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ValueChampion Student Interview Series: Shreyas Krishnaswamy, SMU

Attending university is a significant investment. ValueChampion's student interview series aims to help students and parents better understand what different schools have to offer by interviewing current students and recent alumni.

Shreyas Krishnaswamy graduated from SMU in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems degree. He is currently pursuing a Master of Information Systems Management from the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), under the SMU-CMU Fast Track Programme and hopes to pursue a career in consulting. We interviewed him to get a better understanding of his experience at SMU and future goals.

What influenced you to pursue your degree? What excites you intellectually?

A combination of factors. Growing up, I was inclined towards technology. I spent a lot of time on the computer to read up on a variety of tech topics. I also frequently tinkered with my gadgets, hacking the existing software to install custom modifications on my computer, phone and gaming consoles. Through these activities, I developed my appreciation for technology, its fluidity and its ability to solve problems across a variety of fields.

Moving through my school years, I found myself inclined towards more leadership and management positions when taking on group projects. These two disparate characteristics intersected when I explored the possibility of joining the Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) programme at SMU.

I’ve found that my intellectual excitement and curiosity doesn’t rely on just one field; it is a function of my working environment. The thought of leading and collaborating with a motivated team on a project in almost any field excites me and will drive my success regardless of prior knowledge and abilities of the endeavour. I can safely say that such instances have been the most memorable and highly successful projects in my life.

Did you consider any other schools? If so, why did you ultimately choose SMU?

Throughout my junior college (JC) years, I was quite keen on pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Beyond applying for SMU, I applied and gained admission at both NUS and NTU for mechanical engineering. I’d say the most important influences in choosing SMU were parental advice and the class culture. My dad pursued mechanical engineering followed by an MBA and was working in a management position at the time, a path that I intend to emulate. Given my career aspirations, demonstrated interest in technology, and lack of enthusiasm for any specific mechanical engineering focus area, my dad recommended SMU and its Information Systems programme. The point of class culture came from my experience in JC. In junior college my class atmosphere had been a lively one, and I realised I enjoyed the interactive class atmosphere with active dialogue between students and teachers—a defining characteristic of SMU.

How would you describe your experience in your programme at SMU?

In a word: holistic. The classes and curriculum designed within the Information Systems (IS) programme develops both technical as well as soft skills. It also allows for up to 8 out of 36 courses to be taken as electives outside my major (which I took advantage of). Beyond the classroom, I found myself spoilt for choice in internship opportunities, constantly engaged in memorable co-curricular activities, and taking full advantage of the excellent student life facilities and opportunities that SMU has to offer. There is no doubt that I have cherished my time at SMU and can say with confidence that I have gained unique opportunities, some of which were not available to my peers in other local universities.

What has been your favourite course so far, and why?

As part of our core courses, IS students must take the Enterprise Integration course. This course dives into enterprise technology that is leveraged to connect systems that are utilised by the various functions of a business, to allow for efficient data transfer and communication across the organisation. I found this course very interesting as it showcased technology serving a fundamental role at the heart of large business operations. An absence of such implementations would significantly increase the amount of data inconsistencies, miscommunications and hampered progress as business operations and divisions grew. My interest in enterprise technology spurred me to take a follow up elective called Enterprise Business Solutions.

A highlight of the course was the project. We were tasked to work in teams to choose a business context and implement a small-scale model showcasing communication and data transfer between various elements within the business. At the end of the course, certain teams (including mine) were given the opportunity to present our project at the JP Morgan technology offices and enjoy a tour of their campus, certainly a unique experience.

A part of my enjoyable experience must also be attributed to the exceptional faculty team who are friendly and dedicated to our learning experience, as well as my fun, jovial and hardworking project teammates.

What type of co-curricular activities are you involved with?

I was a part of Stereometa, the DJ and DMC Club at SMU. After a year of training by the senior members, I went on to perform at a variety of school events such as the semester end party, freshman orientation night and the reopening ceremony for the revamped SMU Labs. I also served as an instructor for junior batches during two semesters. During my orientation, I took part in Kidleidoscope, a community service project working with children from a variety of backgrounds, empowering them through arts and craft activities during their school holidays. I really enjoyed that experience and went on to serve on the Organising Committee the following year as the Finance Director. This was certainly a highlight of my life at SMU as I got to work with a group of energetic and enthusiastic peers, who later became extremely close and cherished friends.

Have you had internships? If so, how did you search for internship opportunities?

As part of school requirements, I did an internship in the summer of 2016 with KPMG Singapore, as part of their Management Consulting team (IT Enabled Transformation). Prior to applying for this internship, I was able to interact with staff at KPMG and learn more about the various roles and divisions within their consulting practise through SMU networking events conducted on campus as well as their offices.

My general search for internships followed similar patterns of attending the numerous career talks and networking sessions to gather information before applying to the respective listings within the school’s job opportunities portal.

What are your career aspirations?

My goal is to enter the Management Consulting industry and work on projects within the various business areas. As I gain more experience, I hope to specialise in Technology Implementation and Strategy areas.

After a few years, depending on my performance and satisfaction with the career, I intend to either stay on and climb the ranks within consulting, or transition to upper management roles within the Technology Industry.

How has SMU helped prepare you for this type of career?

The interdisciplinary curriculum that is found in most SMU courses allowed me to explore fundamental areas within business. This has helped me better understand business as a whole and has provided a context for me to further think about technology implementations and its potential. Many of the courses also include class participation and team projects as integral components. This has honed my abilities to articulate my thoughts in a cogent and confident manner. The opportunity to work in groups has also exposed me to the various strengths that lie in proper teamwork, as well as the possible breakdowns that ought to be considered and managed in future endeavours.

These soft skills are paramount in a field like consulting, where most of the work is primarily team based and in high pressure environments. The expectation is also that members of the team are well-versed to communicate with clients in an effective and professional manner.

How are you financing your education? What resources did you use to learn about financing options?

I took on a student loan to finance my education. The resources that I found useful were those posted on the university website regarding the various grants, scholarships and funding options that are available to students.

I have no regrets about taking the loan. That decision has provided me with some freedom to focus on my education and academic performance without worrying about any lack of funds at this stage. I hope that this would translate to a wider variety of career options that could financially support me to easily pay back the existing loan.

Are there any resources that would help you with career development that you’re not currently getting?

None that I can think of. With the constant emails regarding job opportunities, personalised career guidance, up-to-date career portal and mandatory “Finishing Touch” career workshops, it is quite evident that SMU’s Career Services does a comprehensive job in providing students with the help that they require in securing internships and jobs.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

It’s honestly hard to say. For now, having embarked on my postgraduate degree overseas as part of the SMU-CMU Fast Track programme, I’m hoping to spend several years working within the consulting/ technology industries in the United States. However, I am keeping an open mind about location and career opportunities, evaluating them as they come. In the meantime, I plan to embrace the uncertainty and enjoy the ride.