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The 2013 Farmleigh Fellows have had the incredible and rewarding experience of being taught by Professor Vijay Sethi who was awarded the title of ‘Business Professor of the Year’ by the Economist Intelligence Unit in March 2013. This accolade also came with a $100,000 cash prize

Vijay Sethi (52) who is a professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Business School, has lectured on all three Farmleigh programs since 2011.

‘The information systems expert won the ‘Business Professor of the Year’ award, which includes a $100,000 prize, after beating three other professors in a live ‘teach-off’ at the Hult International Business School’s London campus. The four finalists were selected among 222 professors nominated by 30,000 students and alumni from 31 universities worldwide.’ (

The four finalists — Johanne Brunet from HEC Montreal, Darren Dahl from University of British Columbia, Kevin Kaiser from Insead, and Sethi — were picked by a panel headed by William Ridgers, The Economist’s business education editor. Nominations were received from leading institutions such as Wharton School, Harvard Business School and London Business School.

For the title, the four finalists had 35 minutes each to deliver a lecture to an audience of undergraduate and graduate business students. The votes were cast by not only people present but by online viewers also.

The EIU award is the only global contest to recognise and reward excellence in business teaching.

Professor Sethi also received the Nanyang Award for Excellence in Teaching in March 2013 , which recognises faculty members with excellent teaching practices.

Professor Seth’s teaching style is to cover case studies without power point slides and instead let students create the content, thus bringing difficult information technology issues to life. Professor Sethi managed to impart a lot of information to us it what we expected would be a very difficult subject in a very engaging and enjoyable way.

Case studies we examed during the term included:
Taobao, Skype, Apple, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google, and Netflix.

Professor Vijay Sethi has a way of making you feel comfortable about speaking up in class, he also shared much of his incredible industry knowledge which was more than we would have learned from a text book.

Professor Sethi has a passion for IT start-ups and the module concluded in May with the fellows presenting their business ideas to the class. These ideas were:

• EDtalks (By David H, Ed, James, Mark)
• Job Done (Brian)
• Enigma Insights (Paul & Tim)
• GigFreak (Fintan, Mary & Louise)
• WeKnowAsia (Fiachra, Sophie, Shaun, Philip)
• Grab the Gown (Aisling)
• TravelMaid (Xiaoyu, Conor and David K)
• MomSourcing (David A)


A brief guide to some of the best monthly business gatherings that happen in Singapore.  Most of these have a strong following of repeat attendees and there is a definite community spirit of sharing ideas, insights and contacts.

It is by no means a complete guide so please list any other recommendations in the comments section at the bottom of the page or get in contact if you want further info on attending. The events listed are typically free to attend.

Singapore Irish Chamber  of Commerce First Friday
As the name suggests, the Irish Chamber of Commerce organise a meetup on the first Friday of every month for the members of the Chamber, although usually non-members are able to attend. The venue tends to change each time, as do the speakers and the topic up for discussion, meaning the relevancy and convenience to you for attending (events typically run during lunch hours) can change from month to month. It is worth attending however to meet up with the Irish community, with attendees coming from all levels and sectors of industry. It can be a great platform for you to introduce a new business idea too and get support from a supportive community.

Web Wednesday
A monthly evening gathering, typically on one of the last Wednesday’s of the month, for anyone working in the Digital Media industry, with conversation centred on trends in the industry. Speakers share their insights on a relevant industry topic for about 10-15 minutes each, followed by networking drinks. The event was started in February 2008 and has been happening monthly ever since. View full article »

The Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) is a barometer which has been tracking movements in the competitiveness of financial centres around the world since 2007. James Smith wrote eloquently last week about London’s continued presence at the top of this table.

Morgan McKinley, Farmleigh Fellowship sponsor and global recruiter, has a physical presence in 4 of the top 10 GFCs; London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and, the number 4 ranked Singapore.

Indeed, Singapore was mentioned by respondents to this report as the number one centre most likely to become more significant, beating off Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo and the centre where most offices will be opened in the near future.

So, what makes Singapore so attractive to the finance industry?

There are classic reasons that are oft cited; Tax incentives, political stability in an occasionally unstable region, strategic location and openness to foreign investment.

There are other, more nuanced or long-term reasons, that have increasingly helped Singapore punch above its weight. Its pivotal role politically and economically in South East Asia and ASEAN or the continued investment in education and infrastructure may not be as overt but their importance cannot be overestimated.

Perhaps most crucially is the diversity of business in Singapore. Diversifying the sources of revenue has made a significant impact to improving the resilience of the Singaporean economy. Manufacturing has been slowing down in Singapore, so continued moves towards, what some countries refer to as, the “smart economy” have been in the news of late.

Diversification is crucial as it has allowed a network of companies across complementary industries conduct business with each other in an attractive location where the rules are clearly laid out. This strong network means that Singapore is not only becoming a location for headquarters but for operations also.

Expect to see Singapore near or at the top of this list in future incarnations.

Lean Startup Machine Singapore – a Workshop like no other

“Fail Fast. Succeed Faster” 

The Lean Startup is a concept evangelized by author and entrepreneur Eric Reis, & developed further by a wide range of startup experts and enthusiasts.

