Speech by Mr Theodore Tan

WEDNESDAY, 22 MAY 2013, 2.00PM (SESSION 14)

Mr Tan Choon Shian

Principal, Singapore Polytechnic
Distinguished Guests
Staff of Singapore Polytechnic
Parents and Graduands

  • Good afternoon.
  • It is my distinct honor to be standing here in front of you today at the 53rd Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony and sharing this moment with you. 
  • My name is Theodore Tan. 
  • For those who do not know me, I run the Biofactory, which is hosted, by the School of Chemical and life science.   The Biofactory commercialise technologies from research institutes like A star, NUS and Singapore Polytechnic.  It also helps to bring industry based opportunities to the students.
  • Having been in SP since 2009, I have had the pleasure of conducting bio entrepreneurship courses for some of you, in order to take your learning beyond the classroom.
  • If you have done well, congratulations to both you and your family!
  • Parents, I’m sure that you are very proud of your children for graduating from Singapore Poly.
  • It has certainly not have been an easy journey and I’m sure all you… Graduands have a lot to thank your parents for.
  • I would also like to especially congratulate the 3 students who have been offered a place to study medicine.
  • Graduands, be proud of yourselves and be grateful to Singapore Polytechnic. Remember to come back to contribute.
  • You have now reached a very important point in your lives. 
  • It is often in these times that one looks, both backwards and forwards.
  • As you walk through these hallways for the final time, remember the lecturers who have been so dedicated and passionate in teaching you. 
  • Remember the past successful graduands from Singapore Polytechnic whose faces you see in the posters when walking in.  They have shown that it is possible to be successful.
  • If you have not done as well as you expected, I would like to share with you a story about an elephant and a rope.
  • This is the procedure adopted by circus trainers to ensure that elephants never rebel.  
  • When still a baby, the elephant is tied a very thick rope to a stake firmly hammered into the ground. The elephant tries several times to get free, but it lacks the strength to do so.
  • After a year, the stake and the rope are still strong enough to keep a small elephant tied, although it continues to try, unsuccessfully, to get free.
  • At this point, the animal realizes that the rope will always be too strong and so it gives up.
  • When it reaches adulthood, the elephant can still remember how, for a very long time, it had wasted its energies trying to escape captivity.
  • At this stage, the trainer can tie the elephant with a slender thread to a broom handle, and the elephant will make no attempt to escape to freedom.
  • Do not limit yourselves by your past performances. Don’t be the elephant in the story, which never thought itself strong enough. “Because limits, like fears are often just illusions”.
  • You can and will continue to grow, to become a stronger and better individual.
  • Speaking of the future, “What’s next?” is a question that all of you face.
  • I have these few words to advise you – “Be passionate, Listen and Never lose faith.” It is never too late to start again!
  • I personally know this to be true as I first graduated in accounting and worked in the bank for 15 years.
  • At age 40, my wife and I started a company involving the distribution of biomedical devices to make an impact on people’s lives.
  • Over the past 15 years we have brought to Singapore and the region new and novel medical technologies that have saved many lives.
  • We currently have offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and are looking at opportunities to expand further in the region.
  • In the late 2000s, I realized that even though the government had invested a lot in biomedical science and have developed plenty of technologies, few people were actually commercializing these technologies.
  • To address this need, I came up with the concept of The Biofactory – a purpose built incubator that forms startups to develop only the most groundbreaking and exciting biomedical technologies that the local scene has to offer.
  • My decision to start the Biofactory astounded many of my peers because life science was not something 15 years of banking had trained me in.
  • However, it was not difficult to start learning about diagnostics and medical devices, because my passion and interest has and always will be in the field of bringing the best of biomedical technology and making an impact on people health. 
  • I embrace life long learning and till today I am still learning about the latest in biomedical technologies. Next gen sequencing, pre-natal testing, diagnostic markers, drug tagging and diagnostic assays.
  • I hope my story inspires you to follow your dreams, no matter how implausible they seem.
  • Whether you want to become entrepreneurs and venture into the Asian market or become a scientist or even an entertainer, there are many Singaporeans before you who have been successful.
  • I encourage all of you to follow in their footsteps. Remember that with regards to dreams, the slogan “So Possible” is extremely applicable.    
  • However, it is not enough to dream. Without action, a dream remains just a dream.
  • Speaking from my experience, I would like to offer you some skills that you would like to develop to help you become successful in whatever you choose to do.
  • These 2 very important things you will need are empathy and work ethic.
  • Empathy. Empathy is the ability to listen to others effectively and understand their positions. I noticed that many Singapore Poly students have a strong ability to do this. This is a strength all of you should continue to build on. Success is often not doing what you personally think is best but doing what the market requires you to do.
  • In some research institutes, it is not a rare sight for researchers to waste their time and efforts by gearing their projects towards something they are interested in but the market has no demand for.
  • So a good listening ear and a willing heart are very important for you to be conscious of other people’s needs and effectively address concerns.
  • Having successfully graduated with Diplomas, I am sure all of you know how to work hard.
  • Yet, this does not mean you have made it already. In this day and age, you are not granted anything by nature of your qualifications. 
  • Working Hard.  Continue to work hard and continue to learn because nothing is gifted to you. You are not entitled to anything in life. Everything you want, you must earn and the only way to do so is to work hard.
  • If you cannot remember anything that I have said, remember this: follow your dreams, listen and work hard. 
  • Once again, I extend my heartiest congratulations on the successful completion of your studies at Singapore Polytechnic.
  • I  wish each and everyone of you success in your career and further studies.  You have all done very well and your parents and teachers are undoubtedly very proud.
  • To end off, I would like to remind you all that as the youth, you are our future.
  • It is often said that Singaporeans complain too much. Stop complaining.
  • Be the change that you want to see. A formula 1 car needs a formula 1 driver.  A world class country needs world class people.
  •  If we want to make Singapore a world class country, all of us need to aspire to be world class.  The greatest journey is the one within.  We may not have the power to change the entire world but the first place to start is with the “man in the mirror”. 
  • Thank you.
Back to Speeches