MONDAY, 23 MAY 2011 (Session 2)

Members of the Board of Governors,

Mr. Tan Hang Cheong, Principal, Singapore Polytechnic,

Distinguished Guests,

Parents and Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon.

Congratulations to ALL

    oday is a very special occasion for all the graduates here. This is a moment that you have waited for, after three years of blood, sweat and tears. I feel privileged to be a part of this special moment and I rejoice with you on your graduation ceremony. My heartiest congratulations to all of you graduands on your success!
  1. This graduation ceremony brings with it a tinge of nostalgia because I was like one of you back in 1978 when I graduated with a Diploma in Electrical Engineering. I can identify with your excitement as well as anxieties. The second time when I was here was back in 2007, as a proud parent just like many parents out there when my daughter graduated. Today I am standing here both as a speaker and also a proud parent as my son is seated somewhere out there graduating together with many of you.

  2. You will ask, “What is next?” This is a common question most graduates will ask. My answer to you is that your journey has just begun. Many of you will start your military career, enlisting into National Service, some will continue to the University to further their studies and of course some of you will embark on their careers. Whatever it maybe, the road ahead will be long and winding.

  3. Another common question is, “How can I be successful?” Everyone likes to be successful in life. I believe as a young graduate, you would want to be successful too. I will like to take the next few minutes to share with you some of my thoughts on successful living. I encapsulate these thoughts in an acronym “GEM”. You will probably ask, “What does GEM stands for?” Is this the “Go the Extra Mile” propaganda that many of us are very familiar with. Let me elaborate:
    1. G stands for “Go”
    2. E is to “Equip” and
    3. M is to “Match”.

Go –Explore and Make a Difference

  1. Firstly, I advise all young people like you to go and explore the world around you and make a difference. Learn from nature. Be excited, be curious and be thrilled by creation and creatures alike.

  2. The circle of dust surrounding us could mean leaving our comfort zone, the problems and stress that we face in daily living, unhealthy mindsets or even technological innovations that so easily beset us. The latter may include electronic gadgets, such as the iPod, iTouch, iPhone, iPAD to name just a few! (I am not against APPLE products) I highlight these examples because we can become fixated by these innovations and forget the more human part of interaction and communication. I mentioned this example, because in this modern era, it is common for families not to dine regularly or enjoy simple joys like watching television together. There are cases when parents have to text a message to their children in their own home to alert them to leave their computer games and have dinner! This is becoming very common.

    So, let us leave our own comfort zone. Be aware of the happenings in the world around us. Go and understand the struggles and the challenges that each man on the street faces every day. Go and reach out to those who need our help. Help can come in many simple gestures - such as simply keeping the lift door open for someone, being kind and compassionate or philanthropic to those in need.

    A very recent example of is 2 of our top military commanders leaving their comfort zone as SAF commanders and turning politicians. This indeed is the courage of going out, exploring and making a difference.

    As for myself closer to heart, although started with a Diploma in Electrical Engineering I have venture in different arena, working for Electrical contracting company, jumping into an MNC working on Fire Protection Systems, as a Business Consultant in China for a Local Enterprise, restructuring of a Swiss company in Singapore, as a trainer and lecturer for the MBA programme etc etc etc. The options are wide and open for us to explore.

Equip Ourselves with Relevant Skills

  1. The second letter ‘E’ in GEM stands for “equip”, that is, equip ourselves with relevant skills. As we witness a rapidly evolving world with sweeping changes in the way we live, communicate and do business, we have to equip ourselves with effective tools in order to survive. Let me just add another dimension about changes. In this competitive environment the only thing that is constant is change. One way to help us confront the new challenges in this new paradigm of living is to continuously upgrade our knowledge and skills. Today, we are here, not just to celebrate the completion of your education; you have reached a milestone and signal the beginning of a life of learning. Equip your mind; engage in creative and innovative thinking. Be open to new possibilities, ask good questions, take risks, experiment with novel ideas; going beyond the known and established boundaries and to advance into new frontiers.

