projects and create large-scale positive impacts in the social sector, even as a student.”


Joseph (left) with fellow members of Conjunct Consulting

Joseph (left) with fellow members of Conjunct Consulting


Hi Joseph, please share with us an important soft skill picked up from your time with SMU.

Recognising the importance of having empathy for people I work with at such an early stage of my working life has pushed me to develop and polish this core skill. Employing empathy in the way I communicate has improved my experiences in various aspects of my life. This ability to connect various groups has also helped me to do well in my product-management and solutions-architect internships.


What is a module that has left a great impact on you?

The SMU-X module called Leadership and Team Building, during which our team worked with IBM’s corporate social responsibility department to develop a coding curriculum for underprivileged youths in Singapore. SMU-X is a programme which allows students to work with real clients in the context of a module. I took this module in my very first semester and really appreciated the learnings that came with it.


What are some uniquely SMU experiences you’ve encountered?

There is quite a lot of freedom in planning my classes, schedules and commitments here. There were semesters where I’ve experimented with taking fewer modules to take up part-time internships with companies like Dell Technologies, McKinsey and Zalora; local exchange programmes; and planning my week such that I had whole days to do volunteer work.

This flexible, outcome-based system (as opposed to a more structured, one-size-fits-all model) was a great fit for me. It allows me to pursue different opportunities based on my goals and interest, and also prepares me for work life because I have to learn to prioritise and manage my time wisely.


Joseph (2nd from right) with fellow members of Conjunct Consulting

Joseph (2nd from right) with fellow members of Conjunct Consulting


How has SMU challenged you both personally and academically?

The idea of having almost complete ownership of your work and learning experience in SMU was extremely challenging and exciting for me. Compared to my previous education, I was excited at the opportunity to explore my diverse range of interests further, be it through the curriculum, the project-based assignments, or activities outside of the classroom.

SMU has prepared me to achieve all these and more at a rigour and intensity that is difficult to match anywhere else.


“SMU has prepared me to achieve all these and more at a rigour and intensity that is difficult to match anywhere else.”


If you could go back in time, what is the one piece of advice you would have given your freshman self?

I’d tell myself to remember to take some time to reflect on my experiences, be it to think about what I learnt, or what I liked or disliked about something I had done, to where I would like to go from here.

Clearing my thoughts and planning what to do next not only helped me become more efficient and purposeful in what I’m doing, it also ensures that I am enjoying the process, giving me motivation to continue in tough times.