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The Truth about being a BIZCOM DDP student in NUS: Joel’s perspective

Introducing Joel Tan, who graduated from IS-ACC DDP in August 2019. He completed the double honours programme in 4 years after matriculating in August 2015. Since graduation, he has been working full-time as a technology risk consultant and is currently pursuing a part-time NUS masters in information systems.

For context, please read the prelude of this series first.

Why did he choose to take BIZCOM DDP?

  • He chose to study ACC partially because of parental pressure and interest. He also felt that it was a course he wouldn’t be at a significant disadvantage compared to other students, as not many would have had prior background in the field.
  • He chose to study IS because he had interest and background knowledge in the IT field.

What expectations did he have of BIZCOM DDP initially?

  • Heavy program as he would have to complete a lot of modules for IS-ACC DDP
  • Since there was no set study plan for DDP students, he needed to plan his modules carefully from day 1 and come up with his own unique study plan.
  • Within the DDP, he was sure that attaining the ACC degree was a must for him, while the IS degree would be a good bonus for him. In that regard, he would prioritise ACC modules first when planning his timetable.
  • Intended to go for exchange
  • He expected IS to be more of a general IT degree.

How far has his actual journey in BIZCOM DDP aligned with his expectations?

  • In reality, the programme (notably the IS curriculum) was harder than expected.
  • Initially, he thought that IS was more of a general IT degree. But there was actually a significant systems development component, and lack of analytics (for his cohort’s syllabus).
  • Despite being aware of the importance of planning ahead, he had to revisit his study plan often and make changes where necessary. For instance, modules may not be mounted in the semester that he had planned to take it, or there could be changes to module prerequisites or even the IS curriculum (as in 2016). It was not an easy feat, continuously planning his modules to ensure that he was on track regarding course requirements.
  • Although there is a common conception that in university, students can take whichever modules they were interested in, it was not true for him because DDP students did not have any room for Unrestricted Electives. Furthermore, the ACC curriculum was quite structured, leaving very little room for students to choose elective modules.
  • He realised that due to his constant high workload every semester, he took fewer internships than his ACC peers and when it came to seeking jobs, he might not stand out as much as peers with richer internship experience.

What does he think are some benefits or enjoyable aspects of BIZCOM DDP?

  • The 2 schools are right beside each other, so he did not need to travel much even if he placed lessons from the 2 faculties back to back.
  • He could be exposed to the benefits of being in either school, such as having a locker and printing quota in Computing school, and access to help from career advisor offices in Business school. He could also use facilities in both schools, such as I3 or COM2 discussion rooms, and BIZ1 facilities.
  • Among the 2 domains, there are certain areas that overlap with each other. Being in BIZCOM DDP gave him the platform to see the synergy between the 2 domains and allowed him to have a comprehensive view for those specific areas. One good example would be the overlap between IS4204: IT Governance and ACC3616: Corporate Governance and Risk Management.
  • He got to know a lot of people as well, across varying backgrounds (socio-economic, race etc).
  • In general, being in BIZCOM DDP allowed him to learn more and gave him unique perspectives in both fields that he would not have had otherwise.

What struggles did he face throughout his academic journey and how did he overcome them?

Struggle 1: Planning of modules

  • He had to be very meticulous and careful in his module planning to ensure that he could graduate by the expected semester, while not being overwhelmed by the workload.
  • Furthermore, as he wanted to go on exchange, he also had to plan which modules to set aside for both degrees to take overseas
  • To manage this struggle, he would find out what are the easier and harder modules, either from peers and seniors or reading the module requirements carefully and then taking a mixture of those modules every semester. For certain modules, the difficulty levels across the 2 semesters can also differ, which affects his planning too.
  • Besides that, he would revisit his study plan every semester and consult the DDP academic staff to confirm whether modules that he intended to take truly fits in his whole study plan, as well as the overall DDP requirements
  • Finally, he grew conversant with course requirements to ensure that he made the most out of double-counting of modules and exemptions allowed for DDP students.

