Malaysia is well equipped for creating a talent pool that is flexible, forward-thinking & progressive

Dr. Shirley Tan Sie Ling, Founder & CEO, Universal Business Academy (UBA) Sdn Bhd.

With over 20 years of experience in the education sector, Shirley Tan has taken strides from being an educator to a successful entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of Universal Business Academy Sdn. Bhd. (UBA). The name UBA is a reflection of her ambition to grow the business locally as well as regionally, she says.

Coming from a poor family where my father was a lorry driver and my mother, an Indonesian Chinese homemaker, Shirley recalls helping her mom to sell Nasi Lemak every morning at 4am to supplement the family income. As the business began to pick up and through careful thought, her mum worked out that it would be more profitable to go into the home catering business, prompting Shirley to bicycle & deliver the orders from house to house daily.

At her secondary school, Shirley started home tuition and also personal photography for one of her classmates. These experiences she recalls, have helped her be more independent, determined and persistent and gave her courage to taken on challenges.

Shirley took up the University Malaya Early Childhood Education Program and planned to run her own kindergarten after she graduated. She went on to acquire several professional courses like the Diploma in Aesthetician from International Federation of Aestheticians from London, World Master International Beautician Diploma  from Switzerland and Cidesco Diploma in Beauty Therapy from Switzerland and so on.  In 2017, she also obtained the Doctor in Business Administration from Sabi University France.

Universal Business Academy (UBA) was established in 2014 with a mission to offer the highest quality yet affordable English and MBA programs online to help people in Asia become highly competitive and employable in today’s global economy. “We do this through the most effective and practical teaching methods via virtual and face-to-face training programs” says Shirley. 

Shirley believes, in the journey of life, there is no end to learning. She was recently presented the Women Icons Malaysia 2018 Awards by BERG Singapore. Team ABT captures snippets from her exciting rollercoaster journey in this interview below.

What led you to choose Education as a profession?
I remember when I was young; many times our family would have only RM5 left to provide for all our needs, and we had only porridge and bean sauce for our meals. However, no matter how poor we were, my parents still made sure all of us received an education. This left a great impression on me, and I truly believe education is the only way to get out from poverty. As such, my dream and vision is to make an internationally recognized education affordable for everyone.

To date, UBA has more than 2,000 students from all over the world who have matriculated in their programs, and have successfully received their internationally recognised programmes. UBA now is continue focus in providing a High Value, Convenience and Quality program in English, MBA and Soft-skills in Asia market.

Tell us about some of the Challenges that you had to face & how did you overcome them?
In the Philippines, there are many people with disabilities (PWD) with high unemployment, or are being paid very low salaries. So, through UBA, we are glad that we managed to run a project offering the internationally recognized TESOL program for some of these PWDs. So they are able to work with us from home, and be our International Online English Tutors, thus enabling them to receive higher pay.

I am glad that UBA managed to not only offer these PWDs the TESOL program, but also able to provide them hope and increase their standard of living.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Life-long learning has been my long-held attitude and I believe that there is always room for improvement. As such, never stop learning no matter what position you are in or how old you are. The minute you stop learning means you allow yourself to be left behind. At the same time, be kind to others and put on a smile always.

Also, in business, it’s never been a one man show, but we need a team to succeed. A good attitude is important. You can forget to bring your mobile phone or even cash, but never forgot to continually uphold your good manners and smile always. With these, you will find all things get done smoother.

What is your outlook on the future of Education in Malaysia?
Especially with the latest initiatives from Malaysia’s Education Blueprint, we should see significant improvements to how the higher education system will operate over the next decade.

Given these improvements, Malaysia should be able to create a talent pool that is flexible, forward-thinking and progressive to meet the challenges of a global economy.

Could you recall any one proud moment/milestone?
Being a parent, I am proud of my children, especially my daughter who manage to complete her Advance Diploma in Mass Communication in Singapore, and now pursuing her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Media from UK. The greatest joy is seeing your children embrace education and chase after their dreams.

Similarly, every year I feel proud of my students who managed to complete their programs and celebrate their joy with their families. Of course, I am also proud to recently receive again the Malaysia Woman Icon award in Jan 2018 by Business Excellence & Research Group Pte Ltd (BERG) from Singapore. I am glad that I can be a role model to my children, and celebrate the happiness with my family and my team members.

What would you like to achieve in the next coming years?
In 2018, UBA will be expanding the Academy very actively in countries like the Philippines, especially to have more projects for the 100s of PWDs and about 4800 teachers on our English program. In Indonesia, we promote to business owners and executives in our Executive MBA program.

In 2019, I hope UBA will continue being a blessing to others, by giving scholarships for our internationally recognized programs to single mothers in Malaysia so they will become highly employable and globally competitive.

Here is the video of Shirley Tan at the Women Icons Malaysia 2018 Summit.