By Jikyeong Kang, President and Dean of the Asian Institute of Management
Fifty years ago, Asia and the Philippines were a vastly different place. Most countries in the region were on the cusp of economic transformation spurred by changes in the sociopolitical landscape. The time was ripe for the likes of Washington SyCip and Eugenio López, together with a group from the Harvard Business School led by Stephen Fuller, to envision a business school — the first in Southeast Asia. Thus, on a one-hectare tract of land provided by Ayala Corporation, rose the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).
Today, the main building of AIM still bears Mr. López’s name; the W. SyCip Graduate School of Business is home to the Institute’s flagship MBA program; and Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala II and Mark B. Fuller sit on AIM’s Board of Governors.
Even as we at AIM treasure our legacy as one of the first business schools in Asia, we still work hard to keep the trailblazing spirit of our founders alive today and into the next 50 years and beyond.
We have a rally cry: Lead. Inspire. Transform. It reminds us of our legacy as pioneers, our solemn responsibility as educators, and the positive impact we continue to create as influencers in the Philippines, Asia, and the world through our network of 43,000 alumni.
Leading with a New Laboratory
In 2017, AIM established the School of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (SITE), which offers programs designed for innovators, entrepreneurs, and data scientists.
SITE also features a corporate data science laboratory to support and thread its three programs: the Master of Science in Innovation and Business, the Master in Entrepreneurship, and the Master of Science in Data Science.
We call the lab ACCeSs@AIM or the Analytics, Computing, and Complex Systems laboratory. It is envisioned to lead the use of data science, artificial intelligence, and various computational models to drive industries, government agencies, and other sectors to innovate.
Aside from having full-time, world-class data scientists and engineers, such as Chris Monterola and Erika Legara, ACCeSs@AIM houses a 500-teraflop Acer supercomputer that is the fastest in the Philippines and ranks among the top in Southeast Asia in terms of technological power and sophistication.
Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators
Several years back, we realized that individuals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, agriculture, architecture, mathematics, and medicine (STEAM) had the potential to be brilliant innovators.
Being a business school, we knew AIM could offer these talents something unique: A course that teaches STEAM individuals the fundamentals of business, design, and leadership skills through team-based innovation projects. The goal was to produce business savvy technopreneurs and corporate innovators.
The result was the Master of Science in Innovation and Business (MSIB), which AIM launched in 2016. We recently graduated our first batch and are very proud of what they achieved even before the end of the program!
As a capstone project, MSIB students showcase their innovations during Demo Day, where they pitch to companies, venture capitalists, and potential angel investors. Our pioneer MSIB batch has, thus far, received a total of P2.5M in seed funding; most of it courtesy of the MSIB capstone project called StudyPlay, which received a total investment offer of P2M.
Of the 21 students in the first batch, 15 have received awards from national and international parties as of this writing. We expect to add to this list in the coming weeks.
Most recently, our students, whose capstone project is called e-Magsasaka, were named Grand Champions at the EWS Innovation Olympics 2017. The same students received P250,000 in funding this April on top of the P150,000 prize they received as finalists last year.
Some of the international recognitions our MSIB students have received include those from the UN Breakthrough Innovation Challenge in the US, the International Youth Forum on Innovation 2017 in Singapore, UNDP Youth Co: Lab Summit in Thailand, and the Re.A.Pra Case Competition in Singapore.
One group’s capstone project, EngageMED, has been incorporated in Singapore and has already closed a business partnership with a Singapore-based IT consulting company. Another group of students banded together after the program to form Kezar Innovations, which was also incorporated in Singapore just this March.
Six other startups are currently being developed. A third of the class was interviewed by AIM’s industry partners three months before the end of the program, and five students were offered jobs soon after. Of the five, three students signed employment contracts before graduation, and 10 graduates reported a 2–3x multiplier from their previous salaries.
In January 2018, classes began for our second batch of MSIB students. We are all excited to see what they will achieve!
Transforming the Region’s Data Science Future
AIM’s newest program is the first formal graduate degree program for data science in the Philippines and among the first in Asia. We designed the Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program based on the far-reaching role that data plays in today’s business.
As a business school, we immediately recognized several key challenges in the field of data science and analytics: Learning to ask the right questions, producing actionable insights, and communicating data-driven solutions across the organization. These are the key differentiating factors of our MSDS program, in addition to the world-class data science faculty we boast.
Almost immediately after announcing the MSDS program, there was widespread interest from various sectors. Data science is industry agnostic and companies in the Philippines realized the value of investing in the next generation of data science leaders. Our pioneer batch of MSDS students began classes in March 2018, with 19 out of 42 students sponsored by companies and organizations based in Manila.
When Chris Monterola and Erika Legara went to Arizona to attend a recent meeting of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) — AIM being one of the few Asian business schools accredited by the body — they ran a session on our MSDS program and ACCeSs@AIM. Over 150 deans and heads of business schools asked the same question: How was AIM able to develop a hardcore technical course in a business school?
Data science disciplines are usually housed in engineering or computer science departments, which makes the incorporation of solid, business-focused curricula a challenge; but that is AIM’s unique advantage. We leveraged our practitioner-oriented, case-method-driven ethos and produced an MSDS curriculum as only an agile management school like AIM can.
For instance, our students do not use dummy data sets, but live data. Additionally, within their first two months, MSDS students are taught to assess data strategy and propose real-world solutions by consulting actual companies.
The MSDS program will culminate with a capstone project, where students take on problems from various companies, organizations, and government agencies for which there are no existing solutions.
AIM’s MSDS program is a showcase of true academic rigor. In fact, at a recent AACSB Conference, Balaji Padmanabhan, director of the Center for Analytics and Creativity, stated that AIM’s MSDS program curriculum offers the best program design he has ever seen anywhere in the world.
We do all this to transform the business landscape to one where the products of data science training will no longer be foot soldiers but battalion commanders.
We have witnessed how the path to today’s C-suite does not have to come via finance, marketing, sales, or operations. It can very well be a technical path. Given AIM’s legacy of producing leaders, we want our MSDS graduates to be Chief Data Officers; or even — with the solid business training AIM delivers — a whole generation of CEOs.