Winners take it all

NTU students have been highly successful in winning national and global competitions from branding to engineering solutions. Derek Rodriguez picks their brains to find out their winning factors

Like peas in a pod

“Work with people you gel with and get to know their working styles so that you can best decide how to manage the project,” says Renaissance Engineering Programme student Tan Su Wen. She and Iris Tiong came in first in Schneider Electric’s Singapore Go Green in the City 2015 competition for devising an integrated electricity management system.

Twins Karyn and Kelly Ho, along with Kenny Toh, agree. The trio from Nanyang Business School rolled to victory in L’Oréal Singapore’s Brandstorm competition with their innovative marketing proposal for Lancôme in the travel retail sector.

“Our skill sets are complementary. Also, working with a sibling and a good friend made the creative process dynamic and efficient – if one member proposes an idea, the whole team works to refine and bring it to its full potential.”

“We had the same vision, knew what we were working towards and were able to work out the small details easily.” – Tan Su Wen (centre) with Iris Tiong
Be tech-savvy

When you can’t meet in person, virtual meetings using the latest technological tools can quicken things.

Iris says: “We did our brainstorming via Google Docs and used online conference platforms like join.me for pitch rehearsals. This cut down on time required for meetings. We also learnt Autodesk 360 to design our prototype. This helped our project gain credibility.”

KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)

“Present your work in a straightforward and easy-to-understand way. Simplify technical details with visual aids and analogies. We made a video and computer-aided designs to illustrate our energy-saving product,” says Su Wen.

“It isn’t necessary to have a deluge of information. Keep it short, sharp and focused,” says marketing undergraduate Elaine Lim, who was in the NTU team that won the Deloitte Singapore Risk Intelligence Challenge Trophy.

Their foresight and debating skills when arguing the case for Singapore to participate in a unified trading block and a single currency for Southeast Asian nations won over the judges in the final round.

“We tackled real-life problems in this competition, ranging from the business challenges of running nursing homes in Singapore to regional issues in ASEAN.” – Lee Wei Rong (far left) with Ong Wei Chang and Elaine Lim
Do your homework

“Nothing kills confidence like a half-baked idea,” says Martin Yong. The final-year Materials Science & Engineering student topped Unilever’s Sustainable Living Challenge 2015 with his concept of an economical vending machine that dispenses shampoo and body wash.

“Work out whether your idea is feasible and improve on its weaknesses bit by bit.”

Adds accountancy student Lee Wei Rong, part of the Deloitte team: “Make your stand convincing by backing it up with statistics and real examples. Remember to do extensive research so you know the case inside out, which will also help you tackle questions from the judges.”

“You can’t win a competition without putting in any effort. Being a good team member is also very important as you’d never win it by yourself.” – Niramansakul Salisa (second from right)
Believe in your idea

“Judges look for creativity. Don’t present things that are obvious and repeated,” advises mathematics and economics student Niramansakul Salisa. Her team triumphed at the Bain & Company Case Challenge, an annual business case competition for undergraduates with their proposal to help a food company turn around their sales in China.

“Believe in the idea or cause you are championing. This makes the work worthwhile and gets you going when you have to put in very long hours,” say Renaissance Engineering Programme students May Lim, Nitya Anthony and Alex Chen, who beat more than 1,000 teams from 55 countries to win the Shell Ideas360 competition. Their winning entry, an app that prevents food wastage, was declared a potential game-changer by an international panel of experts.

“Only go ahead with an idea you believe in. You will be more comfortable, confident and positive during the presentation.” – Martin Yong
Practise, practise, practise

“Your presentation should not appear as distinct segments presented by different individuals, but as one cohesive proposal. And by being alert to the judges’ reactions even when not presenting, you might be able to anticipate the areas they are interested in or their likely questions,” advises Kelly, who received the Best Presenter Award at the L'Oréal Brandstorm national finals. What clinched it for her, she believes, was her calmness, poise and confident delivery when responding to the judges’ questions.

“Every member’s contribution is vital. Kenny drew ideas from his vast general knowledge. Kelly delivered well-thought-out proposals. I lent my eye for detail to help ensure clarity in our bold ideas.” – Karyn Ho (left), with Kelly Ho and Kenny Toh, who met L’Oreal’s top executives in Paris at the global finals in June
Keep on trying

Captain of the Deloitte team Ong Wei Chang, who is working towards a double degree in Business and Accountancy, says: “Taking part in more competitions is definitely beneficial. Besides gaining experience in presenting to a panel of judges that could include the employer of your dreams, you’ll develop your analytical skills. Having more opportunities to work together in a team is essential to building team synergy and learning to leverage each member’s strengths – habits you’ll need at work.”

“Mentors are everywhere – they may be your friends, your professors or your family. By being open to advice, guidance and feedback, you can make your ideas even better.” – Alex Chen (second from left) with May Lim and Nitya Anthony