sharing sessions – Engineering Leadership – Institute for Engineering Leadership http://ielstaging.net Sat, 02 Mar 2019 11:00:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.17 Failure as a Badge of Honour http://ielstaging.net/failure-as-a-badge-honour/ Wed, 24 Oct 2018 06:56:40 +0000 http://ielstaging.net/?p=8377 Failure as a Badge of Honour A sharing session with Adjunct Professor Lim Soon Hock and Dr KH Liew Article by Lim Teck Heng, Student Writer for IEL “For our sharing today, I must tell you upfront that I have crafted it to be controversial,” Prof Lim Soon Hock began the session with an attention-grabbing […]

The post Failure as a Badge of Honour appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
sharing session lim soon hock 2

CoBrand-InstituteForEnginLeader

Failure as a Badge of Honour

A sharing session with Adjunct Professor Lim Soon Hock and Dr KH Liew

Article by Lim Teck Heng, Student Writer for IEL

“For our sharing today, I must tell you upfront that I have crafted it to be controversial,” Prof Lim Soon Hock began the session with an attention-grabbing disclaimer. And unconventional it was.

From the get go, Prof Lim impressed upon the audience his firm belief that failure and success are not two mutually exclusive concepts. Taking us through various dictionary definitions of failure, he explained how failure is invariably taken to mean the opposite of success, a view which he fervently disagrees with. Instead, he invoked the analogy of ying and yang in Chinese philosophy to explain his view on the nexus between success and failure. Just as ying and yang are elements that harmonise with one another to keep our universe perfectly balanced, success and failure are experiences that can and must coexist in our life for our holistic development.

Prof Lim had observed a marked disparity between people’s attitudes to failure and success. In management and board meetings, success and accomplishment are often glorified, but failure – in the past, present, or future – is this elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. According to him, successes ought to be celebrated, but it is more important to learn from failures, and to fully understand what can go wrong in any endeavour.

Prof Lim made use of a clever yet simple thought experiment to expose our inherent tendencies to view failure in a negative light. He asked the audience how many steps were taken if someone had taken three steps forward and then two steps back. The reflexive answer might be one step if we only accounted for the net number of steps taken. But the correct answer is five because we should not discount the two steps backwards; there are gains to be made and vital lessons to be learnt even when you move backwards in life.

Prof Lim went on to justify why he did not see failure as the antithesis to success. He argued that if our endeavours contribute to our next big win, they are not failures from his point of view, even though conventional wisdom might brand them so. He encouraged the audience to chase their curiosity without necessarily having financial objectives in mind all the time, because he believes that financial rewards will naturally follow when we manage to succeed in our non-financial objectives.

Also, Prof Lim reminded the audience not to be afraid of pivoting from the lessons that they have learnt from failing. He offered this incisive quote: Businesses do not fail; people do. According to him, what goes wrong in a venture is often not the business or the idea but the execution. We can only expect success if we learn from failures and fine tune how we execute our ideas.

He gave the example of the struggles of a fintech start up that he mentored. This start up was trying to make an impact in the crowded e-procurement space for SMEs, where the barriers to entry are low. Fortunately, the founders were sensible enough to change course timely to avoid more financial haemorrhage. After an in-depth study of the customers’ needs. they pivoted on their experience and insight to offer cash flow funding instead using blockchain and smart contract. In doing so, they are solving a chronic problem in the last mile of a transaction, which earned them invaluable support from IBM and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Again, Prof Lim stressed that any endeavour is not a failure when it leads you to the right idea.

On the other hand, as a negative example, he highlighted the liquidation of a company that he had previously been involved in as an Independent Director, which possessed unique intellectual property but could not capitalise on that advantage. He explained that the management was reluctant to acknowledge mistakes and was always pinning the blame on others. From the vastly different fortunes of these two companies, Prof Lim wanted to drive home the importance of recognising failure when it happens and adjusting your game plan accordingly.

Prof Lim wrapped up his section of the sharing by calling upon students to fail fast and learn fast. Compared to his generation, young people have a longer runway to make mistakes and learn from them, to earn the badge of honour.

Taking over from Prof Lim, Dr Liew tapped on his experience as a project management lecturer & practitioner to discuss the importance of learning about why things fail. He asked the audience if they thought projects could fail before they have even started. He recounted an anecdote about how a company managed to botch a multimillion tender bid because they left the submission of the documents to an external courier. The courier reached the tender office only a minute late, but the damage was already done. From this mishandled situation, Dr Liew wanted to reinforce the importance of checking through the smallest details, and not leaving things to chance. This complemented Prof Lim’s earlier claim that businesses do not fail but people do.

Dr Liew also echoed Prof Lim’s point about why we need to recognise failure and have a candid discussion about it. He shared his experience lobbying for the Ministry of Manpower to release anonymised case studies of industrial accidents into the public domain for everyone to learn from these failures, and how his efforts were met with initial resistance but eventually paid off.

