07 Apr 2017
Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Vice-Chancellor, University of London;
Mr Tan Soo Jin, Chairman, SIM Governing Council;
Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen;
A very good morning to you. Thank you for the opportunity to address each and every one of you on such an important milestone of your lives.
This graduation ceremony is more than just a formality to receive a piece of paper to bring to job interviews. It is truly a rite of passage that marks the moment you leave this institution with the blessings of all of your teachers and professors. After today, you can proudly call yourself a graduate and alumnus of SIM-UOL. But what does it mean to be a graduate and alumnus?
First, as a graduate, you are living proof that you have gone through a rigorous course of study and come out with increased knowledge and skills. The SIM-UOL brand name that you bear on your certificate carries a certain level of respect with employers and peers, and you should rightly wear it with pride.
Second, as an alumnus, you can call on an extensive network of mentors and friends all over the world. Your CEO has informed me that SIM-UOL has 8,000 current students, and 2,100 of you will be graduating over these 2 days. This is an amazing chance to build a strong network of ideas and opportunities that you can call on in the future. In the business world, many problems are solved just by picking up the phone and calling someone who can offer a different perspective.
I would like to share three lessons with you from my personal experiences:
- The importance of lifelong learning;
- The spirit of entrepreneurship; and
- Technological disruption.
All of you are now graduates of tertiary education, and many of you have done fantastically well in your studies. But the learning does not end here. And when I say learning, I don’t mean enrolling for class after class and degree after degree. In such a fast-changing world, old knowledge is quickly replaced by new research, and many skills will soon become replaced by automation and computing.
What you have now is a solid foundation of basics, that you should use to springboard yourself into new avenues of learning. There is a saying that “experience is the best teacher”, and I agree fully. Whether you are an employee or your own boss, the best way to learn how to do something is to just do it.
Learn from bosses and mentors who have been there before, pick up best practices but always be willing to change the standard practice if you think you can do it better. That is the best way to stay ahead of the learning curve.
And don’t be afraid to adapt. I started my career as a Chartered Accountant in an audit department of a traditional accounting practice back in 1980. Over the last 37 years, I have moved from audit to management consultancy to insolvency and tax advisory. These days, I use my industry and management experience to give strategic direction and mentorship to all of BDO’s practice groups. No matter how young or old you are, you must be flexible and willing to change for the benefit of your personal and professional development.
This brings me to my second point.
The spirit of entrepreneurship
Take risks. Take calculated risks. The spirit of entrepreneurship is not just limited to starting your own business. Even within an organisation or company, there are many opportunities for you to bring your unique experience and perspective to the table. As an employer and manager of people, I always appreciate it when colleagues come forward with new ideas for the business. The younger generation (such as yourself) is the key to the future of business because you know what it is your peers want, and this insight is valuable to any company.
Uncertain economic times like these present both risk and opportunity for business owners. With the right direction and business sense, a start-up can navigate these uncertain times and find those gaps in the market that others cannot see. There is also a saying that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Often, we think that our ideas are going to be the next best thing, and many times that is true. The critical element is to be prepared to seize that opportunity because an idea without execution is worthless.
My last point is something that will come naturally to the younger generation like yourself.
The world is becoming flatter by the day. Gone are the days when you need to sit at a desk all day churning out piles and piles of paperwork. New concepts like an open office environment, remote working and co-working spaces are the way of the future. Employers and organisations are realising that meaningful work does not have to always be done the traditional way. Professional service industries like law firms and accounting practices are embracing technology as a force multiplier to increase productivity.
As the younger generation, you already know the many uses and advantages of technology. If you can put technology to use responsibly and effectively, you will find that your value increases tremendously regardless whether you are an employee or employer.
I will close with these few words. These are no doubt challenging times, but you are well equipped to handle them. Use the knowledge and skills that you have learnt at SIM-UOL, build on your strong network of mentors and friends, always keep on learning, be willing to take calculated risks, and use technology to your advantage.
Congratulations to each and every one of you who has come so far. This is just the start of a new chapter, and your best years are still to come. I wish you every success and all the best. Remember to take lots of photographs for this happy day.