A finalist in the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards 2021-22 in Malaysia, Shaun Adam (MSc 2016) leads the World Economic Forum's regional and global cooperation between governments and businesses in the Asia-Pacific region to shape sustainable and inclusive development agendas. Having gained so much from his MSc, he tells us how it has led him to work at the intersection of geopolitics and businesses at a regional and global level in the pursuit of meaningful outcomes.

Shaun Adam

Keen to contribute to nation-building, I started my career with the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia focusing on socio-economic growth and innovation development. This gave me exposure to the importance of international trade and globalisation as a means to foster inclusive growth and economic development through cross border exchange of knowledge, skills and productivity.

To build the necessary skills, knowledge, and capacity to better assist my country in this field, I secured a scholarship to pursue my MSc in International Business and Emerging Markets at the University of Edinburgh Business School. My time at the University helped me acquire an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of international trade, economic development, policy-making and commerce with a specialisation in emerging markets.

After graduating and returning to Malaysia, I was able to apply my new-found knowledge and skills to my work in Government. As a result, I was appointed to implement and manage several key development programmes to boost exports and internationalisation of mid-tier size companies as well as coordinate technology and knowledge transfer programmes to boost the productivity of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

In 2019, I joined the European Union (EU) Chambers of Commerce and Industry, under the EU Commission to head the Advocacy and Public Policy Department. Here, I represented the voices of global EU Multinational Corporations and engaged with high-level stakeholders in the ASEAN region to advocate for new trade policies and sustainability reforms to improve trade and investments. In this more regional context, I strove to improve the region’s position in the global value chain together with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

When Covid-19 struck, I was selected by the United Nations to contribute a policy brief for the provisions for trade in times of crisis, as a means to minimise and manage the effect of Covid-19 on developing and least developing markets. The paper was published and a handbook for regional policymakers was developed. Subsequently, I moved to Switzerland and joined the United Nations to coordinate and lead the implementation of several trade-assistance projects in Africa, Central Europe, and South-East Asia, including Malaysia, with a focus on supporting inclusive and sustainable trade growth and poverty reduction.

Soon after, I moved on to my current role at the World Economic Forum, working at the intersection of geopolitics and business to shape sustainable and inclusive development agendas.

Impact of my MSc

As well as acquiring academic knowledge during my time at the Business School, I was also able to focus on my professional development through mentoring initiatives, career advice services and skills training. For example, by participating in a leadership programme, I had the opportunity to represent the University and lead a fundraising campaign for a Scottish charity organisation while being mentored by a board member of a listed UK company.

This experience helped me build various skill sets in leadership, creativity and innovation, cross-cultural awareness and understanding as well as leading me to discover my passion for social innovation as a means to tackle inequalities.

As a result, I developed a proposed solution to address social inequalities relating to cyber-bullying among young and vulnerable communities. The idea which was in line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Wellbeing) was selected by the Telenor Group in Norway as a workable solution in building digital resilience and promoting responsible behaviour in cyberspace. The design was selected to be exhibited at the Nobel Peace Centre in Norway in 2017 where I was also given the opportunity to attend the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony as an advocate against digital inequalities. The design has been integrated into a workable solution and is being implemented by the Telenor Group across its various markets globally.

Looking back, the journey which my UK education set me on not only allowed me to play a greater role in my home country but enabled me to go beyond to make a practical difference on a global level.

On a personal level, studying in the UK also allowed me to pursue my interest in British history where I got the opportunity to travel the country during my free time to seek out key information to help me with a book project that I was working on. This included visits to libraries, museums, and remembrance sites as well as conversing with local historians.

Some of the insights I gained contributed to the publication of my book Acts of Resistance - Dol Said and the Naning War. It discusses colonial history in Southeast Asia with a focus on the village of Naning in Malaysia. The book's publication is supported by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia as a means to promote heritage education as well as assist the development and recovery of the Creative Industry in Malaysia following Covid-19. The book was recently accepted into the Special Collection of the UN Library and Archives in Geneva—envisioned as a heritage and cultural gift to further add to the Library's collective wealth of knowledge. The book was also a best seller in Malaysia.

Inspiring others

Shaun Adam

In March 2022, I was honoured to be named as a finalist in the Business and Innovation category of the British Council Study UK Alumni Award in Malaysia. Furthermore, I went on to be named as one of their 28 Global Finalists from over 1,500 applications. These awards shine a light on the impact that alumni of UK higher education institutions are making in their chosen field, and how this was sparked by their studies in the UK.

Through this, as well as my involvement in various groups, scholars club and alumni meetings, I continue to advocate and advise new prospective students on how to make the most of a UK education and experience. It is my hope that new aspiring students will have the opportunity to go on and make a practical difference in the world.