International business and marketing graduate, Michael Teoh credits his AUT experience for preparing him to hit the ground running in the world of entrepreneurship and business.
In 2006, Michael enrolled at AUT University based on its reputation as a practical university and the presence of industry leading lecturers who prepare students to be employable upon graduation. “Having the opportunity to get out in to the industry and get hands-on experience was very attractive to me. That’s just not something you tend to get in some of the more traditional universities.
“At AUT, you get personalised attention from your lecturers. The classes are small and you have the opportunity to work with professionals at the top of their game.
“It’s not about the university you go to; it’s what you do while you are there that counts. For me, it was important to get involved in as much as I could, so that when I graduated, I had that much extra experience to bring to the table.
“I started working for SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) while I was at AUT University, and got involved in consulting with business clients, writing business plans, implementing project, working on advertising campaigns, web design projects and developing strategic plans. It was a way to give back to the community by helping others, while also getting real business experience. I hold SIFE largely responsible for where I am in my career today.”
During his studies Michael twice won the Students in Free Enterprise World Cup; represented New Zealand to the Citigroup International Business Consulting Competition in Hong Kong; was voted as having the Most Innovative & Consumer’s Choice Product for the Microsoft Imagine Cup; attended the Top to Future CEO Forum in New York; and became the first and only student to represent the university at the 2008 Harvard Business Conference.
After graduating in 2008, Michael returned to Malaysia and quickly became an active and vocal youth leader as the co-founder of Youth Entrepreneurs Malaysia; head for Outreach Programmes at youth foundation myHarapan; and a regular speaker at universities.
In 2009, Michael made his presence on the global stage, witnessed by 1,000 youth delegations from 192 countries, at the global youth summit One Young World in London. In his speech to the BBC World News and a crowd of youths, he reminded his fellow ‘Youth Comrades’ that the young should embrace technology and social media, in order for youths to change the world for the better.
His speech alone not only garnered him a huge round of applause from the delegations, but also earned him an interview on CNN and caught the attention of global icons like former United Nations Secretary General – Kofi Annan, iconic Rock Star – Sir Bob Geldof and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
He attended a short course on entrepreneurship development in Singapore, sponsored by leading MBA School INSEAD, after having impressed judges in a business plan competition. He had also spoken to students at leading universities such as Oxford University in England and University of Malaya in Malaysia.
He was invited to attend a Start-Up Entrepreneurship summit hosted by Stanford University in the USA; an opportunity which he used to share about the start-up cultures in Malaysia with the international delegates and venture capitalists there.
“At these universities, I speak about Malaysian youth and how they operate. It could be about their entrepreneurship skills or youth development in Malaysia as a whole. I explain the potential that Malaysian youth have,” he says.
Then last year, Michael’s career catapulted when he entered the inaugural “Your Big Year” competition. Organised by Smaller Earth, a company offering the chance to act as global volunteers through various travel programmes, the British run competition accepted 45,000 applications, from 168 countries. Michael was shortlisted as one of the 24 finalists and flown to Liverpool, UK to fight for his place in the competition.
“I was working against highly successful business men and women from around the world. I ended project managing most of the projects based on the experience I gained from working in SIFE at AUT University. It was projects I had already been taught how to handle”.
For Michael’s final task in the competition, he gave a pitch on why he should be elected as the world’s first global ambassador for 2010 and 2011. His pitch centered on the need of a global ambassador to showcase local talents, local efforts and initiatives done by people in the grassroots to world leaders and policy makers.
He stressed the need for leaders of today to be able to get involved with volunteer projects and do the hard work themselves and work cooperatively with the people.
The pitch secured him a 70 percent majority vote from the judges and delegates. That was November 2010; he was just 23.
The prize included an all expenses paid, one year trip to 20 countries, commencing in January 2011, to film his participation in activities involving environmental and animal conservation, humanitarian and community development, as well as fostering diplomatic relations.
Highlights will include helping underprivileged communities in Peru, teaching in Equador, supporting conservation projects in Africa, experiencing tropical rainforests, volunteering on the Great Barrier Reef, visiting the Taj Mahal, visiting tribal communities and exploring the Katmandu Valley.
It’s the kind of trip many of us can only ever dream of. For Michael, it’s not a trip; it’s an opportunity to advocate the need for people to volunteer and co-own responsibilities to make positive impact to their societies; while also widening his networks for future business ventures and diplomatic matters.
“When I won the competition, I told people that I had not won a prize, but rather an opportunity.
“As a global ambassador, it’s my responsibility to set an example for youths around the world regardless of what country, race of culture they come from. I hope to inspire youths to get involved in finding solutions to global problems, whether it is through technology, social networks or just simply coming together to form movements. Some may say that youths are inexperienced. Well I beg to differ. With the advent of the internet and social networking, groups of youths can be formed and they can work collectively with each other to resolve issues. This is our time – let us make the best of it!”
To follow Michael’s progress this year, visit http://www.facebook.com/michaelteohsulim
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