Dr Liew claimed that when we do not study risks and past failures carefully, disaster could strike and repeat itself. He shared the examples of the space disasters of the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia to emphasise his point. The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated because of a seal failure, something seemingly insignificant. But NASA, the space agency of the United States, continued to neglect the minute operational details and history repeated itself less than twenty years later. The breakage of a mere foam insulation, dislodging a heat resistant tile, was enough to trigger the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia. On the back of sharing these case studies, Dr Liew ended off by encouraging the audience never to fail to learn.

During the Question & Answer segment, Prof Lim shared one last anecdote from a defining moment in his illustrious career that stayed with him after all these years. While working at Digital Equipment Corporation, he was headhunted by Compaq. He revealed that his Far East President in Digital, and close friends had dissuaded him from taking up the job because they were convinced that he would fail. They had good reasons and good intentions: after all, Compaq produced the most expensive personal computer in the market then, and it would be very difficult if not near impossible to sell it in large quantities in what was arguably the most difficult and price sensitive Asian market, which was lacking in purchasing power. For the first time in his life, Prof Lim was seriously entertaining the prospect of failure. But his track record in marketing quality products and services gave him the confidence to press on with his decision. Within five years, Compaq was number one in the Asia-Pacific region against all odds, and in seven years, achieved 1 billion dollars in sale from 30 million dollars. The irony was that his well-intentioned peers, in not wanting him to fail, would have inadvertently caused him not to succeed had he followed their advice.

Prof Lim left the audience with this empowering and inspiring message:

“The truth is that everyone is born for failure. People who learn how to win from failure and think everything is possible, get to enjoy success, if they do not give up. If you believe in the impossible, nothing gets done.

But if you believe in the possible, the impossible becomes possible.”

sharing session lim soon hock

The post Failure as a Badge of Honour appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Explore Beyond Your Boundaries http://ielstaging.net/explore-beyond-boundaries/ Wed, 29 Aug 2018 05:36:45 +0000 http://ielstaging.net/?p=8085 The post Explore Beyond Your Boundaries appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
The post Explore Beyond Your Boundaries appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Explore Beyond Your Boundaries http://ielstaging.net/explore-beyond-boundaries/ Wed, 29 Aug 2018 05:21:16 +0000 http://ielstaging.net/?p=8075   Explore Beyond Your Boundaries A sharing session with Mr Loke Wai San, Executive Chairman of AEM @ Engineering Auditorium on 29th August 2018 Organised By Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Engineering Leadership Article by Lim Teck Heng (Student Writer for IEL) Trained as an engineer but eventually making splashes in […]

The post Explore Beyond Your Boundaries appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
CoBrand-InstituteForEnginLeader

 

Explore Beyond Your Boundaries

A sharing session with

Mr Loke Wai San, Executive Chairman of AEM @ Engineering Auditorium on 29th August 2018
Organised By Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Engineering Leadership

Article by Lim Teck Heng (Student Writer for IEL)

Trained as an engineer but eventually making splashes in the business world, Mr Loke Wai San is testament to the benefits of a multidisciplinary education. In a sharing session with students, he recounted his school and work experiences, and outlined the values that fuelled his success.

Mr Loke listed his personal mantras, which also double as advice for students, as follows: keep learning, push beyond your comfort zone, take some risks, and remain humble. He also summarised the qualities that are important to him in the form of the acronym PACKING, which stands for Passion, Ambition, Courage, Knowledge, Integrity, Nurture, & Grit. In particular, he noted that most engineers were INTJs in terms of their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which meant that teamwork does not come easy for them. Instead, it was something that needed to be learned and nurtured. He also pointed out certain synergies between the qualities: once someone acquires enough knowledge in the subject matter, the courage to take risks will come naturally.

At the tender age of 16, Mr Loke left for Lehigh University in the United States to pursue his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. He branded those formative years as a period that ‘shaped his approach to life’. At Lehigh, he was challenged intellectually and forced to grapple with disciplines out of his comfort zone.

Mr Loke encouraged students to take up a mix of sciences and humanities to achieve a balanced education. He had fond recollections of his Freshman English classes where he had to pore through philosophy classics by the likes of Plato and Nietzsche. Initially, he struggled with academic writing and thought Freshman English was his toughest class ever at Lehigh. Yet by the end of it he was thankful that it shaped him into a more critical thinker. He felt that the ideas were so invigorating that he eventually pursued other subjects in Philosophy. He also went on to do a minor in Psychology.

Microelectronics was another class that Mr Loke enjoyed. It imbued in him the enduring principle of starting with the end in mind that he still holds dear in his heart even today.

In his macroeconomics class, the professor saw his potential in a finance-related career and advised him to reconsider his future. His professor’s words proved correct as Mr Loke later went on to have an accomplished career as a business consultant and entrepreneur.

Outside of academics, Mr Loke shared about the hobbies that he indulged in, and how they had shaped his character. He participated in team sports which taught him how to embrace failure and get up stronger each time he fell. Playing chess taught him the importance of having a game plan and plotting three steps ahead.

Mr Loke also urged students to mingle with overseas people when on exchange instead of sticking to the Singaporean crowd. He was speaking from experience as he had forged diverse friendships during his time at Lehigh. In his interactions with his overseas friends, he was humbled by how hard some of them worked to get a place in school.

