What does it take to win?

I’ve grown to become who I am today by conquering fear, depression, suicidal thoughts and a lot of adversities. Just when I thought I was unbeatable in every aspect of my life, something hit hard right in my face. I had a wonderful time during my study at The University of Manchester, but I was also being forced to swallow the bitter pill that says “Hard work doesn’t really correlate to good results.” Now, before the “study smart, not study hard” comments flood into the comment section, let me clarify one thing: I appreciate the knowledge and hence I don’t take any shortcut, no matter how attractive the reward is. Perhaps ‘any’ is an overstatement, but in my 2nd and 3rd year, I did rely a lot less on the ‘external resources’ and worked harder to solve the problems on my own. One could say that I don’t care about my result as much as most of the other students, and while I have to admit that is true, I also have to say that I live by my own principles. I simply cannot abandon my principles for the sake of better marks.

Whenever I told my dad about these, he would always tell me that academic result is not everything and that my attitude is the key to success. While I strongly believe in what he had told me, my academic result is indeed everything I have so far. I was originally enrolled in the MEng Chemical Engineering course at The University of Manchester, but somehow I got sick of the education system which sometimes doesn’t really reward students who have worked hard for it. Therefore, I have decided to end my study at the BEng level, which means that I’ll graduate one year earlier in 2019.

Back to the question, what does it take to win? Staying for another year to complete my MEng is certainly not the winning way. Even though there is the likelihood of me achieving a First if I continue to pursue the MEng level, it simply doesn’t excite me anymore. I think that all great things which had happened in the past were the fruits of brave decisions made by visionaries. I do have a vision of who I’ll become in the future, and it definitely has nothing to do with engineering.  For once, I hope I can make my own decision to be the kind of person I want to be in the future. I love dealing with people and managing a company. At least when I’d come across a challenge in business,  working hard always guaranteed a great result. Although it can get quite subjective in business sometimes, metrics can be easily measured unlike some of the course units at my university which are highly reliant on the supervisors assigned to you a.k.a. luck.

I’m definitely not the most talented engineering student in my course but I’m definitely one of the most hardworking one. So, to be able to ‘win’, I must take in more skills and knowledge out of my own discipline. Luckily, I just so happen to be kind of gifted when it comes to memorising stats. I’m very sensitive to figures so I can easily spot the error made by the other people provided that I’m familiar with the background information of the data (Ben Shapiro 2.0??). I’m also very interested in history so you can bet that if you’ve mistakenly reported the war casualties which I’m familiar with by the magnitude of 10, I’ll be the first one to point it out. “Magnitude of 10! That’s easy!”, you might think. Well, Enrico Fermi who was one of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project approximated the explosion yield of the Trinity Bomb and his result was barely in the range of 10 times the actual value and his achievement was considered by many scientists during his time as extraordinarily spectacular. He was able to do it because of his proficiency in physics, but I’m able to make my judgement because I’ve stored a lot of information in my brain and therefore I have more resources to assist me in the process. Now, how is that even applicable to my life? To answer this, I’ll have to brag about my dad. Just by having a glimpse of a piece of land, he can approximate the height of the wall which has to be built to prevent flooding or landslide to be around 1-3m from the actual height, the number of houses which can be built on the land and heck, he could even approximate the capital of investment required to complete the project. When you’re a property developer and you could somehow identify all these data within a few minutes, it’d be quite difficult for a sweat deal to slip past you and you’d even know which project is the best to go for so the project which you’ve chosen doesn’t incur an opportunity cost on you.

Winning is easy. Just do whatever you’re good at and don’t assume that you can do everything as perfectly as the other people. Everyone has a good combination of skills which makes each of us unique. My dad, despite how omnipotent he might seem, is not really a charismatic person. I could have talked more, but I know he’ll be reading this blog so I should stop here. *insert cheeky face* While ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ has its own merit, it’s not entirely true. It’s meant to reprimand all those people who have no perseverance in trying to master something before getting into another entirely new field. When it comes to problem-solving, having more skills under your belt often proves to be more advantageous as you’re more capable of dissecting the problem differently compared to the other people and solve it from a different angle which would otherwise not be possible if you’re technically a ‘master of one’.

To win, you just have to be open-minded and appreciate all forms of knowledge. It really teaches you to be creative and be optimistic amidst the odds. Even if you can’t actually use some of the knowledge in your everyday life, knowing more does make you more fun to talk to, ain’t that right? 

