Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport at The Sim-UOL Presentation Ceremony, at The SIM Headquarters on 16 April 2009, 3.00pm17 Apr 2009
Sir Graeme Davies, Vice Chancellor of the University of London,
Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, Chairman of the SIM Pte Ltd Board of Directors
Mr Lee Kwok Cheong, Chief Executive Officer of SIM
Distinguished Guests, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen
As I stand here, and you graduands from SIM-University of London sit there, I can imagine the thoughts going through your head - what a relief that it's all over but now to the real world or this qualification will better equip me for employment or what a difficult time to graduate with the recession now full blown and of course, let's see if she will pass us some tips on how to be successful.
2. Before I share my thoughts, let me commend all of you for having come this far, no doubt a result of hard work, perseverance, discipline and sacrifice. But I am sure that you have not undertaken this journey alone, but with the support of your loved ones and the dedicated SIM lecturers.
3. Graduates please join me in thanking your family as well as your lecturers for their wonderful support.
4. The SIM-UOL partnership, which began in 1986, has consistently produced outstanding results each year - and this year has been no exception. All of you, especially the 66 first class honours students have done all of us proud.
Coping with the Unexpected
5. Let me now share with you three of my experiences - of points in my life where things did not go as planned.
6. I did my Pre-University at Raffles Institution and belonged to the first batch of students for whom the subject Economics was not compulsory. Then I went onto University to pursue Mathematics and only did some Economics in my final year. Yet, I have spent almost my entire working life so far dealing with all forms of economics, and very little Mathematics, certainly not all those theorems.
7. I must also confess that in those days, going to RI meant that I did not have to do Chinese, which was an added attraction. But now, I can't seem to spend enough time brushing up my Chinese because it is so important a language, linking me to my roots and having real economic relevance.
8. At business school, I focused on finance, including a whole module on Options and Derivatives - modelling options, pricing options, constructing hedges. But I used none of this since I returned. In short, I did not always use the skills I was trained in and often needed skills that I did not regard as critical. I understood the value and true meaning of learning.
9. Next, when I was contemplating the various possibilities as a research analyst, I was headhunted by an organisation which was seeking to return to Singapore. Though the position had a rather exciting description and offered a leadership role, I had reservations over working for an outfit which was previously booted out of Singapore. I looked elsewhere but eventually decided to take up the interesting offer. Well, I stayed with this organisation for eight full enjoyable years, quite a rarity in stockbroking.
10. In this instance, I did not land what I considered to be the desired jobs. But I learnt that one should not dismiss any opportunity and always remain open and unbiased so as not to miss out the gems.
11. And my final example has to do with the Asian financial crisis slightly more than 10 years ago. At that time, I almost got retrenched along with many other financial sector professionals. I took stock of what I thought I could offer, set goals and persuaded my employer to create a new position. Thankfully, they agreed and I managed to contribute in a different capacity.
12. In fact, this was what motivated me to write to the Chairman of Temasek Holdings some years back to propose a possible role in helping to restructure Government's investments in business. He accepted my proposal and for the next four years, I remained fully engaged in restructuring work and more, well beyond my expectations.
13. Both these episodes showed me that careers will not always proceed according to plan and that I needed not just to seize opportunities but also to create them.
Learning By Example
14. You are no doubt graduating amidst challenging times. But I believe with the right amount of mental preparation, a moderation of job expectations and an openness of mind, you would be able to cope well. These attributes will stand you well regardless of the economic situation.
15. Take for example Ian Lim, a fellow SIM-UOL student who has made the most of his opportunities. Ian obtained his SIM-UOL degree in business in 2007. During his studies, he did an internship with AsiaSoft Online Pte Ltd where he served as an event manager. Ian excelled in his internship and leveraged upon that experience to secure employment with another company after graduation where he served as an International Business Manager. In late August last year, with two friends, Ian started up VlogCRUSH - an interactive video blogging website which stands out for its unique features such as allowing users to vote for their favourite videos and pay for extra voting rights. It was so enthusiastically received in the public domain that Creative Community Singapore (Creative Talent Fund), Spring Singapore (Yes! Startup) and SIM agreed to provide development funding support. Ian's example is well worth emulating, especially the qualities of being enterprising and innovative, which will stand you in good stead despite the times.
16. In closing, as you venture into the next stage of your lives, I hope you will also continue to take advantage of opportunities available to further your education and training, which are essential for Singapore to retain the competitiveness of our workforce, especially in a world where we are competing not just on costs alone, but on skills, quality and productivity.
17. I wish you graduands every success as well as the courage to overcome all obstacles encountered as you embark on this exciting new phase of your lives. Face the future with optimism no matter what the odds and make the most out of every opportunity that comes your way. Remember the 3 H's: Stay Hungry, Stay Humble and Stay Honest. Thank you.