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SPEECH BY MR LEONARD YEOW
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE EXIMIUS GROUP PTE LTD
AT THE 52nd GRADUATION CEREMONY
TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2012 (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.

Congratulations

  1. Let me first begin by speaking to all of you, the beautiful young ladies and all our handsome young men, all the Graduands gathered in this wonderful Convention Centre this morning – let me say to you, Congratulations to all of you!  Just a few years ago, when you first stepped onto this campus, this was the very day you were thinking and dreaming of, Graduation Day, and so today we are here, finally! All your hard work, your investments of time, emotions, energy, finances and much more, have paid off and so today, you reap your rewards and become Graduates & Alumnis of Singapore Polytechnic. This is your day!
  2. Secondly, my special congratulations, also go to all the parents, grandparents, spouses, family members and faculty members in this hall – all of you have also worked very hard, supporting your graduands, helping  them in so many ways, often behind the scenes, pushing them gently across the finishing line. Without you, it would not be possible, and so I know that all of you should feel very, very proud this morning. Congratulations to all of you too!
  3. Today, as you close this chapter of your life, at the very same time, you also open the doors to the next chapter, as life unfolds towards your future.  I am just so privileged to be here this morning to address all of you, and to share in these joyous moments of your lives. Thank You Very much for inviting me here this morning.

My Own Journey in Singapore Poly

  1. 31 years ago, in July 1981, a young man with several of his secondary school friends, arrived for his first day of studies in the then new Singapore Polytechnic here in Dover Road. Like some of you here, he chose Singapore Polytechnic versus the JC for pure economic reasons, because he needed to complete his studies earliest and get out to work to ease the burden on his parents. So he arrived when much of the campus then was still under construction; only Teaching Blocks T1, T2, T3, MLT1, and the lower floor of front block of the Library, Canteen 1 (where the T1A concourse is now located); only these were fully ready for use. Everything else of the Phase 1 campus was still in the final touches of renovations and construction, thankfully completing by the end of the 2nd semester of the first year.
  2.  It was a great new adventure for me, that young man, now not so young anymore. Where I used to walk to secondary school, I then had to take a long bus ride every morning back and forth to studies (no MRT then in Singapore). For the first time, going to school meant I don’t need to wear a uniform. (yes, we laughed at our friends in JC and Pre-University Centres then).  We could keep our hair a little longer, attend classes in jeans, T-shirts and wear whatever acceptable comfortable clothes. No, we could not afford branded or Hip T-Shirts then; club and society T-shirts were quite acceptable, and we wore them till they were faded. For me, the word “Learning” took on a whole new dimension, with interaction with lecturers, classmates, the practical sessions in an engineering environment, and all these contributed to a holistic learning experience by doing. Even walking from academic and tuition classes to our workshop classes across the campus quickly became a careful art of time planning, because everything was much bigger and much further.
  3. Today, Singapore Polytechnic has developed both in size, stature, and the sheer diversity of the many courses offered on this impressive campus. Last week, I had lunch with the leadership team from the school, and as I was walking through some parts of the campus, I noticed so much has changed, and I am told a lot more is being planned. You now have this wonderful convention centre, so many new and modern building facilities, free Wifi, air-conditioned canteens, McDonald, Starbucks, and very soon even a full serviced bank branch on campus. All these reflect how times have changed since my days, how life and the expectations of life has changed, and how tertiary learning has changed. Indeed Singapore Polytechnic has done very well in moving with the times, and in many ways, ahead of the times. If you travel and see the world as much as some of us do, you will surely know that almost all the tertiary institutions we have in Singapore (including Singapore Poltechnic) have world-class campus infrastructure.
  4. Perhaps what will never change is that our time in Singapore Poly, especially for the full time students, is a special period of 3 to 4 years of being with the people around you here, the growing alongside, spending time and nurturing lifelong friendships here. I made many good friends, built many enduring friendships. Many of us went through National Service together, suffered together, went out to work around the same time, and compared notes over the years. Some classmates got married to other classmates. Even to this day, these same friends grow old along with me. Many even watch their children come through Singapore Poly, and discover their own journey in life.
  5. The total experience of tertiary education is never just about scoring great grades, and completing the course assignments. Certainly, my approach to analysing, breaking down, solving simple or complex problems, and troubleshooting them – all these skills find their foundations in my student days in Singapore Poly. I thank GOD for the strong fundamentals built into my life during the short 3 years spent here.
  6. But the full experience goes beyond the grades. It is the time spent on campus, the many meals in the canteens, the games played at the Sports Centre, interclass faculty competitions, staying behind to mug for exams and tests, outsmarting each other, teasing each other, maybe your first love with someone special, the dance and hops events, the singing, the laughing, the crying and the family we found on the campus during our time here in this home-away-from home.

