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Mr Tan Hang Cheong,
Principal of Singapore Polytechnic

Distinguished Guests

Parents and Graduands

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Good morning!

A BIG Thank You for having me

  1. It really feels great to be back to Singapore Polytechnic, after having graduated some 18 years ago.  This is a place where many of my fond memories were created and many of my work skills such as presentation skills, business writing, inter-personal skills etc were learnt.  These memories and skills have contributed much to both my personal and work life, and are in fact helping me to perform my current job as a Director overseeing 18 divisions in the South West district and 124 Neighbourhood Committees nation-wide, with manpower of more than 300. 
  2. I would like to say a BIG Thank You to SP for keeping in touch with the alumni, and for inviting me to share my personal journey as a form of encouragement to all of you who are graduating and moving on to the next phase of your life.  Some of you may join the workforce immediately, while some may continue pursuing your studies.  Whichever pathways you choose, I strongly believe that ‘your attitude determines your altitude’.  How far you can go and how much you can achieve, in my opinion, depend much on your way of thinking and way of behaving.  Just a quick illustration, using the story of a young student approaching the famous French scientist and philosopher, Blaise Pascal.  The young student declared to Pascal that “If I had your brains, I would be a better person.”  After pondering for a while over the comment, Pascal replied “Be a better person, and you will have my brains.”

Three Key Principles

  1. Personally, I have 3 key beliefs that are my cornerstones in life.
    1. Can-do attitude

- Having a can-do attitude or positive/optimistic outlook is very important.  Particularly in the face of adversity, I will always tell myself that ‘I can do it’ and ‘I will overcome it’.  And I will try to compare my circumstances with something worse, reminding myself how lucky I am to be where I am. 

- I come from a humble background.  My father was the sole breadwinner for the family of five.  He worked as a taxi driver back then, bringing home about $1200 every month after paying the lease of the taxi.  My mother was a housewife, but had taken on odd jobs to supplement the household income.  Like the budget airline, it was a no frills growing up journey – seldom ate out, no overseas tours and definitely no Barbie dolls.  There was a period of time when the situation had gotten worse, when my father was diagnosed with nose cancer and when he had borrowed money from loan sharks.

- Besides helping my mom with some home-based work to earn extra allowance, I took on several part-time or temporary jobs since when I was 15 years old.  My first part-time work was in McDonald’s. Subsequently I had worked as a sales girl in various retail outlets, housekeeper in a hotel, waitress at cafes and hotels, cashier in 7-11, admin clerk in banks and etc.

- Was I unhappy about my situation back then?  Of course, I was not happy, and felt depressed and cried over it at times.  But I kept telling myself that I can get out of the situation, and consoled myself that there are people who are worse off than me.  So, I focused my mind on doing well in my education, as well as worked my way towards getting my Marketing degree in Queensland.

- This ‘Can Do’ attitude has helped me braved the early part of my life and it also has helped me thus far in my career path. 

    1. Giving

- I came across this quote while I was preparing for my today’s sharing and I thought it is very apt in describing my next belief of ‘Giving’.  During an inaugural address by John F. Kennedy, a former President of the USA in 1961 said ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.  Ask not what your parent can do for you but what you can do for them.  Ask not what your organization can do for you but what you can do for them.

– I started off as a Programme Officer with the Adventure Pursuit Section, the People’s Association, in 1996.  It was a 5-member team.  Being the newest and youngest back then, I was given a lot of ‘opportunities’.  I had to provide admin support such as writing minutes of meetings to organizing adventure-related activities and facilitating grassroots volunteers’ involvement.  I worked almost 7 days a week, including night time.  During the 10 months that I was with the section, I had helped the team to streamline and improve communication processes with the 5 sea sports clubs, voluntarily i.e. not tasked by my supervisor.  I had also helped to liven up the workplace environment by decorating the place with plants and motivational posters, as well as volunteered to organize various team bonding outings.  These are my ‘value-adds’ in addition to my core work tasked by my supervisor.

- Throughout my career move in the People’s Association, from Programme Officer to senior programme officer, Head, Assistant Director, Deputy General Manager, General Manager and now Director, I have always asked myself – ‘how can I value-add’ and ‘what can I give’ to the organization.  And it is with this attitude of ‘giving’ and not being too ‘calculative’ that I learnt a lot more than my peers, and got promoted faster than my peers.  

- Hence, I would like to encourage all of you to ‘Give’ as you will definitely receive more in return.  As shared by Ralph Marston from ‘The Daily Motivator’:  Give a little kindness, and receive friendship in return.  Give an extra effort, and receive more value in return.  Give an honest answer, and receive trust in return.  Give a smile, and receive joy in return.  Give of yourself, and receive a life of richness in return.

    1. Passion

- This year is my 16th year in the People’s Association.  It is my first job and could possibly be my last job.  The key reason for staying on in this job for so long is my passion for my work.  I truly love meeting people and working with volunteers and partners to make a difference in the community, to bring social bonding activities and welfare assistance to the community, with the ultimate aim of building social capital.  You must be passionate in the things you do, and this is my third belief.  When you are passionate about something, you will be more willingly to put in the extra efforts, feel a sense of fulfillment in doing it and be happy about it.  

- The opposite of passion is indifference.  And I believe none of you here want to live your life in such a manner – doing things for the sake of doing, and not knowing where your passion lies.

-  Hence, I would like to encourage all of you to follow your heart as Hebbel, a famous German poet said ‘Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion’


  1. I hope that I have not bored you with my sharing, and that it has provided some food for thought in your career planning going forward.
  2. On this note, let me congratulate all of you for finishing a good race, in achieving your Diploma in Business Administration or Diploma in Tourism and Resort Management.  I can’t help feeling proud and jealous at the same time of your various achievements such as 1) DBA students representing Singapore in the finals of the Regional FedEX Competition in Bangkok in August last year and beating 22 teams from different countries to clinch the 2nd prize, 2) the creation of the concept store SPELL (Singapore Polytechnic Entrepreneurship Living Laboratory) at Changi Airport Terminal 3, which was inspired by students’ passion for innovation, creativity, design and fashion, had provided students who are managing it with unique and real-life learning opportunities, and 3) your exposure to real world work experience via internship to top companies locally like MBS, RWS, Swissotel, Fairmont, Jet Star Asia and overseas like Walt Disney world in USA.  I definitely don’t get to enjoy these 18 years ago.
  3. I am happy to note that many students and graduates from DBA and DTRM are recognized for their stellar achievements in their career, academic achievements, community contributions and co-curricular activities.  Numerous students and graduates have also been conferred reputable scholarships and recognition awards.  For example, Serene Koh Sze Chiah, is a recipient of a prestigious scholarship from the Monetary Authority of Singapore to pursue a Master of Finance at Cambridge University in September 2011 and Lee Qi Ni, a graduating student this year, has been offered an ASEAN Scholarship by NTU Business School.  She is also one of the 2nd prize winners in the FedEX regional competition.  Once again, my heartfelt congratulations to all of you for a job well done.
  4. Your education thus far has given you a leg-up for future success.  With the right attitude, you will be able to unleash incredible potentials. 
  5. Wishing all of you every success in your future endeavors, and most importantly enjoy a fruitful, exciting and dazzling journey ahead.