To give a very brief synopsis of The Lean Startup, the book provides a set of rules and guidelines that are applied in order to determine quickly whether a business idea will actually be of value to consumers. Any flaws in your idea are identified by examining any inherent assumptions about the business and testing the riskiest of these through consumer feedback and interaction. If your assumption is proved wrong then it is time to “pivot” the business idea in a new direction. Further detail of the Lean Startup concept is discussed through Reiss’s book, which has risen to become “The Bible” for startups.

Lean Startup Machine is a workshop that is being taken global to teach you how to put the concept into action over the course of a weekend.

Myself & one of the other Farmleigh Fellows, Barry, had the pleasure of being chosen to participate as select members of this workshop in its maiden Singapore incarnation. View full article »

In many professions increased educational attainment is a vital factor in improving your employment position.  However, job and family responsibilities can make it difficult for professionals to afford time to attend a campus class several times per week, which has hindered uptake by many who would benefit from it.

For employers too there can be a massive cost to providing employees with the resources and knowledge to upskill into more advanced job roles, as this may involve sending the employee for a few days of workshops or lectures at a university, and most likely travel and food allowance, and perhaps even flights and accommodation expenses if they have to go to another city, depending on how niche the area of study is. The costs quickly add up when they are more than just the tuition fees, plus you have to account for the cost to the company for the travel time of the employee away from the office.

This should be reason enough to give professional online education a good deal of consideration but the range and quality of the online delivery has vastly excelled too over the last number of years, making it a far more fulfilling and engaging experience for the student.

The most recent clear indication of a favourable shift towards online education has been the funding allocated to the Stanford University-linked Coursera ($22 million) and MIT-Harvard collaboration edX (more than $60 million), both of which have opened up courses from the respective universities for students, globally, to take for free online. Both operations are still in an early stage of their development but Coursera has reported that more than 160,000 students from 190 countries have signed up for their Artificial Intelligence online module. Coursera have also signed agreements with 16 other universities to run online courses through their website; another clear indication of how seriously the top universities are approaching this new educational development.

View full article »

Risky Business

In my last post, I argued that the business landscape in Asia is mined with political risks. This post will consider ways that companies operating in the region can manage those risks.

All businesses factor the political environment into decisions to some degree. But because political risk is seen as amorphous and intangible, most companies lack a proper framework for understanding it. Yet carefully comparing variations across time and across political environments offers a way of gauging the degree of intensity of different risks. Setting these results against a company’s operational profile offers a way of understanding its overall exposure.

These are not easy things to do. There is always a matrix of risks and some will matter more to some companies than to others. Some factors can be measured quantitatively but non-quantitative issues such as social cohesion and institutional integrity must also be accounted for. Effective analysis therefore depends to a large degree on the careful judgment of analysts and decision-makers.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we cannot predict political events with any degree of reliability. We can however monitor risks, mitigate them, and in so doing be better prepared to respond to issues as they arise.

View full article »

Political Risk in a Brave New World

Economic history reminds of just how strange the recent fetishization of the free market really was. A free market based on economic ‘laws’ was always an intensely political object – constructed, regulated and protected by states. Yet investors accepted the premise because it let them ignore messy political questions and instead operate in an abstract realm of quantifiable probabilities. This pristine arena, promised and supported by finance-led globalisation and its flawed economic models, has in the last few years been trampled into a muddy field, mined with socio-political hazards. As Gillian Tett argues persuasively, we have  entered a new age of volatility, in politics and society as much as in finance and economics.

View full article »

Farmleigh Internship Programme

As the Farmleigh Fellowship continues to grow, the second phase has been rolled out with the placement of the first two Farmleigh interns in Singapore.

The internship differs slightly from the MBS. The MBS in Asian Business Studies is a 12-month Ireland Asia work-study scholarship program where the participants identify market opportunities for their sponsoring company and study for a Masters degree in Asian Business Studies which is awarded by University College Cork in association with the Business School at Nanyang Technological University. A university degree is a prerequisite for entering this program.

This FIP Asia is an Internship program which is open to applicants without the prerequisite of a third level qualification. The FIP Asia is designed to align with the Governments recent ‘Pathways to Work’ initiative and is focused with reengaging young people into the workforce and allowing them to pursue a path of career development in Asia. The international exposure, cross-skilling and enhanced networking that interns receive from this programme will make it all the more likely for them to secure meaningful roles within dynamic organizations in either Ireland or Asia.

The interns will be involved in meaningful projects with their companies while also being allowed the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture. The will also have exposure to members of the Irish diaspora with valuable insights and experience and be paired with a mentor who will be available to offer them advice as they develop in their new roles.

There is also more flexibility in the program, with placements of 3,6 and 12 months available which can start at any time of the year. The companies cover the interns administration costs and then come to a mutual agreement on living expenses for the duration of the program.

This new element of the Farmleigh initiative, again, gives a unique opportunity to gain first hand experience in an Asian work environment.

As the first interns settle in to their roles, they will begin to update on their progress and experiences to date.


