Drama is not a common double-major subject for most accounting students, but for Mae Shen Tan, BBA (BHP), BA (drama) ’97; MPA ’97, the combination is as natural as yin and yang.
“My MPA enables me to delve quickly into how market-to-market accounting impacts investments in private equity funds, and my drama background helps me break down complex issues into a kind of bite-sized show-and-tell,” she explains.
Tan is a vice president with the Private Bank in JPMorgan’s Singapore office.
During her MPA internship with Coopers & Lybrand, she outsourced to Regency Productions, known for blockbuster movies like “Pretty Woman” and “Free Willy.” Besides enabling her to learn about film production from a cost management perspective, the job also had its glamorous moments—like rubbing shoulders with George Clooney and the actors from the sitcom “Friends” in the Warner Bros. cafeteria.
Her distinctive mix of talents also gave her a surprising leg up in her full-time job search.
“As a foreign student, finding work in the U.S. can be somewhat elusive due to visa requirements,” she explains. Recruiters were intrigued to meet an international student with a drama degree, Tan says, and it was influential in landing her first job at JPMorgan.
After a time, though, she gave in to a longtime desire to pursue a career in sound engineering. She left JPMorgan, returned to Singapore and began dubbing Japanese cartoons into English.
One, Mistin/Kasumin, was syndicated to the U.S. through the Fox Kids Channel. And more than her voice had a nice ring to it. “I also composed a ringtone that Samsung used for the launch of a new mobile phone,” Tan says.
Eventually, she found that she missed the social interaction and intellectual stimulation that accounting offered. “But it was nice to be able to prove to the naysayers that one can earn a living doing something as fun as voiceovers for cartoons,” she admits.
JPMorgan enthusiastically welcomed Shen back, and today she manages portfolios and advises clients on their investments across asset classes (fixed income, equities, alternative investments and currencies). “In other words,” she says, “on a good day, I help make very wealthy individuals wealthier.”
But she hasn’t completely traded productions for portfolios. She sits on the advisory board for Zebra Crossing, which promotes artistic and cultural endeavors worldwide.