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Speech by Mr Fabian Seet


Mr Tan Choon Shian Principal and CEO, Singapore Polytechnic
Distinguished Guests
Parents and Graduands
Staff of Singapore Polytechnic
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Good Evening.

  1. I am very honoured to be invited and have the opportunity to speak to all of you today. I would like to congratulate the graduands from Diploma in Tourism & Resort Management, Diploma in Banking & Financial Services and Diploma in International Business for achieving this important milestone in your life. For many, the outside world of excitement and uncertainty will mark the next chapter of your beginning.

  2. In recent years, many that I met and came across during my course of work or in personal life have assumed that I have a strong academic foundation right from the start, thanks to my youthful look and my career achievements. Sorry to say, this is incorrect. Today, I would like to share with you my modest beginnings and I hope it will give you the inspiration to pursue what you want and believe in, just as I did for myself.

    My Early Days

  3. I came from a humble background where my father was a bus driver and my mother – a home based seamstress. We were the poorest among our relatives. I still remember the days when my elder brother and I spent our weekends helping our late grandmother to sell fresh vegetables at the wet market. Our reward, a dollar a day for our hard work. For me it was my first ever encounter of receiving reward for my hard work. I spent all of it on sweets and small toys – like marbles.

  4. My ambition at a young age was to become a bus driver just like my father. Why? Because to me, he was the leader of the bus and everyone else have to pay for their bus ride. Obviously, my young age ambition did not come true.

  5. Being a mischievous boy, I never had any interest in studying. Books were never my friends and I played all day long. My results were never good. My mother would constantly knocked my head, forcing me to study.

  6. My ‘O’ level results, were not as per my expectations. As I had no plans on what to do next, I decided to join my best friend in ITE. I was the pioneer batch of graduates from ITE Dover. I graduated with an ITC in Electronic Engineering.

  7. During my time in ITE, I spent the day in campus and night working as a part time waiter in discos. I worked very hard and saved the money I earned. I had a goal, to bring home the 400cc motorbike I always dreamt of. You cannot imagine my happiness the day I achieved it and rode home my reward.

  8. After ITE, I went for my national service. It was during my NS period that I had my first wake up call. 6 months before I ORD, one of NSF who was about to ORD boasted to me on his plans to pursue his degree overseas. He asked me what was my plan? I replied - I have not thought about it. Shockingly, he laughed at my face. He said “bro, you have to start thinking of what you want because you will never get a good job as you don’t even have a diploma.”

  9. His words sunk deeply into my brain like a bullet and I was disturbed by what he said. This was a changing point in my life. I started to think carefully about what I wanted for myself. I decided to pursue a career in sales. I believed at that point of time, this was the only feasible option for me to earn the big bucks, through hard work even without a strong academic foundation. At the same time, I decided to take up a part time diploma course as I knew, I will need it in the years to come.

  10. My Career, My Mentors

  11. Life was not always a bed of roses. It was tough for me to secure a sales job, thus I started working in an F&B establishment while doing my diploma. I remembered clearly what the Area Manager told me when he learned that I wanted to join the sales industry. He said, “Fabian, you are never going to make it in sales, because you have a baby face and people will not take you seriously”. I was very upset and angry. I refused to accept this as I thought to myself, who was he to dictate and make judgements on what I want to do and to be. His remarks got me even more motivated to find a sales job.

  12. I worked in the F&B establishment for about a year before landing my first sales job in the photocopying industry. I was then a Sales Executive for one of the leading photocopier companies for about 4 years. I was happy to receive my first box of namecards as I always had a vision of owning my own namecard. I was all ready to give my best as landing a sales job was not easy for a baby face like me. Unfortunately at that time I was not given much guidance and training. My colleagues were not the helpful type towards a rookie like me. To make things worse, I was given a portfolio of territories that the other sales people rejected from their portfolio. I was having a difficult time but I refused to give up and I knew I had to pursue on.

  13. I had a colleague then who was labelled as a lazy sales person and I had been warned not to be associated with him as he might be a bad influence to me. However, he became my first mentor in my sales career. His experience and knowledge in the photocopier industry was undeniable. I made the effort to bond with him and picked up on his skills and knowledge of the industry. He may not be the best role model based on his personality but my philosophy was to absorb only the good skills and knowledge that will bring me further.

  14. Since the year I joined the photocopier company, I won the award for the Sales Rookie of the Year for three consecutive years. I was doing well in the company but I decided that it was time for my next advancement. Coincidentally, I was head-hunted to join a competitor.

  15. After spending a few years in the photocopier industry, I was assured that this was not the industry I am passionate about and was hungry for new challenges which could excite me. I moved into the hotel industry and have been in it since then.

  16. I met my second mentor when I was working for my first hotel. She was my junior in the sales department. She spoke and presented herself very well. I was brought up in a Hokkien speaking family and environment. I conversed greatly in Hokkien and Mandarin when I was in the photocopier line. My level of English in both conversation and written were much weaker as compared to my colleagues in the sales & marketing department. In many instances, I was not confident to participate in debates during sales meetings and composing long proposals.

  17. I bonded with my mentor and she was always very patient in correcting my sentences and grammars during our conservations. I seek her advice and let her vet my written emails before sending them out. My English improved significantly over the years and in my opinion, I think I surpassed her. My second mentor was my colleague, became my best friend and now my partner in life.

  18. By then, I had graduated with a Diploma in Marketing & Sales Management. I knew that I would need to advance further in studies to equip me in my quest to advance higher in the corporate world. It was not solely a piece of paper that I was pursuing. I truly believed that by upgrading with a degree, I will learn and gain more knowledge that will be essential for me to perform better. I had to manage between heavy workloads, overseas sales trips and studying which was not an easy feat at all. I stayed focus, persistently aiming at what I am determined to achieve. In 2009, I graduated with an Honours Degree in Business Administration major in Marketing from the University of Wales.

  19. When your roots are strong, you will never fall. This was the phrase my third mentor wanted me to remember. She was one of the top management from my second hotel. To me, she was the most difficult person to work with. Everything that I did was not up to her expectations. She made me do more sales calls and took on more additional work as compared to my other colleagues. I never complained even when I did not receive any recognition and continue to persevere. Unexpectedly, I was given a promotion after 18 months. She told me I was one of the best she had ever trained. She has been tougher on me because she knew that I had the potential to do more and this was her ways of grooming me. My determination and perseverance paid off once again. I learned the ways of work ethics, integrity and honesty from her which has cultivated me till today.

  20. I decided to move into global sales, giving me the chance to advance further after gaining experience from hotel property sales. Of course, I also relied on others to give me the opportunity, thus I always believe everyone should be given a fair chance.

  21. My fourth and my last mentor was someone I truly respect and have known her for the last 8 years. She was once my boss, now my teacher and will always be a good friend. No one is perfect and I have flaws that I do not see. She saw them and was always there to guide me, both in work and personal life. She always reminded me, “Fabian, every challenge that you face now is preparing you for something great in the future”.

  22. Conclusion

  23. Throughout my career, I have always asked myself what I want next and think of strategies on how to achieve it. I believe that this is important as it gives me motivation and it became a form of pacer on where I am and how I am gearing towards the next.

  24. I might not be able to achieve where I am now without the 4 mentors that I met. I hope you will find yours, someone who will guide and help you in your path to success. Stay humble and learn from them.

  25. My message to you is, believe in yourself, believe in your dream and believe that you can achieve it. Be humble, stay focus, persevere and do not give up easily.

  26. I would like to share a quote from our late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, “You begin your journey not knowing where it will take you. You have plans, you have dreams, but every now and again you take uncharted roads, face impassable mountains, cross treacherous rivers, be blocked by landslides and earthquakes. That’s the way my life has been.”

  27. To end my speech,” An arrow can only be launched when you pull it backwards. If life is pulling you back and you are having a hard time now, it means that it is going to launch you into something great. For now, stay focus and aim well”!

  28. Thank you.

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