For more information on the programme, the course co-ordinator can be contacted on

Working in Singapore – DPS Engineering

An immediate attraction of the Farmleigh Fellowship is the calibre of sponsor companies involved. I myself was drawn in by the prospect of working in the international offices of major names like Diageo, SaonGroup, Treasury Holdings and CRH, knowing the great strides these companies have made within Asia and globally.

I am working for DPS Engineering, and it has been the perfect move for me. It is a brand that may not be familiar to you (at the time of  applying it was unknown to me too). They contacted me to arrange an interview so I did my research and found out about their development from starting in Cork as an engineering services company to now being a large scale and very successful operation with international offices in the US, Singapore, China and beyond. They were looking for me to work in a division of the company that provides education and training services to the pharmaceutical and life science industry.

For the previous few years I had been working in online marketing and advertising, specific to the hospitality industry, so how exactly I was supposed to bring knowledge to the table to help them I couldn’t quite figure out. However, through the interviews I could see that they had a role in mind that was ideal for me.

Working within a small team, it was clear from the start that I would be taking on tasks that added genuine, measurable value. Six months into the programme, my colleagues and I have achieved a lot. Amongst other business development tasks, I am leading the implementation of a new growth stream through online learning. This degree of trust and involvement is just not possible to hand to a new recruit within a large multinational. From week 1 in the job I have been meeting clients, I have had input on the future operational strategy and I understand where my role fits into the team achieving their targets.

A final benefit to my job is that we are based out of SmartSpace, in the centre of Singapore, a building we occupy along with other successful companies and emerging start-ups we can share insights with. In general Singapore is setting itself up as a leading centre for innovation through the presence of start-up communities, venture capitalists eager to fund, and a government eager to support promising ideas through grants. The goal is to quickly internationalise start-ups into Asia or Europe, with Singapore positioned as a springboard to either. With our division of DPS currently working with clients across three continents Singapore is proving an ideal headquarters.

Overall my team and my role are what I am learning most from but working here is also giving me real experience in international business strategy that will help me in my current role and beyond.

If you apply for Farmleigh Fellowship 2013 and you are requested for interview by one of the small to medium size enterprises involved take it seriously because it is a fantastic opportunity to help a company develop in an Asian market and to get a true understanding of consumer preferences (through engaging with them, as I have been doing).

If you would like to discuss any of the above or share insights please comment below or message me though Linkedin.

Stephen Dwyer, DPS Engineering

The Future World of Work

As the world continues its mired climb out of economic stagnation, we are constantly told of the booming opportunities that Asia presents, the rapid shift east of economic and political power and the ascension of China as a global superpower. In line with these developments, there are equally profound changes currently underway regarding the composition of the global labour force and the world of work itself.

A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, ‘The World at Work’, looks at global economic and demographic trends and the implications they will have on the future job and skills-requirements of the world. The most striking figures of the study show that by 2030 the world will have a projected labour force of 3.5 billion- up from 2.9 billion today-, by 2020 an estimated global shortage of 38-40 million college-educated workers and a surplus of 90-95 million low-skill workers. This will lead to large skills imbalances and levels of inequality that will widen as these developments continue to take shape.

For advanced economies, the rapidly aging workforce will have significant consequences too. By 2030, retirements will see 12 million college-educated workers taken from the workforce, with no equitable cohort of workers to take their place. The aging populations of these countries will require rapid and sustained productivity improvements in excess of 1 percent a year just to maintain income growth, levels that have not been seen for years.

What this means is that university-educated workers- particularly those with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) – will benefit from an increasingly-distorted labour market as businesses will need high-skill workers to drive productivity. By 2020 for example, US employers will require college-educated workers for 36 percent of all jobs, up from today’s 24 percent. These trends will create a more unequal world and pose significant social and economic problems for businesses, society and governments alike.

The world of work and society at large will therefore change dramatically over the coming decades. So what steps can be taken to solve these problems? Large and sustained investments in training and education by governments, businesses and even private investors will be needed. For the emerging and developing world these investments are already occurring, though neither rapid nor substantial enough to fix the projected skills imbalances. For advanced economies, the future looks even more uncertain. With public finances in Europe and the US in ruin, the political capital and budgets needed to undertake these investments are not there.

As Asia continues its emergence as the primary driver of economic and demographic growth, these underlying global trends indicate that there are many challenges ahead for the world. That these trends are not isolated in advanced economies brings further challenges: an escalation of the global ‘war for talent’ concentrated on a diminishing number (proportionally) of skilled-graduates; a surplus of low-skill workers across the world that will lead to mass- unemployment and underemployment; and increasing protectionist policies by countries seeking to protect certain competitive advantages (chiefly those with human capital advantages).

The current problems plaguing the global economy are extensive and all too tangible (with youth unemployment at dangerous levels in many countries). If steps are not taken to address the consequences of these global labour trends however, a world of stagnant growth, growing inequality and millions of unemployed workers could become the norm. Solving these problems will require international states, actors and institutions to think-big. However alarming and daunting these trends are, they will unquestionably have an enormous impact on all our working lives.

Darragh Keenan