After graduation, Mr Loke secured a R&D engineer position at Motorola. As a junior engineer, he was sometimes placed in high-stress situations and was expected to make huge calls that implicated entire production lines. Starting with the end in mind was a useful principle that Mr Loke abided by. It helped him make important decisions swiftly and efficiently. On one occasion, he decisively called for a systems level test when the production line was down. He intended to identify where the holes in the system were so that they could work backwards and debug the problem. After discovering that the problem could only be remedied the next day, he decided not to waste everyone’s time and asked for the workers to go home for the day. His spontaneity and openness with sharing data allowed him to bring engineering concepts to market quickly, earning him fast promotions up the corporate ladder.

During his subsequent tenure at management consulting firm AT Kearney, Mr Loke found that the Pareto Principle worked wonders for him. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of one’s effort brings about 80% of the outcome. This taught Mr Loke to be efficient with his resources and avoid investing excess effort into projects that would only reap diminishing returns. He also emphasised the need to be data-driven in problem-solving. He would begin with a hypothesis and gather evidence in a way that was mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive to validate his initial conjecture.

On the topic of investing, Mr Loke drew parallels between risk taking and a game of Texas hold ‘em. In Texas hold ‘em, one would fold after getting dealt a bad hand and calculating that the odds are stacked in his favour. Similarly, in investing, when credible information comes in showing that your stocks are failing, you should not persist with your bad investments in the blind hope that you can recoup your losses. In his words, ‘one should not take grit the wrong way’. Grit might be important but knowing when to cut your losses was just as important. He claimed that failure was nothing to be ashamed of, and that it was better to fail fast and start again. He did recognise that folding might be counterintuitive especially for INTJ types who are confident about their own judgements, so he emphasised that folding must be learned.

Mr Loke took questions from members of the audience. In one question, he was asked about the leadership qualities that he feels are important to an engineer. He highlighted two defining qualities: the ability to influence and change habits, and having a compelling vision for people to follow. Elaborating on his notion of a vision, he explained that today’s leaders cannot gain legitimacy just by ‘barking ideas’; there is a need for the ‘persuasion of critically thinking minds’, and a robust vision does just that.

Mr Loke also discussed what students should consider when deciding whether to join a start-up. He claimed that this decision should be personality-driven, and that students who derive a lot of joy from thinking of new ideas would be suited for start-ups. However, he offered a word of caution that jumping right into start-ups as a fresh graduate would expose one to too much chaos, and also hinder one from developing robust, long-term habits. Instead, he advised students to get their grounding first at a bigger company before moving to a start-up.

Mr Loke closed his sharing by issuing a call to action for all the students in the audience. He reminded them that while what they were learning in school was no doubt invaluable, they must stretch their learning and explore beyond their boundaries.

lokwaisan2

The post Explore Beyond Your Boundaries appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Shared Lessons in Leading – Experiences from IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session with Engineer-Leaders http://ielstaging.net/shared-lessons-leading-experiences-iels-saturday-sharing-session-engineer-leaders/ Sat, 03 Mar 2018 10:15:39 +0000 http://ielstaging.net/?p=6803       Shared Lessons in Leading Experiences from IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session with Engineer-Leaders (3 March 2018) Mr. Khay Guan Lim, MD, Endress+Hauser and Mr. Yao Zhang, Senior Manager, RedMart  IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session on 3 March 2018 featured two speakers with very different experiences. Mr. Khay Guan Lim, MD, Endress+Hauser has had decades of leadership experiences in […]

The post Shared Lessons in Leading – Experiences from IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session with Engineer-Leaders appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>

CoBrand-InstituteForEnginLeader logo transparent-2

 

 

Shared Lessons in Leading

Experiences from IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session with Engineer-Leaders

(3 March 2018)

40563017792_dc27f48b5d_z26733699318_0abe778c15_z

Mr. Khay Guan Lim, MD, Endress+Hauser and Mr. Yao Zhang, Senior Manager, RedMart 

IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session on 3 March 2018 featured two speakers with very different experiences. Mr. Khay Guan Lim, MD, Endress+Hauser has had decades of leadership experiences in global multinationals. Mr. Yao Zhang, Senior Manager, RedMart, has spent the past 8 years in different functions in two young, rapidly growing enterprises. 

In spite of these differences, leadership lessons shared with the students of the module “Experiencing Engineering Leadership” resonated because they had many commonalities. 

Leaders have to be skilled connectors 

Mr. Lim is now leading change that would require seismic shifts in organisational culture and individual mind-set. He acknowledges that leading such change was challenging but that a critical role as a leader was to put together the ingredients for successful change to happen. Mr. Zhang labelled himself a “generalist” in spite of multiple technical qualifications, citing that his strength was in being able to connect different people and ideas. This skill had been honed through exposure to varied functions throughout his career. 