Seasons and Decades of Our Life

  1. One of the things I do in my professional life as the CEO of a headhunting consulting firm, is that on a daily basis, I read resumes, actually countless resumes. And over time, I see patterns of how people evolve in their professional journey, over the many years that they work after graduation from Polytechnics or from Universities.
  2. I noticed that broadly speaking, we can divide our professional lives into different decades, roughly about 10 years, plus /minus a few years. And I observed that in our twenties, often people go through this period of “finding out what they really want to do, or like to do”. This does not happen in a laid-back passive way. Rather, it starts with the first job that comes along. We take the job, work hard at it, and through that experience, we answer this question – “is this job we really want to do? Maybe it is, maybe it is not. If it is not, we change job sometime thereafter. After a few changes, either in “jobs with different companies”, or in “different roles with the same company”, we go through this process of defining what we are really good at, and what we really like to do. I call this a process of “eliminating away what we don’t like to do, and working towards what we like to do and do well” (the assumption is that we have the financial freedom to choose). The keyword of this “twenties” season of our twenties is “Variety
  3.  I also observed that once we know what we are good at, and choose to move along that path, we grow into our thirties, and we begin to specialise, and become very good in building competencies, expertise and deep experience in those specialised areas. So in our thirties, I framed this as the season of “Specialisation”. For example, we become a very good computer engineer, finance manager, HR leader, sales and marketing professional.
  4.  Once we specialised for a period of time, in our forties, we realise that we have become strong and good, and we not only do good work, we now influence and make impact in bigger way. Depending on the platform we have at that time, in our forties, and also into our fifties, the key word is the word “Significance”.
  5. Today, as you graduate, you will enter into the season of “Variety”, the twenties. My advice to each of you, is this. Don’t say “I don’t know”, don’t say, “I cannot”. Once you have sized up the challenges of the role, and you know you can do it, give it a good try, make it work, learn and soak from people teaching you, and “Just Do It”. Once we have some measure of success, and some experience, and we know what we can do - we will do better, and develop even more. Build experience as much as you can, be open to constructive comments. Don’t take yourself too seriously, if you make some mistake. After all, this is the season to make some mistakes and learn from them, when the stakes are much lower because you are not yet at a senior role. Learn as much as possible, build experience. Don’t think too highly of yourself, and don’t think too lowly of yourself too. Think well of yourself.

Keep improving yourself

  1. The Diploma you will receive is just the beginning. It gives you a special foundation, a new springboard, a different platform, because you can build upon this new foundation.  After you have worked for a while, and if the finances and time allow you to do so, I would strongly urge all of you to consider furthering your studies to your Bachelor degrees and beyond, if this is your desire. There is really no end to continuing learning both from the work experience dimension, as well as from further education, whether locally or aboard.

Concluding Remarks

  1. In conclusion, I will wish each and every one of the Graduands this morning “All the very best in the years ahead.”
  2. Today, as we complete this graduation ceremony, we close the chapter of our study time in Singapore Polytechnic, and we open the chapter to the new life ahead. Once again, Congratulations to all of you. Thank You and GOD Bless.