TUESDAY, 24 MAY 2011 (Session 3)

Members of the Board of Governors,

Mr Tan Hang Cheong, Principal, Singapore Polytechnic,

Distinguished Guests,

Parents and Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

    y name is Dirk Peter van Leeuwen and I am the Vice President of  Red Hat Asia Pacific. I am a 45 years old Dutch guy and for the last 2 years I have enjoyed life here in Singapore


  1. It is indeed a great honour to be invited to address you at this graduation ceremony.  To relatives and friends of the graduands in our midst, you deserve special acknowledgement.  Many of you have made significant sacrifices to make this day possible for them and I am sure you are very proud of the achievement of your loved ones. 

  2. Today marks an important point of closure in your life. You have all spent many years here at the Singapore Poly and you made important choices for your future when you decided what specialization you would graduate in.

  3. And here you are, during your study at the Singapore Polytechnic, you gained a lot of know how.........., but..... how now ?

  4. The one thing I can tell you from my own experience it that no matter how you plan your life and career to be at this moment, it is bound to be very different from the reality.

  5. Ponder for a while on how some of you will have a major career running large organizations or make significant contributions in whatever way and others won't? Is it about how clever you are ? Is it what your next study will be about ? Is it about luck ? Or is it about who you know ? For sure it is about a combination of all of these but my firm belief is that it is about one thing in particular. One thing that differentiate any of our industry leaders from their class mates or from their colleagues who are eager to get the same position. Why is Steve Jobs still leading Apple? Why is Bill Gates still very much engaged in Microsoft, or even, why has Singapore's Minister Mentor led the country for 52 years ? Are they better qualified than the rest?  Do they know more? Do they still want to make more money ?

  6. The key word here is PASSION, all of the very successful people in this world have one thing in common, passion.

  7. No matter what it is that you are passionate about, if you have passion for what you do, you will almost automatically be successful at it.

  8. When I met Director Ng last friday for Lunch, he mentioned that these days there is this huge selection of study directions at the Singapore Poly to give students the ability to study about what they are passionate about and I believe that this is a great thing. It allows you to develop the qualities that you care about and to excel in them. Still, the route you chose may not be defining your future career path as many events in the future will change your ways but that is fine too, if you are a passionate person, your passion will guide you through life.

  9. When I finished my education, which was comparable to what you are finishing today, I had studied Technical Computer Science and was ready to conquer the world. My plan was to go to the US and get a graduate position at a company in Taxes called Memorex/Telex. I had done the remote interviews and was hired. I was looking forward to getting some real life work experience and at the same time see something of the world. Traveling has always been my dream and I wanted to see the whole world. Unfortunately though it didn' t work out that way as I did not get the work permit and was forced to stay in the Netherlands. I ended up getting one of the last available graduate positions as a programmer, which was not what I was looking for, but still I gave it my 100%. The passion I put into my work got recognized and soon I was promoted to be a manager and a few years later I ran a team of 16 Developers in C and C++. So here I was in a non commercial very technical oriented job.

  10.  At that time I designed a system for Cash Registers that did not exist anywhere else in the world and it was based on a modified version of SCO Unix. This development caught the attention of the people of SCO in the UK and they brought over one of their largest prospects to look at what this solution was about. It wasn't that this was such a great invention, especially on hind sight, but it was may passionate way of presenting and demonstrating it that caused that customer to buy the product from SCO. Immediately after that SCO offered me a job as a Solutions Architect.

  11. So here I was the first Dutch guy working for this Unix Company alone in the Netherlands with no one telling me what to do and no local colleagues. So I decided that instead of doing a technical consulting job that I was hired for , I would help sell the products. And before I knew it, I was running a sales organization of 30 people and my role was expanded from pre-sales consultant to Director for Northern Europe, covering 7 countries.

  12. From there on after, I was in a complete different line of business. I created business plans, closed huge deals and dealt with people issues, marketing, PR sales and Finance, and soon I became an all round General Manager.

  13. Today I Live in Singapore work as a VP for Red Hat and run a $200M++ Organization in APAC with over 800 People.

  14. Did I plan this career ???

  15. Absolutely not, but there where a number of defining moments where I had to made important career decisions. To be honest, most of my promotions came at a moment where I really enjoyed what I was doing and wasn't looking for a change at all. I often even felt I wasn't up for the job that was offered to me and wanted to gain more experience in my current job first. But one important philosophy in my life that I always followed is to seize the opportunities I get even if they come unexpectedly or unplanned, which they normally do by the way . I jumped into the deep end of the pool and despite fear, uncertainty and doubt, I put all my passion into the new opportunity and succeed.

  16. Sure, it wan't always easy and sometimes I felt like quitting or giving up as there are so many unexpected things that happened in your life that you simply never learned to deal with. These are things that can not be taught in school and are better known as work experience. Ploughing through those moments helped me gain lots and lots of experience that still guide me on a daily basis and now help me to make the right decisions. The one other important aspect of my work career has been the ethical side of life. I want to urge you all to check your own motivation. Is it honest? Is it in the interest of the company or is it maybe selfish ? It is ok to make mistakes, but are you prepared to come clean and correct them? That may not be easy and your ego may stand in the way of doing so.

  17. So if there are 3 things that I can pass on to you as a tip for the future then these 3 things are.
    1. Be honest, modest and committed to yourself and others;

    2. Seize the opportunities you get and don' t wait for the next one as it may never come;

    3. Be Passionate about everything you do. Your passion will always outweigh your other qualifications.

  18. I will give you one more example of how passion can make people successful: If I interview people for a position at Red Hat I always look for the passion in the people I hire. Of course they need to have the basic qualifications and their CV needs to look right, but if I don't see the passion I will not hire them . One of my best hires ever was a sales person who I only gave 10 minutes for the interview as I was on a tight schedule but he was so passionate about how he would fulfill his job obligations and how he would be good for the company that I hired him in 10 minutes. Right now he is running 4 countries as a Director for Red Hat and he is making a great career for himself

  19. Today your education will be defining what jobs you can get.  You have been, and will be making very important decisions for your future, but at some point in your career, your education becomes less relevant and your career opportunities will depend on what you achieved in your work life and not as much as what school diplomas you have. This is where your experience will kick in. And really your CV will become a testimony to who you really are.

  20. Therefore, you have to be committed to your career choices, you have to make a success  out of every opportunity you seize. Putting your passion into that opportunity will make the difference, try to find those things that you can do to expand your relevance in the job, do this with passion and your contributions will be noticed even before you realize it yourself.

  21. This will give you true satisfaction and it will progress your personal life, your career and you will be a joy of others to work with.

  22. I can feel the energy in this room. It is great to be surrounded by all you smart people who have a fantastic career opportunity in front of you.

  23. You all have already a lot of know how. And soon you will know, 'how now'!

  24. It has been a great pleasure and honor to join you today to celebrate your accomplishments.  I am excited for you as you take this important next step of your life.  Let me congratulate you again and wish you success in all your future endeavors.  Thank you.