Leaders recognise that one size doesn’t fit all 

In today’s fast-paced environment, many fall into the trap of depending on a “template” of behaviours and actions, expecting similar results each time. Leaders should not expect that the same approach or solution would work in every situation. Good leaders calibrate responses and actions depending on the people involved and the circumstances. Mr. Lim cautioned that empowering everyone in an organization and expecting all to succeed was a recipe for disaster. Different people had different strengths & motivations, and a savvy leader should acknowledge those differences. Mr. Zhang shared wryly that early in his career, he pushed through on decisions that he thought were for the best but realised he could not get anyone to support him. He then took the time to understand how different functional teams “ticked” and how to adapt his approach depending on the team he was working with. 

The continuously learning leader 

When asked by students how they coped with leading people more qualified than themselves, both speakers agreed that leaders should be comfortable surrounding themselves with talent but that leaders have to be open to continuous learning. This was so as not to be an expert in everything, as that would be an impossibility, but to know enough to leverage on the talent around them. 

With good leaders, people come first 

This element came out strongly throughout the session. Mr. Zhang shared that in the early days when RedMart was starting up, funding was an issue but that the company had taken pains to reassure employees and created a culture that was resilient in the face of challenges. Mr. Lim shared that being “forward thinking” was a common cited attribute of leaders but that the more difficult skill was to get people’s buy-in for the common future and alignment with the vision. To do this there must be trust between people in an organisation and showing integrity in word & action was key. 

Pursue passions but have a good support base 

It was clear that the speakers were passionate in what they do with Mr. Zhang admitting that he bounced off ideas with his wife even when out shopping! Passion for their work drove them to greater heights, but they acknowledged that they could not do so withrout the support of those closest to them. 

The lessons shared that day put leadership squarely in the context of building relationships with others for a common cause rather than a shiny goal to reach, with leaders existing at all levels of an organisation. 

 

Perhaps Mr. Lim summed it up best by saying, “Leadership is not a title. You are a leader as long as someone follows you.” 

 

The post Shared Lessons in Leading – Experiences from IEL’s Saturday Sharing Session with Engineer-Leaders appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Leadership Lessons from Mr Loh Kin Wah http://ielstaging.net/leadership-lessons-mr-loh-kin-wah/ Sat, 25 Mar 2017 05:50:39 +0000 http://ielstaging.net/?p=3771   Continuous Unlearning By: Siddharth Menon, Student Reporter           Leadership Lessons from Mr Loh Kin Wah, Managing Partner, Beijing Jianguang Asset Management Co. @ the Saturday Sharing Session on 25th March 2017.     Step to Leadership With an illustrious career spanning 35 years, Mr Loh certainly knows a thing or two about […]

The post Leadership Lessons from Mr Loh Kin Wah appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
 

lohkinwahContinuous Unlearning

By: Siddharth Menon, Student Reporter          

Leadership Lessons from Mr Loh Kin Wah, Managing Partner, Beijing Jianguang Asset Management Co. @ the Saturday Sharing Session on 25th March 2017.

 

 

Step to Leadership

With an illustrious career spanning 35 years, Mr Loh certainly knows a thing or two about the semiconductor industry. Formerly as the President & Chief Executive Officer, Qimonda AG, Munich, Mr Loh today is tasked with the responsibility of managing funds amounting to 100 billion, investing into semi-conductor resources around the world.

‘‘I am a career engineer. You can’t take the engineer out of me,’’ he chuckled when asked if he found his existing jobscope rather different from what he had done in the past. With a background in Chemical Engineering, Mr Loh started his career as a quality engineer and moved on to process engineering, manufacturing, R&D, sales and marketing.

‘‘I was fortunate,’’ he said, as he took centerstage to address the students gathered for his talk. In the 1990s, Singapore was transitioning itself to a manufacturing hub attracting top MNCs to set up shop on the island. It was at that time that Siemens expressed interest in establishing itself in Asia. Shortly after graduation, Mr Loh joined the company. The rest they say is history. His first job lasted nearly 30 years.

Siemens provided a structured training programme and many opportunities for his personal development and growth. His wide spanning career saw him working in various parts of the world and engaging with different cultures.

 

Grasping Opportunity with Both Hands

However, said Mr Loh, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Picture12To further hone his skills, Mr Loh studied law with a focus on contract law. He also attained a Postgraduate Certified Diploma in Accounting and Finance from ACCA, United Kingdom. It was difficult, Mr Loh admitted, having to juggle both work and night classes but he emphasised showcasing your capabilities was a way to stand out from the crowd.

He recalled an incident when he and his German supervisor did not see eye to eye on a technical detail. His supervisor was adamant that he was right. Mr Loh burnt a weekend to gather evidence to prove his point. That grit and determination, he says, resulted in him having to face tough situations, but have brought him to where he is today.

 

Leaders Continuously Unlearn

‘‘Continuous Unlearning,’’ is Mr Loh’s mantra. Continuous Unlearning as defined by him, is the energy to drive oneself to unlearn in order to learn. He sees it as key to improve and grow.

Mr Loh illustrated how one can become a leader this using the ‘WE’&’I’ concept.

‘I’ is a reminder to the leader of needed key attributes:

  • Values: Be a contributor, strive for excellence and adopt a committed work attitude.
  • Ideas: Share sound ideas for shaping and motivating the organisation.
  • Energy: Constantly create a positive environment around you.
  • Courage: Winning leaders never take the easy way out. They stand by their decisions and are willing to make tough calls.