  2. For example, organizations nowadays engage their employees in design thinking for product branding and innovation to create competitive advantage for business success. Today, design thinking is a popular tool, as design is no longer associated with just product aesthetics, but has become an approach to generate new ideas while accepting failure as part of the learning experience. Do remember, there is no failure in your journey, it only means that you have not reached there yet.

  3. Hence, we have to equip ourselves with relevant skills to stay productive in our jobs and thrive in the new business landscape.

  4. Many of you out there will be fortunate to have the support and resources from your parents to pursue your further studies and go on to a University degree and probably a Master and a PhD. For those of you who will step into the industry and start your working career do not despair, the opportunities are always out there to further your studies, I am just one example of the working adult, learning along the way, I achieve my first degree at the age of 31, while my daughter achieve her honours degree at the age of 22, so you can see there are always many ways of achieving what we need and to equip ourselves with necessary skills. As I progress in the industry, I have always asked what else is needed and I went on to obtain 2 more Master degree to equip myself with the necessary tools and skills. From my own cohort there are many of my friends and colleagues that did the same and are very successful in their own rights.

Match your “Go” and “Equip” with hard work and dedication

  1. Thirdly, ‘M’ stands for “Match your ‘go’ and ‘equip’ with hard work and dedication”. Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, suggests that to be a specialist in your trade, your need to clock in at least 10 000 hours of experience. If you work 40-hour weeks, that will take you five years to achieve mastery. Bill Gates of Microsoft, Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems, Bobby Fischer, the chess grandmaster, pop legends The Beatles, and world class musicians are examples who dedicated the prime of their lives to reach peak performance.

  2. As a youth, Bill Gates was easily bored in school. He developed an obsession for programming – doing that for up to 30 hours per week. By the time he dropped out of Harvard, he had already been programming non-stop for seven consecutive years – more than 10 000 hours.

  3. Besides hard work, dedication is important. One day, Michelangelo the famed sculptor was toying with a piece of sculpture far beneath his abilities.  His lesser known teacher, Bertoldo, saw it and grabbed a hammer, stomped across the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting this unforgettable message, “Michelangelo! Talent is cheap but dedication is costly!” This is a very important lesson for all, the effort and dedication in your work plus the passion will see the results of your work.

  4. You can now enjoy the wonderful rides and beauty of Universal Studio Singapore (USS) right at our door step in Singapore, The construction of the USS took the project team less than 3 years to complete the project, this has never happen anywhere in the world, with such record breaking time frame. This is the result of a team of dedicated and passionate project managers, engineers, designers, creative artist and many more.  The focus, the single track objective, the team work and the passion see the completion of a one in a life time project that will not be easily repeated. I am proud to be part of the project team and see it all with the blood sweat and tears.

  5. Let me also share with you my Department Core Values (by the way I am now heading  the Facilities Management and Engineering  with Resorts World @ Sentosa in short RWS) it is known as  S.T.R.O.N.G.  
    • S for systematic thinking in concurrent engineering,   
    • T for team work approach, there is no superman or hero, no one can do everything himself/herself, we leverage on one another and build on a core team.
    • R for reliability in our delivery to our customer.
    • O for ownership, we take ownership and are accountable to our action. 
    • N for nonstop learning to continue builds know-how. 
    • G for going all out to satisfy our customers. To many of you these may sounds familiar, but it is the actual execution that really matters.

The Challenge

  1. Thus, I challenge you to arm yourselves with this “GEM” - “go and explore and make a difference in this world”, “equip yourself with the relevant skills” and “match all these with hard work and dedication”. And I am sure all of you will do mighty things with this GEM, commitment and passion in the long and winding road ahead.

    To live without commitment and passion it is to live in that “grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”  To sum in all it is the courage and DARE TO DREAM that make the difference.


  1. Finally, I congratulate all the graduates and your families for what you have accomplished and let me conclude by wishing you the very best as you walk this new journey in life.

  2. Thank you.