Abel

A Look into My Summer 2018 Internship

**Feel free to skip to the 4th paragraph to dive into the topic directly.**

A few months before my 2018 summer break, I had already set a goal for myself – to obtain work experience and to build my career profile. My parents are both entrepreneurs in their own rights, so I had heard a lot from them on how ‘fortunate’ I am to be inside the ‘greenhouse’ throughout my whole life. Perhaps I have inherited the ‘warrior gene’ (this attributes to my persistence, can-do attitude and no, it is not a resemblance of the mutated gene which causes psychiatric disorder) from my parents, my urge to prove my value eventually transformed into a real action, actively seeking for the internship opportunities overseas.

At that time, I really wanted to try something really challenging and life-changing. Although I had a certain level of marketing, management skills which I had acquired from my parents and through self-education on top of my problem solving, analytical skills from the major that I was pursuing, my job history was just a plain white field on a paper. I was fortunate enough to come across an advertisement from an agency which helps foreigners to search for placements in Japan. When I started my application, the deadline was already fast approaching. I was an engineering sophomore, so my initial choices were of course engineering related jobs. However, the agency told me that it was impossible to look for one since those fields require high language (Japanese) requirement and their stringent policy means that I would have to go for other alternatives. Since my dad is into the real estate business, I thought that by working at a Japanese real estate company, I can acquire useful insights which could be beneficial for his business.

Soon, the Japanese share house company got into contact with me and we had an interview session. They asked a few questions on my interest in real estates and my hobbies. It was more like a casual chat rather than a typical interview. (I was quite curious about why would they take me in the first place, but I later learnt that because they really needed someone who was proficient in analysing and dealing with data. For those people who are still wondering why do we engineers have a broad range of work opportunities, this is the reason.)

I packed my stuff and travelled to Japan on the 13th of June 2018. It did not take me long before I fell in love with this land of the rising sun. When I first started working at the share house company, I mainly worked on the preparation of documents, translation and correction of Japanglish. Not long after working here, I realised that no one was able to tell me about how to apply my skills to benefit the company. So, I took the initiative to perform research on my own whenever I was free and presented the results during company meetings. I was given the freedom to do whatever I wanted for the company, so there was really nothing hindering me. My boss is an open-minded person so you won’t see the typical Japanese bureaucracy here. Her strict demeanour at work is a disguise of her loving personality. We had exchanged thoughts on the problems and the challenges faced by the modern Japanese society. (She actually published a book on human reproduction, which will be given to the couples who register their marriage in the Shinjuku area. Quite an amazing achievement if you ask me.) Having talked to her a few times, I came to believe that my dream, as absurd as it may seem, could possibly be achieved if I work hard enough and have an unwavering faith in myself.

When I worked there, my company had a partnership project with an education company in Japan. Being part of the project myself, I had the opportunity to meet and also network with students from the top universities in the world. It was interesting to learn about how the universities, especially those in the US, deliver education to the students. Their burning passion and their willingness to share made them fun to talk to. One of my responsibilities was to organise events for them, and I also had the privilege to join them. We had a great night in Hakone, one of the most touristic places around two hours of train ride away from Tokyo (it has a few hot springs and traditional Japanese hotels, so I highly recommend this place if you have the chance to visit Tokyo). Being an organiser of the cooking classes, I had the chance to learn along with them on the preparation of Japanese food. Another memorable event was the Tokyo Bay Cruise, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy the night view of the Tokyo Bay area (could have taken a few good photos there, but my iPhone camera turned into a potato at night.)

When I was not at work, I often joined my colleagues in the house meetings and the BBQ events. Grilling meat gets more intense when you know you can’t screw up since everyone relies on you. (My colleague Satoru with his ‘get this thing done now’ attitude gave me lots of troubles because he would throw everything onto the same spot. That’s not barbecuing, pal!)

Throughout my time working there (in fact, I’m still working remotely for the company as a part-timer), I was more like an employee rather than an intern because I often had to give myself a goal or objective every week. I worked along with the other colleagues, overcoming countless challenges such as arranging for housing for some 180 people, planning events and solving conflicts between house residents. I was also a social media manager throughout my time there, keeping people informed about the events happening every week. I also wrote English blogs for my company as a strategy to improve the SEO of our website. My analytical skill was being put to good use as I took the initiative myself to carry out a market research for the company.

I am always interested in business but I chose to go for a major in engineering. I had no regret choosing chemical engineering over business because chemical engineering is a very versatile major and it gives me a strong foundation of logical thinking which can be applied to many areas including business. I also pick up knowledge on business management on my own by reading books (I doubt I’ll still read books on business if I had chosen to go for a major in business instead).

Alright, that’s it from me this time. My semester has already started and I’m currently eyeing on a summer analyst position at JPMorgan in either Singapore or Hong Kong. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to successfully pass all the interviews. Life is just getting busier with no sign of slowing down.

Till next time.

Abel