‘We’ reflects the importance of dealing with others and with change. It emphasises the need for good social skills, people management skills and adaptability to keep up with the times.

When asked what he thought contributed to his success, Mr Loh commented, ‘‘Being focused, attentive and not giving up helped me tremendously.’’ He cited the word chinese‘to highlight his point. The Chinese character has many active elements of listening including using your eyes, ears, & heart, and to listen with respect like you would listen to a king.

Mr Loh firmly believes in empowerment. As a leader, he felt that when handing out responsibilities to his team, he valued both trust and character. ‘Trust’ to him reflected one’s competency level and character illustrated one’s work attitude.  Having both allowed him to empower and nurture his employees, to their best potential.  Today, is active in mentoring start-ups in the semi-conductor space, providing assistance in the field of engineering electronics, and encouraging the growth of young leaders.

Mr Loh frankly admitted the path ahead for Singapore will be fill of challenges. Ever the optimist, he advised that through hard work and by constantly seeking out new opportunities, one would be able to ride out any storm.

 

The post Leadership Lessons from Mr Loh Kin Wah appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Daring to ask questions and a spirit of adventure http://ielstaging.net/daring-ask-questions-spirit-adventure/ Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:37:01 +0000 http://www.pisteuomedia.com/nus/?p=3261 Ms Aw sharing with students during the session 18th February 2017 Saturday Sharing Session organised by Institute for Engineering Leadership Daring to ask questions and a spirit of adventure Aw Kah Peng With 22 years in the public service at the Economic Development Board and as CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, it may be […]

The post Daring to ask questions and a spirit of adventure appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Ms Aw sharing with students during the session

18th February 2017
Saturday Sharing Session organised by Institute for Engineering Leadership

Daring to ask questions and a spirit of adventure

Aw Kah Peng

With 22 years in the public service at the Economic Development Board and as CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, it may be hard to believe that Ms Aw Kah Peng is in fact trained as an engineer – she graduated from the National University Singapore in 1990 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. During a sharing session with students, she shared her experiences during her career and as a leader.

Being ‘Kaypoh’

Ms Aw’s unusual career path elicited a question on uncertainties in planning for a career. As a student in junior college making decisions for a university course, Ms Aw was not sure what she wanted as she interested in many things, such as music (She plays the piano) and different languages. Her father advised her to be practical, even though she was unsure of what she was getting herself into.

Her career at the Economic Development Board (EDB) came about precisely because of her curious nature. One day while at work at a small laboratory dealing with polymer technologies, there were several Japanese visitors led by an EDB representative. She chatted with them, and several days later received a call from the EDB representative. This eventually led to a job despite that her initial motivation for meeting the representative’s boss was the free lunch, she said in jest.

Giving advice to students on mapping out their career path, she said: “There’s no magic formula, ask questions. Companies know you don’t know anything fresh out of school, and the only thing you can and should do is to talk to people.”

She encouraged students to be curious. She said: “(In my experience) The ones who are curious and engage people, they go far compared to those who sit on a desk in front of a computer.”

A Spirit of Adventure

Ms Aw also encouraged students to have a sense of adventure – “if something sounds interesting, go for it, and if you don’t be prepared to make a change.” It was in this spirit that saw Ms Aw accept overseas postings to Chicago and London during her time in EDB, as well as her move to become CEO of Singapore Tourism Board (STB). She said: “I didn’t know anything about tourism, but I told myself that I would learn.”

Even though she found her time in public service particularly meaningful, she later realised that “while governments can enable, it is companies that create jobs”. She got a call from Shell, not unlike the call she received from EDB as a fresh graduate. Yet it was not the same – “This time it was different, out of school you can pretend you don’t know anything, after 22 years it is a different conversation. You have to be clear about what you’re looking for. For me, it was that I wanted to know how to run a business.”

While only four years into the job at Shell, she is already into her third job, running a business worth about three billion dollars. She said: “I am learning every day how to run a multi-billion-dollar business, (and) the one thing I take from all these years (of experience) is, how do I…inspire them (my team) to do good things.”

Motivating People

She also responded to a question from a student who asked how she would inspire her team, especially when morale is low. She said: “First you must ask yourself if you have the passion, and why you are passionate. Talk to your team about it, but they have to make choices for themselves, you cannot make it for them”. Even though not everyone would stay on, move on with those who do decide to do so.

Ms Aw also shared about learning to ‘read’ people – having an opinion about other people, even if you don’t share with them. Over time, this becomes instinctive and you learn how to best build on the strengths of a team. She shared an anecdote of a colleague she works with remotely and whom she only meets in person a few times a year. Yet when they do meet, they discuss things outside work, sometimes even meeting his family. In doing so, she builds good relations and rapport with her colleagues by getting to know them on a personal level.

