Wilma Lam ’16
Internship: LumenLab | MetLife Innovation Centre, Singapore
Home Country/State: USA/Washington State
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Competitor, Digital Strategy
Clubs & Affiliations: Design + Innovation Club Leader, SF Job Trek Leader, Tech Club, Internship Fund, Admissions Guide
Even when I first started looking at MBA programs, I already knew I wanted to move into the design and innovation space. This summer, I’ve had the opportunity to do just that. Here at LumenLab, MetLife’s first global innovation center, creating and validating ideas are core to what we do. Founded last November, LumenLab is tasked with creating new business models by incubating product and service concepts for the Asian market. Over the last four weeks, I have been putting MBA skills into practice. From the Design + Innovation Club curriculum to insights gained from Yale SOM’s Innovator, Competitor, and Customer courses, everything has come into play.
MetLife is one of the largest insurance companies in the world, which allows our office to partner with MetLife teams all over Asia. We gain on-the-ground insights into the unique needs of customers, and local teams gain new perspectives on how to build their businesses in new ways. So far, I’ve been able to be a part of ventures for Japan, China, and Korea. Some of the best ideas seem pretty out there, but these can often be the most disruptive concepts. Seeing a “crazy idea” transform into a viable pilot is incredibly rewarding.
MetLife is one of the largest insurance companies in the world, which allows our office to partner with MetLife teams all over Asia. We gain on-the-ground insights into the unique needs of customers, and local teams gain new perspectives on how to build their businesses in new ways.
Projects are often started by brainstorm sessions focused around health, wealth building, and retirement. It could start as broad as “How do we help provide better healthcare to seniors?” to as specific as “I spoke to my cousin the other day, and she is finding it difficult to adapt to having diabetes because of these specific factors.” As a team, we identify ideas to validate through user interviews and additional analysis. Fleshed out ideas are then presented during weekly “Pitch Hour” events for review by the team, which may lead to a pilot phase with a MetLife country team.
What I love about being at LumenLab is that it has the energy and autonomy of a startup with the resources and capabilities of a multinational company. The office is located in a newly developed part of Singapore, a hub of R&D labs, think tanks, and biotech firms. Up on the 20th floor, the LumenLab entrance lobby immerses visitors in video, audio, and visual documentation from different project stages, as well as a gallery of MetLife’s history. There is also a lot of Snoopy, MetLife’s beloved mascot. He’s pretty much everywhere (paintings, wall prints, office knickknacks). Everyone loves Snoopy.
From the lobby, the space opens into a large sunny, open studio with flexible seating, reflective of the office culture. Every member of the center, including interns, is treated as a valuable collaborator. Most importantly, this is an office where fun and creativity are encouraged and hands-on experimentation is the norm. The very first thing I did on my starting day was help make a “pro-brain breakfast smoothie” with my boss, an awesome 2010 SOMer, to kick off a project aimed at helping seniors maintain brain health through diet. Last week, we researched gamification ideas by testing Kinect Sports to identify game pain points.
Empathy is what allows us to connect with customer needs and help identify projects that will truly align MetLife’s goals with the aspirations of our customers.
While these experiences are fun, they also serve a serious underlying purpose. The users we are designing for are thinking about their health, future finances, and other important decisions that will impact them and their families. Our team tests recipes and tries games in order to walk in our customers’ shoes, to know that we are piloting projects that we ourselves would use and recommend to people we cared about. Empathy is what allows us to connect with customer needs and help identify projects that will truly align MetLife’s goals with the aspirations of our customers. Right now I’m creating a children’s comic book based on my grandparents’ stories. It’s a passion project based on a series of NIH studies where storytelling was used as therapy to help retain cognitive ability and memory, vitally important with early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. I’m excited to continue developing projects through the summer with the incredible, hilarious, and insightful group of people at LumenLab.
One last thing. Singapore is beyond amazing. It is a frenetic, future-forward city full of energy, new ideas, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten chili crab with fried mantou buns.