I was born in a working-class family in a quiet little town called Pandan Gardens. My family was thrown into hardship when my grandfather died due to a workplace accident. My father was still a child and my grandmother brought up the family alone, selling pork in a wet market. Thankfully, things were manageable when I was born.
During Primary school, I opted into EM1 stream but did mediocre for PSLE. I later entered a neighbourhood school and was bullied. Secret societies were rampant during my time in that area. I wasn’t exactly the model student either. Every year I was demoted and things got from bad to worse. Surprisingly, I did fine for N levels and it motivated me to work hard during my final year. I did not want to leave school at a young age. Having worked part-time since 14 tells me that school, although mundane at times, is still a very much protected environment. I eventually surprised the school to become the top graduate of the NA stream, scoring the best overall and in Design & Technology and Principles of Accounts.
I later went on to achieve outstanding results both academically and out of the classroom during Polytechnic. I was inducted twice in the Honours Roll, won several competitions, took part in three overseas study trip and also won a silver medal in an MMA sparring competition. Eventually, I was one of the shortlisted candidates for Valedictorian. I later enlisted in NS. It was challenging initially since I was made Platoon IC right at the start and I have to gain the support of the ground but it concluded fine. I enlisted in the obese category, lost 16kg during 4 months training and went from failing IPPT to Gold. At the end of BMT, I was awarded “Best Trainee” and tasked to command my Passing out Parade for the entire company. Eventually, I was posted to OBS as an Officer Cadet.
However, things did not turn out as expected. As an Officer to be, I felt that we must be clear about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how to get it done. Officership should not be taken lightly. I have many questions and I was not convinced with the answers given. Eventually, I requested to be taken out of command school. I was later posted from place to place. Eventually, I went back to OCS Mids Wing as a clerk where I met many inspiring commanders like Colonel Foong Kok Pun, TCO Chong Hon Foong, LTA Edison Oh, Major Bryan Kwok. They are the ones who taught me what does it mean to serve. Eventually, I was offered to recourse OCS, but I was really just interested in being an entrepreneur. Hence, despite that I left NS with conduct and performance of “Outstanding”, I only held a rank of a Corporal.
During that time, I was also trying to apply for University placement. Despite overall good results, I was not the strongest academically. I focused a lot more on holistic and lateral development before it became a fashionable term. In fact, I graduated with 3 times the requirement for co-curriculum points and took an additional 10% more credits as compared to my peers. I only managed to enter NTU after 9 applications over 3 years for the top three universities. It was my only offer and I took it up, although engineering topics really isn’t my flair. Various attempts to change major was not approved and I was so dishearted that I left University to start a social enterprise.
During the year which I left, I was reminded of how a Unversity degree will help achieve what I want. Furthermore, a tightening of government grant resulted in me not having the expected support for my enterprise. I returned to University once again to try to complete my degree, but I left again to seek employment so as to save up and have enough money to focus on my studies. My first job offer was in one of the top four law firms and I went in trying to make a difference. However, it backfired and I was asked to leave once my probation is over. I later went to DBS, and although I was told I was the best in the team, it was not something that I wanted to do for the long term. Just as I was contemplating returning to studies, Outward Bound offered me a contract and I took that leap of faith.
I went in without any outdoor experiences. During that time, I was also very much affected by the series of failures that I faced and closed up. It was not a smooth start for me. Being direct and task-focused, I sometimes rub people the wrong way despite that it is not my intention to. I also tend to stand out being outspoken and having an independent mind. After a series of struggle, I eventually became an Instructor. I successfully managed an incident when I was barely 6 months operational and gained affirmation from the team. I also have close to 98% approval rate for all of the courses that I conduct over the past three years.
During the second year in OBS, NTU refused to extend my LOA any further and I am now back to my full-time studies while working full time in OBS. Despite the crazy arrangement where I try to keep up with online lectures and self study, all while working on a job that requires me to stay in on Pulau Ubin 3/4 of the month, I managed to complete a few semesters, taking half the academic load. I am currently left with 5 modules. Bad news is that the 5 modules are my weak subjects and failing any of it will mean that I have to leave without my degree since I have reached the maximum candidature. However, if I graduate, I would have accumulated 165 credits, equivalent to a load of a Double Degree programme since I have a double Minor (Psychology and Entrepreneurship).
During my time in OBS, I also married my wife and is now the father of a baby girl, which poses her own challenge to me by having to be warded in ICU for 3 weeks the moment she is born.
Ultimately, I believe that my journey so far allows me to look at things from a different perspective and gained unique insights into many affairs, and I hope to be able to make a difference to people’s lives, regardless of what profession that I am in.