Staying Anchored

Through her long and illustrious career, Ms Aw shared that it was her family who has kept her anchored. She said: “My husband moved with me when I was posted overseas, and every time I moved, he needed to find a new job. Your family, loved ones that will help you to anchor. It’s not a bad thing, they won’t hold you back. There are things you will do for the people around you, who will invite you to think about your choices.”

Finally, she shared what has driven her throughout her career. She said: “After 22 years in public service, the one thing I take away is the mission that creates jobs for my country that drives me. You can keep moving, and every day you’re busy. But the purpose for me is that I’m creating good jobs for my country, (and that has been) very meaningful.”

 

The post Daring to ask questions and a spirit of adventure appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Leadership Lessons from Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chief Defence Scientist, Ministry of Defence http://ielstaging.net/leadership-lessons-mr-quek-gim-pew-chief-defence-scientist-ministry-defence/ Wed, 23 Nov 2016 23:42:36 +0000 http://www.pisteuomedia.com/nus/?p=2745 Leading with Purpose Leadership Lessons from Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chief Defence Scientist, Ministry of Defence @ the Saturday Sharing Session on 22nd October 2016 Organised By Institute for Engineering Leadership Article by Andre Theng, Student Reporter Adapting and Learning Mr Quek was inspired by his secondary school teacher, and as a student, was deeply […]

The post Leadership Lessons from Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chief Defence Scientist, Ministry of Defence appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Leading with Purpose

Leadership Lessons from

Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chief Defence Scientist, Ministry of Defence @ the Saturday Sharing Session on 22nd October 2016
Organised By Institute for Engineering Leadership

Article by Andre Theng, Student Reporter

Adapting and Learning

Mr Quek was inspired by his secondary school teacher, and as a student, was deeply interested in physics. Following his graduation from university, he was keen to do R&D in the Ministry of Defence, but was posted to do programme management. In spite of this, he made great effort to learn as much as he could, taking time to read up on the material when his bosses were away during the first 2 weeks of his posting. It proved to be a great learning experience on systems and multi-disciplinary technologies. He realised that the posting was in fact a blessing in disguise as it helped him to find out what he was in fact good at – system design and thinking. He would not have had the opportunity to learn systems if he had insisted to do R&D. He felt that one lesson he learnt from this was that one should be open and be prepared to explore new areas as one enters the workforce.

Throughout his career, Mr Quek has faced numerous challenges. He shared that he was appointed CEO of DSO National Laboratories a few years after it was corporatised. The impact of corporatisation was quite significant. One downside was that DSO took on more projects than it was quite ready to do. Mr Quek saw to the morale of staff, and worked through the issues to ensure that the organisation continued growing even in a time of crisis. To do so, he had to adapt his management style, realising that a style that may have worked before may not meet the needs of a more complex and diverse organisation.

His advice for students was to build a strong foundation while at NUS. During his time at DSO, he had to deal with a wide range of areas covering multi-disciplinary subjects beyond his training in Electrical Engineering – life sciences, computer science, mechanical and aerospace engineering for example. He encouraged students to go deep in their chosen specialisation while at the same time, to build a strong understanding of the fundamentals in the sciences, IT and engineering stating that this will help us adapt and learn even in areas we may be less interested in or familiar with.

Learning from Mistakes

Mr Quek highlighted the importance to learn from mistakes, in particular the ability to abstract and transfer the lessons learnt from one situation to another.

He shared his own failures to illustrate this. He related how a system for the Army was contracted to a company that had been working mainly with the Air Force. While the system performed well, the company failed to understand the difference between how NS men in the Army and regulars in the Air Force handle their systems. The NSMen operated in outdoors, in the mud and the rain, while the Air Force personnel operate in large, well-equipped hangers.

He said that prior to this, there was another project which was hampered by the different culture of the two teams that he brought to work together.

In both cases, the underlying problem was cultural – in one case it was cultural differences between teams, and the other, cultural difference between the contractor and the user. He said that we can learn a lot from mistakes and it is important that we can abstract out the lessons and apply the real lessons across different scenarios.

Mr Quek wryly commented that if he had had a choice, the next stage of his career would have been as an internal consultant for DSO to share all the lessons he had learnt. Case studies detailing successes were many but he opined that there was more future engineers and leaders could learn from mistakes.

Going Beyond the Constraints of an Engineering Training

Engineers by training are supposed to be problem-solving oriented. Their training is geared towards solving problems given certain set parameters. Mr Quek felt that while such training and mindset were invaluable in solving problems, engineers have a tendency to set limits too early. In contrast, physicists were trained to delve into the unknown and make sense of it. His advice to young engineers was not to set constraints too early when given a problem and to be willing to put these aside in order to explore new alternatives and venture further.

Finding Purpose

Above all, Mr Quek encouraged students to find purpose in their work, and in doing so, become better equipped to deal with challenges that would come our way. He recalled that early in his career, he had a boss that he had difficulty working with, but one who also made him question why he was doing what he was doing. He realised that what motivated him – public service, working for Singapore’s national security and defence – was far more important than the difficulty he had with the immediate boss. Mr Quek said “You must ask what your purpose is, you must identify with the role you are playing.”

In closing Mr Quek shared with the class what he tells his new staff during their induction programme – that how fast they rise in an organisation was dependent on their knowledge & skills, but how far they go depends on their values as an individual. He said “Expertise and knowledge can be trained, but your values and what drives you, are intrinsic and will allow you to go far in your career and life.”

group-photo

Class Photo with Mr Quek Gim Pew, Professor CC Hang – Executive Director of IEL, and module lecturers Associate Professor Foo Maw Der and Adjunct Associate Professor David Kwek

The post Leadership Lessons from Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chief Defence Scientist, Ministry of Defence appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Saturday Sharing Session by Mr Quek Gim Pew – Chief Defence Scientist, MINDEF http://ielstaging.net/sat-sharing-session-mr-quek-gim-pew/ Sat, 22 Oct 2016 09:43:20 +0000 http://www.pisteuomedia.com/nus/?p=2296 Speaker Mr Quek Gim Pew Chief Defense Scientist, MINDEF   Details 22 Oct 2016 0900-1100AM TechHub

The post Saturday Sharing Session by Mr Quek Gim Pew – Chief Defence Scientist, MINDEF appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Speaker

Quek_Gim_Pew

Mr Quek Gim Pew
Chief Defense Scientist, MINDEF

 

Details

22 Oct 2016
0900-1100AM
TechHub

The post Saturday Sharing Session by Mr Quek Gim Pew – Chief Defence Scientist, MINDEF appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
A People-Centric & Can-Do! Leadership Style http://ielstaging.net/leadership-style/ Fri, 30 Sep 2016 05:33:35 +0000 http://www.pisteuomedia.com/nus/?p=2604 A People-Centric & Can-Do! Leadership Style Leadership Lessons from Mr Lim Soon Hock, Founder & Managing Director, PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd and Chairman, Halogen Foundation Singapore @ the Saturday Sharing Session on 17 September 2016 Organised By Institute for Engineering Leadership Leadership Mr Lim explained that his leadership style is a collaborative one. In this […]

The post A People-Centric & Can-Do! Leadership Style appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
A People-Centric & Can-Do! Leadership Style

Leadership Lessons from

Mr Lim Soon Hock, Founder & Managing Director, PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd and Chairman, Halogen Foundation Singapore
@ the Saturday Sharing Session on 17 September 2016
Organised By Institute for Engineering Leadership

Leadership

Mr Lim explained that his leadership style is a collaborative one. In this “collective leadership model”, everyone in the team shares equal responsibility for decisions and assumes shared accountability and ownership of the business. He quipped: “I can’t do it (achieve success) alone, so I make sure that not only do I have the right management team in place, but that I tap on the collective wisdom of all to make decisions. Businesses do not fail, people do.” He prescribes and subscribes to the philosophy that everyone in his management team is first and foremost a business partner, and then a functional head. He was practising collaborative leadership way before this became a trend recently.

Mr Lim also believes that in today’s volatile, complex and increasingly borderless business environment, which demands teamwork and reliance on others for a successful outcome, a humble CEO might perform better than one who believes he has the answer to everything. Walking the talk, he described his management style as one which “empowers his colleagues”. It is not about irresponsible abdication but responsible delegation. The pragmatic CEO takes responsibility for poor or unsatisfactory outcomes. He opined: “When there is any success, be the last to claim any credit. Be quick to give it to your colleagues. Be generous in recognising them.” Unlike most Asians, who are afraid of losing face, Mr Lim is not afraid of saying “I don’t know”. He is the first to admit that he does not have the solutions to all the problems out there. In confessing that he does not know, often he can rely on his team for solutions and the hard choices which he has to make. He reiterated: “It doesn’t mean that if I’m the boss, I must know everything.” It takes a lot of courage and humility to assume this predisposition.

He practices the ‘One Minute Management’ till this day. He gives compliments almost immediately when they are due. Should someone need to be reprimanded for a wrong doing, he does so quickly and not wait for the performance review, months later. He believes in the recency effect for maximum impact and effectiveness. Mr Lim hates procrastination. Whatever that needs doing must be carried out. The company and the business cannot wait for the CEO to make his decision or to take action.

Customer Service

A hallmark of Mr Lim’s success is his focus on customer service, a point he reiterated throughout the talk. Recounting his experience at Compaq, he spoke of the challenge of selling expensive, high-end personal computers, in a price-sensitive market. But with a relentless emphasis on customer service, Mr Lim found success. For example, he would personally see to complaints (what he terms as a “gift” from the customer) and respond to them timely. He ensured that all his sales and marketing personnel, viz the customer facing staff as well as Compaq’s dealers, who are regarded as an extension of the company’s sales force were well trained on the product features, before they are allowed to sell the expensive PCs. Quality is difficult to sell and service, but when we can delight our customers beyond their expectations, we are often rewarded with more sales subsequently. He said: “The first item in my agenda for my weekly meetings is customer issues and problems, and not revenue. When you get this right, followed by employee satisfaction and proper systems and processes for your employees to deliver customer satisfaction, revenue will happen as a natural outcome.”

Mr Lim adopted the same approach when he joined SITA, the world’s leading air transport IT and communications specialist. At that time, Asia Pacific had the lowest customer satisfaction ratings worldwide. He was recruited to turn the company around on this front. He invested significant time to build relationships with SITA’s customers, who were mostly airports and airlines and to understand the problems that they faced.

Just like at Compaq, he personally saw to problems. “Sometimes it is not about getting the problem solved, but showing the customer that you are dead serious about taking actions to solve the problem”, Mr Lim said. He recounted that he often demonstrated this by making phone calls to his colleagues on the spot in the midst of the meetings with customers to seek a solution. By the time he left SITA, the customer satisfaction rating for Asia Pacific had hit an all-time high. It also set a new record for the entire company.

Teamwork

Many students can definitely relate to the difficulties of working together in a team. Something that students wanted to find out from Mr Lim was on how they could find a balance between getting work done and getting along as a team; i.e. striking a balance between being people-oriented and results-oriented.
Mr Lim felt that there was no contradiction. He once again reiterated people-centricity as the key. “From my experience, when you can achieve team harmony from the start, you don’t have to worry much about work efficiency. Work efficiency follows as a natural outcome. In this scenario, more time is available to tackle the myriad challenges and problems, and for the sharing of collective wisdom to make hard decisions or choices” he said.

Seizing Opportunities

Not one to pass up on opportunities, he recalled a visit he made to Tsinghua University when he was at Compaq. He struggled with breaking into the China market in his first two years, almost giving it up. During his tour of the campus, he made the proposal to the President to convert three unused rooms into a training centre, in collaboration with the prestigious university. Fully funded by Compaq and equipped with Compaq PCs at the company’s expense, the Tsinghua-Compaq Training Centre would train students, Compaq dealers and customers on the use of Compaq PCs and related software. Compaq also brought in strategic partners such as Microsoft, Intel, Novel and SCO to participate in the collaboration. It was the biggest collaboration for a Chinese university, then unprecedented. When it was officially opened, it was front page news in all the Chinese newspapers and aired in all the major TV channels. Compaq had nation-wide publicity that was worth many times the investment in the training centre. Within a year, sales of Compaq computers rocketed. He realised that it was not because of the publicity, which certainly helped, or the training which was provided, which was well received, but customers were purchasing Compaq PCs to acquire the training certificates which Tsinghua “conferred” on participants. The certificates with the Tsinghua name was more valuable than the PCs which were purchased! He found out that customers went out of the way to find money to buy Compaq PCs, so as to acquire Tsinghua certificates. For Mr Lim, the success of Compaq in China – the company became number one in China in the 3rd year of operation there – was not by design, but seizing the moment quickly when it presented itself.

An Entrepreneurial Mind-set for Singapore’s Continued Competitiveness & Growth

Mr Lim believes that our fear of the hollowing out of foreign investments will become a reality in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time. This is not because Singapore is politically unstable or not conducive or that we are economically unattractive. By then China would likely be the world’s strongest and biggest economic powerhouse, and MNCs have to be there not to compete with their home country competitors, but driven by business imperatives, there is the strategic need to compete with large and established Chinese companies in the domestic market, many of whom would have evolved to be formidable global players. He said: “But it doesn’t mean the end of the world for Singapore – we need to invest now, while we still have the time, to develop our own companies that will become the MNCs of the future”.

For this to happen, he felt that more can be done to develop a dynamic and sustainable entrepreneurship culture. Singapore must start with our youths to achieve this. In this regard, we should and must invest more in entrepreneurship education for our youths. He hopes that more of our smartest and brightest young Singaporeans will aspire to be entrepreneurs. Even if our youths do not end up as entrepreneurs, hopefully they would have acquired an entrepreneurial mindset – a vital skill needed for the 21st century. When more of our youths are prepared to take risks and to accept failures, we can look forward to local clones of Alibabas or Samsungs. He stressed: “There is no other way for Singapore to produce large global companies. We must have this vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurship culture to nurture and transform more of our youths into world class entrepreneurs, going into the future”

Download this article CLICK HERE

The post A People-Centric & Can-Do! Leadership Style appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Saturday Sharing Session by Mr Lim Soon Hock – Founder and Managing Director of PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd http://ielstaging.net/sharing-session-mr-lim-soon-hock/ Sat, 17 Sep 2016 09:00:22 +0000 http://www.pisteuomedia.com/nus/?p=2288 Sat Sharing Session by Mr Lim Soon Hock Speaker: Mr Lim Soon Hock Founder and Managing Director of PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd Chairman, Halogen Foundation Singapore Details 17 Sept 2016 0900-1100AM TechHub

The post Saturday Sharing Session by Mr Lim Soon Hock – Founder and Managing Director of PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>
Sat Sharing Session by Mr Lim Soon Hock

Speaker:

LimSoonHock

Mr Lim Soon Hock
Founder and Managing Director of PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd
Chairman, Halogen Foundation Singapore

Details

17 Sept 2016
0900-1100AM
TechHub

The post Saturday Sharing Session by Mr Lim Soon Hock – Founder and Managing Director of PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd appeared first on Engineering Leadership - Institute for Engineering Leadership.

]]>