Struggle 2: Finding group mates for modules

  • Among his batch, there were only a few people who intended to finish the IS-ACC DDP journey, so finding constant group mates for modules could had been difficult for him.
  • For his ACC modules, he overcame this challenge by making friends with his ACC cohort and was thus able to find familiar faces to form groups with.
  • Not only that, he ensured that he built himself a good reputation among the cohort by participating in class actively and contributing to group work meaningfully. Within a small ACC cohort, one’s reputation spread fast.
  • However, it was harder for him to find group mates for computing modules as he knew fewer people there.

Struggle 3: Weak programming skills

  • Being relatively weaker in programming skills, he struggled in Computing’s software engineering modules, such as IS2103: Enterprise Systems Server-side Design and Development and IS4103: Information Systems Capstone Project.
  • To manage this struggle, he took non-technical courses for his IS electives. Those modules focused on aspects such as strategic management of IT and information security, which required more research and report writing skills.

Why did he choose to pursue the DDP route till the end?

  • After his fourth or fifth semester, there was no looking back because of the sheer number of modules already taken for both faculties.
  • If he were to drop his IS degree to a minor, it would exceed the minor requirements by a lot and he may not be able to complete his ACC degree with the shortened normal candidature. Moreover, with the large number of IS modules already taken, it would be very difficult to take a second business specialisation or another minor.

Did BIZCOM DDP help him achieve his career goals after graduation?

  • Yes and no.
  • He aimed to go into either technology risk or technology consulting fields from the get-go and IS-ACC DDP served as a great integration that would aid him in understanding those fields well.
  • While IS-ACC DDP was not a requirement for employment in that line of work, he found that the knowledge he gained was very useful for him in his day to day work. In short, with IS-ACC DDP, he was confident that he could perform in his field in the long run.

If he were to rewind time, would he have applied for BIZCOM DDP?

  • Yes, because it all worked out for him in the end.
  • Planning enabled him to complete the course in exactly 4 years, so he was not significantly behind his peers in the job market.
  • BIZCOM DDP gave him immense career flexibility, as he can pursue both accounting and information security certifications, and can pursue graduate education in both fields.

His tips for students who are in their first or second year of DDP, or deciding whether to take up BIZCOM DDP:

  • Completing any DDP all boils down to proper planning.
  • If you want to do any special programmes such as NOC, SEP, or USP, on top of DDP, it is doable but good planning from the start is required. For example, if you want to go on exchange programme, find out what modules you can map overseas and plan accordingly.
  • If you are not sure if your DDP combination is for you, you can find out what the common modules across BIZ and ACC are, and across IS and CS. In most cases, those modules are prerequisites for other modules. As such, it would be advisable to take those common modules first, so that if you want to switch, the transition would be smoother and you would not fall behind your peers too much.
  • Understand the requirements for a minor, 2nd major, a non-honours 2nd degree, and a 2nd honours degree. Plan your study plan in such a way that you complete the requirements for each first, and “upgrade” as you become more confident.
  • Know your limits and do not overexert yourself. Overloading beyond 24 MCs per semester may not be not advisable because it can take a toll on your mental health. Try to balance academics with other areas such as social life or CCAs. If need be, you can take modules during summer, or extend a semester. It is not worth it to take 28 or 32 MCs a semester, only to burn out and have to either take a semester off or underload the next semester.

You can connect with Joel Tan via LinkedIn :D

Read the next article: Closing

This article is part of the series: “The Truth about being a BIZCOM DDP student in NUS”. Through this series, we explore the academic journeys of five students who are or were enrolled in BIZCOM DDP. We hope that this series would benefit BIZCOM DDP students in their junior years and prospective university students.

Want to read another article in this series? Visit the full list here.

Note: The articles in this series are not commissioned by NUS in any way. The interviewees were given the freedom to express themselves to their own comfortable extent, and I seek that the audience respect everyone’s point of view. Feel free to give the articles a “clap” and share them if you found them useful. Thank you very much.



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