Community & Consulting: Soon Zhengxiang Combining Work & Passion

By The Mentoring Circle

 

A little bit about yourself

What are some of your interests?

Some of my interests include reading, travelling and especially volunteering to help the less fortunate or participate in social programs. During my free time on weekends, I enjoy trying new activities or meeting new people. Discovering new interests or understanding social causes happening around Singapore are also some of the things I do too.

Having graduated in 2017 from the SMU School of Information Systems, I always wanted to join organisations that have clear thought leadership in the industry and demonstrable propositions in developing its employees. Furthermore, it was important for the organisations to have some form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) culture which is more aligned to my personal preferences.

I believe in the concept of Ikigai, which is, essentially: ‘a reason to get up in the morning and a reason enjoy life’. This personal belief of mine extends to having a curiosity towards understanding the environment and helping people in our society.

My current company, Cognizant, has a strong CSR programme (Cognizant Outreach) for employees to regularly participate and volunteer in various programs. It serves to tap into the interests, passions and digital skills of our own employees to serve the wider Singapore community. Regularly, I’ve participated in a few programs ranging from Digital Clinics for Senior citizens to packing and distributing food products for needy families. Being able to volunteer through my organisation grants me great enjoyment! It’s also very meaningful too.

By taking small initiatives in reaching out and lifting people up through acts of kindness in our own capacity, we can truly make a difference in our world a better place for others to live in.

 

With Cognizant volunteers

With Cognizant volunteers distributing vegetables and fruits from Pasir Panjang Wholesale Food Centre to needy residents at Bedok in May 2019

 

Post-graduation!

How did you feel coming to graduation back in 2017?

Leading up to graduation during my final semester in early 2017, with two other friends, Hafiz and Masahiro, we took a school curriculum together. We started to develop a mentoring program through a school project known as CoffeeChats. While finding a job was a priority, it was a greater opportunity to focus on solving a real issue for the school community with the team.

CoffeeChats was borne out of similar personal experiences that the three of us shared before—coming into SMU as a junior who was lost around school life once and fortunately received help or advice from seniors out of goodwill. We realised we could channel such acts of kindness passed from senior to junior year students through an official platform and consequently, continuously building a better school community that knows how to give back and help juniors with their school life through mentoring.

As CoffeeChats rebranded to The Mentoring Circle (TMC) under the SMU Office of Alumni Relations, with TMC’s current offerings and initiatives, I highly encourage students to join TMC and learn to embrace the spirit of mentorship.

 

TMC’s early formative days – a CoffeeChat session in Mar 2017 at B3 Cafe

TMC’s early formative days – a CoffeeChat session in Mar 2017 at B3 Cafe

 

Currently…

What guided you to accept your current job?

An interesting period of student life—applying for jobs and deciding on the job offer.

During my days as a student, I always had some key career interests in Data Science or Consulting. I took modules that frequently exposed myself to learning new data science concepts and technologies and also took up some business strategy classes. My own family, seniors who have graduated and professors from school. It is good to always have an open mind to listen to different perspectives.

Naturally, before graduation, I applied for jobs that were centred on data analytics programmes, technology/business consulting and a few other technology graduate programmes. When the offers came in such as the Google Squared Data and Analytics Programme, it was like a dream realised.

However, I decided to join a Swiss boutique consulting firm. The individuals I met on site left me a good impression that this would be a great environment to become part of and personally, I felt consulting would be more dynamic as a career.  There were also benefits of the company where they would send its consultants overseas for trainings or go on overseas company retreats to which I have been to Tokyo and Stockholm!

 

An amazing race competition in the heart of Tokyo city with my team of ex-colleagues in Sept 2017

An amazing race competition in the heart of Tokyo city with my team of ex-colleagues in Sept 2017

 

The best and most challenging!

The key challenge for graduates going into the consulting sector would be figuring how to best meet or exceed your clients’ expectations while having to craft and work on your deliverables individually or as a team. Curveballs and changes are routine in this job.

You may be asked to solve problems that are completely new to the company—or even completely new to the industry, sometimes without any guidance.

On the other hand, being in the technology and professional services industry, you could easily be at the forefront of the digital transformations that companies are undergoing nowadays. This is quite an exciting period that we can be part of.

Furthermore, if you are person-oriented, there are plenty of opportunities to interact with different people like your colleagues and clients across different projects. Every project brings its own unique challenges and it keeps me engaged by having to solve new challenges from time to time.

 

 

What are some of the obstacles others might face walking down the same path?

If you decide to embark on a consulting career, there are some typical career challenges that one can face in this industry

  1. Lack of project engagement–consultants who are not on any projects due to a lack of project opportunity within the firm.
  2. Work burn-out–Sometimes, project staffing is spread thin on the project you are involved or there is scope creep. Your manager may be unaware if you are overloaded.

A recommended approach to overcome these challenges would be to have an open conversation with your superiors about your career expectations and find out ways to improve your position within the firm. Additionally, you should highlight concerns to your manager around the scope of work if you feel the work is taking a toll on your personal well-being and quality of life.

 

Mentoring!

Share with us some of your lightbulb moments?

I have a few mentees in SMU who have either graduated or already in their senior year since I met them back in school. They are primarily interested in the analytics or technology space. There are moments where they can be discouraged or disappointed that they didn’t achieve their own personal expectations in their studies or work. However, I take it in my stride to remind them that the journey is still long ahead and to enjoy every moment, even when in their careers.

As for being mentored, I met a couple of mentors at my workplaces who were my senior colleagues whom I still stay in touch with. There are many instances where they would offer workplace advice and are willing to share life advice even outside of the workplace which allows you to have different perspectives to consider. One can feel that they do have a keen interest in your career progression and are willing to be there when you need a listening ear.

 

Describe mentoring in 3 phrases.

If you are a mentor – be humble, have an open mind and a genuine interest to develop and help someone.

If you are a mentee – develop an action plan on your progress and be thoughtful about your personal growth. Drive the mentoring relationship and always find ways to thank your mentors who have spent their personal time with you.

 

Last words…

Enjoy school life and don’t forget to help others who may not be as privileged or resourceful as you.

 

 

This article was originally published on The Mentoring Circle and has been republished with permission.

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

 

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