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Nanyang Technological University Convocation 2003

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore - Address Nanyang Technological University Convocation 2003, Nanyang Auditorium ...

Nanyang Technological University Convocation 2003

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore - Address
Nanyang Technological University Convocation 2003, Nanyang Auditorium

Singapore, 11 September 2003

Mr. Pro-Chancellor


Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and congratulations on this joyful occasion. This is the day you have been waiting for.

To the parents, no single word can adequately describe the happiness and pride you feel to see your child don the graduation robes. To the graduates, no amount of congratulatory well wishes is too much in return for the years of hard work you have put in to get here today. As you embark on building your career, there will be new and unfamiliar challenges facing you. This is a new chapter in your life. Being new graduates in a not-too-rosy economy, and that is putting it mildly, you will have to take full advantage of two things working in your favour. You have to be flexible and you have to be innovative. Let me explain.


Singapore's economy has been hard hit by the global economic downturn in the past three years and the present economic climate is further depressed by war, terrorism and SARs. The economic outlook may seem bleak but as the saying goes, there is a silver lining in every cloud. Despite a dampened global performance of the Infocomm industry, Singapore's Infocomm sector showed positive growth in 2001. Revenue grew from $26 billion in 2000 to $28 billion in 2001. This contributed almost 8% to Singapore's GDP, up from 7% in 2000. This goes to show that in any statistical computation, there are likely to be outliers. The infocomm sector is one such possible outlier because it did show some resilience to the overall economic downturn for the last two years. There could be other outliers. Your job is to find these outliers and explore opportunities. This is about being flexible and adapting to a changing and an uncertain environment.

Being flexible also means keeping an open mind and tuning your aspirations with the environment. In my interviews of job applicants, I often come across new graduates, particularly in the engineering fields, wanting to do only R&D work and nothing else. I empathise with this desire because I was exactly like that when I graduated as a double E engineer quite many years ago. I do not discourage a clear career aspiration. In any case, if several years of intense engineering studies leave you wanting more must mean you are a good engineer. But any economic value chain requires more than one particular function. A Microsoft or an IBM will need R&D engineers, product designers, product marketeers, technical support engineers and so on in order to deliver satisfaction to their customers. I think it is more important to be able to contribute and feel proud that you have done a good job at the end of the day. Success in career is often achieved by doing well what you have to do and not only by doing what you want to do.


Innovation is always highly valued, especially in times of uncertainty.  Being fresh graduates, you have not been programmed with preset work practices and traditional ideas. To many employers, new graduates come with a fresh mind and that means you have the possibility of creating new approaches and solutions that can make a difference. That is value creation. Not many jobs in our market today are about doing more of the same better. Employees are now expected to do things differently so that there is differentiation from competitors.

We live in the digital age and Infocomm technology can be a key ingredient in innovation. Singapore is e-ready to harness the power of Infocomm to realise its potential in improving productivity, increasing profits and enhancing the way we live. The World Economic Forum ranked Singapore 3rd in the world and 1st in the Asia Pacific in its 2002/2003 Global Information Technology Report. We have what it takes for the entire business and social communities to leverage on Infocomm to keep businesses competitive and social interaction vibrant - the online way. To illustrate this point, let us recall how we adapted our lifestyles to avoid crowded places during the height of the SARs outbreak in April. Many households have turned to the Internet to carry on with their daily lives. They continue to shop, make bank transactions, and get their fill of entertainment content the online way. On the work front, telecommuting and teleconferencing became popular overnight. I was chairing a SARS Task Force and I was told that there was a waiting list if you want to buy videoconference equipment. There were some nuggets of innovation that stood out when the situation calls for us to find creative solutions. Such is the spirit of innovation that I hope all of you will draw inspiration from when you begin your career. Use technology to create advantages. The successful employee of today is very often one who discovers another way, a better way.


Finally, if there is one most important thing that I wish to impart to you as new graduates is - learning never stops. Learning is not only about acquiring more knowledge in the topics of your studies. That is of course important and is a given. I am referring to acquiring new experiences and gaining wisdom in order to be a useful and responsible member of society. Never ever feel that you know all there is to know or that there is nothing to learn. Sometimes the best lessons are learnt from people whom you think there is nothing to learn from. I have personally learnt a lot from interacting with senior citizens as well as from talking to kids, including my own. Perspectives of issues change when you try to see things from another person's point of view. Bad experiences are also often good lessons too because they are usually memorable. Tough experiences like a week of tracking in Nepal or an overseas posting away from the family leave you with a sense of achievement and confidence. So be bold and be humble. Enrich your own database with knowledge, experiences and wisdom by proactively seeking to learn. Learning never stops.

On this note, I would like to convey my warmest congratulations to all of you again on your graduation. May your road ahead be filled with exciting challenges and conquests!

Thank you.