Mr. Tan Choon Shian, Principal & CEO of Singapore Polytechnic
Distinguished Guests, Parents, Friends
And all Graduands
Congratulations for surviving numerous challenges that have continuously conspired to prevent you from earning your Diploma today. Against all those exams, tutorials and a never ending amount of mugging into the early hours of the morning, today you receive the acknowledgement that you have survived! Hurray!
Today, you have probably shredded all the lecture notes and tutorial papers you had, maybe even had a nice BBQ with them as the fuel. Your textbooks are probably already half sold on Carousel and ebay right now! And as we have all done before, you have given back all the knowledge that your lecturers so painstakingly taught you. Six years of primary school, a couple more in secondary school and three more here. At last! One piece of paper is all you needed.
Do you think your first job is going to be like any exam question you have ever prepared for? Nope. Do you think you tutorial and lab sessions were anything like your day at work? Nope. Then why did you bother to go and study for?
Because you can now learn to learn.
You may have studied for almost a decade and a half, but career of another four decades await you. The skills and knowledge you have right now is exactly what it needs for you to start that most successful career. It is about fundamentals. A good swimmer first learnt that you cannot breathe under water. A good pilot first learnt how to start the plane engine before flying the blue skies. A good engineer that you are now has the fundamentals on which to grow from.
Do you think you are the same person that walked through these gates three years ago? You have learnt technical knowledge, how to google solutions for your reports, learnt how to work in teams so you all pass the project with minimal effort. Welcome to the working world then!
Without this base that your Diploma has given you, industry would not take the you of three years ago. That person has no relevance, the person today does. You can thank your lecturers several years from now when you learn what I said is the truth.
Do you remember the first mobile phone you had? I remember playing the ‘snake’ game on my Nokia, and when my phone first had a camera. Today, our mobile phone does everything including allowing us to watch ‘Descendants of the Sun’. In the same way that the world will continue to accelerate around us, you will keep pace to stay relevant. As long as the world evolves, we will need more knowledge to keep up, and so your days of learning are far from over.
But please do not forget your roots, you will learn a variety of new skills and knowledge but to excel, you must learn true mastery of your craft. If there is anytime to get onto the shop floor to learn hands-on, to go into the desert to test a new creation, do it! Knowledge is what you know, experience is what you earn. And the second caution is to never think that you need to be promoted to ‘management’ and wear nice shirts and a neck tie everyday to be successful, just get good at what you enjoy doing and trust me when I tell you that the world will come to your door and your future is as bright as you invest your efforts to make it.
At HOPE technik, the company I work at, we have over 80 engineers and we continue to celebrate many diploma holders who are designing and building everything from exoskeletons to new vehicles, drones to robots that roam around on their own. Many are doing extensions of what they learnt, and in several short years have grown into true professional power houses!
We did a contract for Airbus Defence and Space several years ago, built a really big UAV to test the performance of a spaceplane during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Half our team were local Diploma holders who not only designed the plane but also built it with their own hands. Do you think the world of value creation really needs a PhD holder or graduate to design and build such a crazy project?
Maybe I should ask it in the other way, do you think a lot more formal education would yield individuals that could do such a crazy project?
No. A team with base knowledge they earned in school, an appetite and hunger to keep learning and experience of doing the job. Even when dealing with one of the biggest names in Aerospace, we all concur on the same thoughts.
Thank you for graduating today, Singapore needs more leaders for tomorrow.