Thursday, March 22, 2007

Alternative 'paths'

I'm heading to Boston this weekend for an academic conference so I thought I'd have one last post before heading off for a weekend of intellectual discussion and just enjoying the city of Boston with my wife (hopefully more of the latter and less of the former). I read this interesting profile of Malaysians in the Star who opted to take alternative career paths instead of focusing on getting all those A's for their SPM.

There's King Wei, who opened her own seafood restaurant in Bukit Tambun, Penang, instead of going to university after scoring 10A1s for her SPM.

There's Jack Tang who only 4As (out of 9) for his SPM and "worked in a cybercafe for 10 months, studied information technology (IT) and networking on his own and started I Venture Circulation (IVC), a web-hosting company that has grown into a large business with offices in the United States, Singapore and China...and became a millionare at 23"

There's Huey Ying, who scored 7As out of 9 for her SPM and "studied finance and accounting in Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman and Portsmouth University, Britain. She started her career in financial advising in September 2004, and finally bought a BMW recently."

There's Aida Nurlin Hanif who also scored 7As out of 9 for her SPM and "went on to study actuarial science in Universiti Teknologi Mara and was inspired by her sister Nor Akmar to get involved in business. Waking up early to meet clients before class started, Aida was committed back then to closing five-digit transactions of unit trusts every day. Today, the sisters are both millionaires."

There's Nicol David, who scored 7As for her SPM at the same time as she was climbing the squash rankings (and later became the first Asian woman to win the squash World Championships).

There's Aaron Gill, also a 7A scorer for his SPM, started his own company selling computer speakers after graduating from the Multimedia University with a degree in engineering.

Indeed, one could easily put our own Tony Pua in this category (though he is probably older than all of these young 'kids') since he started his own company after working for Accenture for a couple of years and taking his company public in the Singapore before finally selling off his share of Cyber Village earlier this year.

I think this article reminds me of two things:

Firstly, that we should be encouraged to take alternative academic paths. I, like Tony, commended Tiara for her efforts to promote alternative thoughts on higher education and where to go to study overseas. I highly recommend her blog to our readers especially those who want to explore different educational exepriences. Not all of us should dream of going to Harvard, Yale, Cambridge or Oxford (even though there's nothing wrong with going to these schools). Sometimes, Durham University (UK), Reed College (US), Multimedia University (Malaysia), NTU (Singapore) might be better options or more suitable for one's individual needs.

Secondly, that we should be encouraged to take alternative career paths. Not all of us should think about being a partner in a law firm or an accountancy firm by 35 or become a millionaire before we're 30 (even though there's nothing wrong with acheiving this). Sometimes, it might be more worthwile to pursue our dreams of opening up a restaurant or being a travel writer, a musician, a marine biologist, a social worker, and the list goes on.

Finally, if we're fortunate enough to be successful (financial or otherwise) in our endeavors, don't forget to give back to society!


Tiara said...

Thanks Kian Ming! :D

It was great to see some recognition for non-mainstream youth, and the general shift of tide towards a more balanced life (and less of this As-are-king nonsense). Go everyone! :D

Anonymous said...

This blog entry has been extremely refreshing. The whole idea of measuring success in life with the number of 'A's is sad, to say the least.
Well done.

Anonymous said...

There's also our E&Y Emerging Entrepreneurs of the year!!! Kenny and Henry Goh!!! Decided to put business ahead of studies and succeeded!

Anonymous said...

I read with interest your alternative 'paths' entry.

Despite the Ministry of Education's good intentions of attempting to balance out our very rigid curriculum, the media has not helped by continuously harping on about students who scored all As in the recent exams. I'm certainly not against these excellent students, they are to be commended for their diligence & effort.

However, the message being sent out is still this: To do well, one has to have STRAIGHT A1s in exams. What a lopsided view of life.

Well done to King Wei & the rest who have shown us that pursuing academic results are not everything; it only serves as stepping stones to fulfilling a person's call in life.

Anonymous said...

From The Straits Times (22 March 2007): A student from Raffles Junior College, Singapore, claimed the Angus Ross Prize, beating about 10,000 students from countries around the world. The prize is given by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate to the best non-British candidate in the A-level English literature examination.

The prize winner has a place to study PPE at Oxford University, but plans to do a second degree in law.

The prize winner is Mr Liew Shang Zhao, 19, from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. He studied in Singapore on an Asean scholarship since age 13.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that everyone talks about scoring straight As, going to which universities, becoming a painter, traveler, musician, taking the road less travelled, etc (even Kian Ming himself) as a measure of success

But after going through life for 30+ years, many a times I would think that just staying alive, being able to lead a healthy life, spending quality time with family, relative, friends, that itself is a mark of success. Too many a times we chase after our "dreams" without realising what is truly important and lasting.

Trust me, death comes to us easier than we think it does. A walk out on the busy roads of KL could mean your last day on earth. Your next diving holiday trip to Sipadan could be fatal.

Anonymous said...

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there's a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, "I can't, my boyfriend will be here any minute now". To which Al responds, "A life is lived in an instant". Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

Anonymous said...

I guess, maybe that was why poet,
William Henry Davies wrote ..

"What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows