Insights From an Insider: Eugene Tan, SMU-SPH Valedictorian 2019

By the SMU Social Media Team

Good grades may have been paramount for employers in the past, but these days, they are starting to look beyond academic achievements. Indeed, it was qualities such as professionalism, communication, teamwork and critical thinking that landed Singapore Management University alumnus Eugene Tan a job at the management consulting firm Bain & Company upon graduation.

Eugene had the good grades too, though—the School of Accountancy (SOA) alumnus graduated as the SPH Valedictorian and the DBS Bank School Valedictorian in 2019. He had first taken a Game Theory class at SMU during his junior college H3 Economics days. “I was looking for a university that offers a unique way of learning—a platform for me to express myself and cultivate key skills that would be essential in the working world,” he says.

These are some of his reflections:


What was your favourite module at SMU?

Accounting Information Systems (AIS) by Associate Dean Seow Poh Sun and Strategy by Assistant Professor Cindy Zhang.

AIS was more about the professor than the module itself because he showed us that he cared about us individually and was not there just to teach us to do well academically. That encouraged me to adopt a wider perspective on what I wanted to achieve with my time in university, and the impact I wanted to have on the community.

As for Asst Prof Zhang, I felt that she taught the strategy module really well and was very succinct with her knowledge-sharing. I also found the content to be deeply enriching and fun, and that’s part of the reason I started looking at management consulting as a career path.


What were two key skills you picked up at SMU?

I believe I am now a better communicator and team player; these are important traits to have if you want to excel in any workplace. That said, I believe that what you get out of your education is proportionate to how much you put into it—it’s up to you to choose to speak up, build friendships, and go the extra mile to be a better and more supportive group member.


What co-curricular activities did you take part in and what did you learn from them?

Starting in my second year at SMU, I was involved in the SOA Peer Tutors Programme, and co-led it in my penultimate year. At the time, I was looking for CCAs that centred around giving back to the school community and felt this was a good fit. I was also involved in the Career Champions Programme and The Mentoring Circle as a mentor.

In my third year, I went on an exchange programme to the University of Pennsylvania, which was an eye-opening experience. It was the first time I touched snow. Travelling to the United States also allowed me to immerse myself in a different culture and adopt a more open perspective.

I was also particularly interested in Management Accounting, so I joined the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Student Leaders Programme and had the opportunity to take another trip to the US and sit in at the IMA Annual Board Meeting. This exposed me to interactions with leaders from top multinational companies from all over the world.


How did studying at SMU challenge you both academically and personally?

I was generally stronger when it came to business modules, but I struggled quite a bit with Accounting modules. So I had to spend an inordinate amount of effort on my Accounting modules in order to do well. Although this was challenging, I became a more resilient student and worker by pressing on and not giving up. The experience taught me how to take on challenging work assignments.

I also learny that we all have 24 hours a day, and how we allocate our time and priorities is up to us. So I focused on a small number of commitments and tried to fulfil them well, rather than spread myself thinly over many commitments. There are many things I wish I could have done or participated in during my four years at SMU, but at the end of the day I tried to make my time count as much as possible.


If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you’d give your undergraduate self?

Take a step back sometimes and reflect on what you want to achieve. Some people rush into activities, clubs and doing many things. That’s fine, of course, but at the end of the day, it’s not about what you’ve done, but who you’ve become.

As you take time to reflect and take stock of your knowledge gaps from year to year, you can work towards engaging in activities that will help you close those gaps. By the end of your four years, you will then have developed something unique in terms of who you’ve become, and not just what you’ve done.


Keen to take the next step with SMU? Learn more about our Bachelor of Accountancy programme today.