SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT & GENERAL MANAGER FOR GREATER CHINA REGION
HEAD, MARKET DEVELOPMENT & STRATEGY DERIVATIVES SINGAPORE EXCHANGE (SGX)
AT THE POLYTECHNIC’S 56TH GRADUATION CEREMONY
MONDAY 9 MAY 2016 (SESSION 9)
Mr Tan Choon Shian
Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Polytechnic
Parents and Graduands
Ladies & Gentleman
- Good Afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here today at Singapore Polytechnic’s 56th Graduation Ceremony. I would like to thank the School for inviting me back to celebrate in this joyous occasion.
- Let me first congratulate all the graduands here for their commendable effort in achieving this significant milestone. And to your teachers, families, friends and loved ones who have been your supporters all along, they deserve the biggest applause.
- Graduation ceremonies are also commencement ceremonies as they signal the beginning of the next chapter of life. And a new beginning always brings both excitement and anxiety. Some of you may be wondering, “Should I continue my studies or get some work experience first?” That was indeed one of the first questions that I had when I was once in your shoes.
- Reflecting on my own journey and experience, and what has worked for me, I would like to share a few thoughts which may provide some guidance to frame how you think about your career and future ahead.
- I graduated from Singapore Polytechnic in 1992 and landed in an audit role with a young futures exchange which is now known as the Singapore Exchange. At that time, the futures industry was very nascent in Asia where trading happened in seemingly disorderly and extremely noisy trading pits in an open outcry fashion.
- It was far from sophisticated compared to the fully electronic global trading environment now. Little did I know that I would be embarking on a career which now spans more than 20 years. And I still enjoy every minute of it! So, what does it take to be successful?
- We often hear that someone is successful because he or she is in the right place at the right time. While this statement makes a lot of sense, the fundamental hypothesis or the logic, which is often missed, is that he or she has got to be the right person. The key is to focus on preparing yourself to become that right person.
- In the same way that you have prepared for years to complete your diploma, your next destination should constantly be a journey of learning and preparation. In a school environment, students are provided with structured learning and curriculum that keep up with industry needs. Courses in Singapore Polytechnic Business School are not purely academic but integrated with off-campus activities, internships, field trips and competition opportunities to bridge learning with industry application. The diploma provides a strong foundation which you can and must further build upon, whether it is through workplace learning or furthering your studies.
- The difference is learning in the workplace is going to be far less structured and the challenge is to remain disciplined about it. This requires you to have the hunger to learn, the hunger to serve, the hunger to prove, the hunger to excel.
- In the process, you will develop strengths, realise your weaknesses. You will make mistakes, you can fail. Persist and reinvent yourself from time to time. Having served in 8 different roles within the company has made me realise the importance of continued up-skilling and not to rest on my laurels. So, be hungry, be relentless in pursing and applying knowledge.
- The next point that I always believe in is that humility is the foundation of all virtures. By that, I mean it goes beyond being humble and having empathy for the underprivileged. While it is natural for human kind to show compassion and to reach out to the less fortunate, it is often less straight forward when you are facing someone of equals.
- In a work place context, humility is going to shape how you interact, relate, connect with your colleagues and peers, and ultimately lead them. Talents cut across nationalities and cultures. The number one challenge of a globalised work force is the ability of the leader to value differences, which involves embracing diversity and promoting inclusion. Companies often need to form cross-functional projects and specialised vertical teams to deliver specific outcomes. At Singapore Exchange, many of the teams that I work closely with hail from different parts of the world. Conflicts and misunderstandings can arise and we need to adopt an open mind to fully realise the benefits of team diversity.
- Humility means to respect one another as a unique individual, which then allows you to recognise and focus on the person’s positive qualities and strengths to collectively work towards a common purpose. This overcomes any form of personality and cultural differences, and most importantly increases your ability to operate outside your comfort zone. To quote a late British noveIist Clive Staples Lewis, he said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. So, recognise the power of humility.
- In closing, let me share with you a final thought. In a lifetime, a person would have been active in the workforce for approximately 40 years on average. That is a very long time. If you take me for example, I have only just crossed the half way mark.
- Given the longevity, the way to manage a career is like running a marathon. It compels you to demonstrate perseverance, tenacity, commitment and passion in what you are doing. Inevitably, there will be high and low points. And as you navigate through successes and challenges, I hope you will remember to be relentlessly hungry, exhibit humility, and stay passionately in race.
- Thank you and I wish all of you success in your futures endeavours. Enjoy the evening.