As a foreword, I would like to take this opportunity to thank both the EILP coordinators Miss Felicity Brown Ling and Ir. Dennis Ong. Without their guidance and nurture, none of this would have been possible. Also, a huge thank you to Professor Anthony Guo, the Head of the School of Engineering Monash Malaysia and Pro Vice Chancellor Helen Bartlett, who endorsed the program in Malaysia.
My academic year as an Engineering undergraduate in 2013 has been a tremendously exciting and thought provoking experience to say the least. In March 2013, I was honoured to be invited to join the prestigious Engineering and IT Leadership Program (EILP) in Monash University Malaysia as a second year undergraduate. The year of 2013 marks the pioneering year of this program in Sunway campus, Malaysia. Looking back past the entire process, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever undertaken as a student.
The EILP was designed to prepare students for leadership roles in their respective environments. It is often said that engineers are always equipped with vital technical skills but lack softer skills such as conceptual and interpersonal skills. The EILP serves as a link to bridge both students and the industry; to prepare the former for future endeavors in the workplace.
The EILP offered exiting programs and activities to prepare me as an ambassador of the Monash brand name. Among them included the following throughout the academic year of 2013.
1. Evening Leadership Seminars - Industry heads from Toyota, Shell, Intel, SKM and Western Digital
2. EILP Camp Retreat at Broga Hill, Malaysia
3. Site visit to MEASAT (Malaysia Satellite Systems)
4. Engineering Leadership Summit 2013
5. Mentor-Mentee Program
Among the many opportunities offered to me as a participant of this program, the one which I am most grateful for would be the Mentor-Mentee Program with an Industry Head. During the official Program Launch Night, I was first introduced to my mentor, Ir. Yap Tze Khong.
Ir. Yap Tze Khong is currently the Director at PS Pipeline and PS Terminal. He is also a Director at Petroleum Industry Malaysia Mutual Aid Group (PIMMAG). He manages the supply of lead for processing at Shell Malaysia Trading SB and Shell Timur SB. He has previously been involved with Linde Gases and was once the Consumer Lubricants Business Head overseeing the regions of Malaysia & Singapore at Shell Malaysia. Accolades and qualifications aside, I am very pleased to have him as my mentor and friend.
Meetings with Mentor
1. The night of the EILP Launch
2. TGIF Restaurant at One Utama, Damansara
3. Monash Malaysia Cafeteria
4. Subway at One Utama, Damansara
5. Lunchbox at MRS, Monash Malaysia
6. Rakuzen Restaurant IOI Mall, Puchong
To begin, I would first like to thank my mentor Ir. Yap Tze Khong for availing his time to teach and guide me despite his busy work schedules and responsibilities. He is truly dedicated and inspiring. Throughout our many conversations and discussions, I found Tze Khong to be insightful, brilliant, generous and capable. I have learned so much from this gifted mentor. Among the more important things that impressed upon my thoughts were the discussions relating to strategic thinking, economics and finance, as well as ethics and governance.
For one, Tze Khong has thought me to diversify myself in all possible areas, including those outside the direct field of engineering. I find that to be really pragmatic in this modern time especially in pursuit of my ambition in an industry related to oil and gas. Be it in the area of sales, marketing or even business, it is always crucial to understand all aspects of an industry. Diversification will take people places in this life and open doors as it expounds on an individual’s capability to work well in different teams and be versatile. It also exuberates an individual’s preparedness to keep learning new things; as learning is an ongoing process which should never come to a halt.
Secondly, Tze Khong often elaborates on the ideas of strategic thinking. Within the constraints of any given project, it is important to understand that the division of labor is essential for success. Although the mind of an engineer may be valued for his/her technical capabilities, but the ability to develop good working relations with the less pronounced classes in a company, namely the laborers in a multimillion dollar building project is what sets apart one great individual from another. Placement and strategic thinking are a critical mainstay in any industry. Tze Khong encouraged me to use The Art of War by Sun Tzu as a reference. I personally believe it is important to know your ‘opponent’ in whatever field you are currently in pursuit of. To know your enemy is to understand everything about him/her such that they will not be able to exploit any weakness in you.
Thirdly, Tze Khong introduced to me the concept of a life cycle graph. He has thought me to plot my achievements in a graph with accordance to time. I strongly believe this is an important tool as a reflection on the highlights of my life as well as the lower breaking points that I have encountered. It is important to understand that there will always be good and bad times in this life. We must always ponder upon the moments that make us feel like giving up, and remember the times where we were simply splendid. We should then ask ourselves what can be done to bring us back to that state of accomplishment.
Fourthly, Tze Khong thought me to understand the concepts relating to finance and economics. This is essentially important as money stands as a crucial medium in our time. To understand how money came to be, is to appreciate it and value it accordingly. For this, he encourages us to use Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money as a guide. Niall Ferguson also happens to be one of his favourite authors. However, I also learnt that although money is crucial for survival, there are some things more important in this life that money cannot purchase. This is especially true for family, relationships, health and happiness. To gain the whole world but to lose all contact with one’s family would be the single most regretful thing an individual can experience. It is therefore important to juggle our time wisely between our workplace, family, friends, health and spirituality.
Lastly, I learned that both ethics and governance are important in our decision making processes. Often, it is indeed tempting to cut corners to reduce cost and maximize profits. However, this eventually results in the downfall of a party or individual. The temporary gains do not outweigh the repercussions when a situation turns sour and all unscrupulous acts come to light. It is therefore crucial that we stand for what we believe is right in our own workplace. In regards to this topic, Tze Khong suggests that Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration and The Holy Bible are good reading materials. It is often said, what good is a man who gains the world yet loses his soul in the process. Tze Khong thought me that advancements and profits should never be made at the cost of others.
The mentor-mentee experience has truly been a rewarding and heartfelt experience in my humble opinion. It was and always will be, an amazing opportunity to learn from one as knowledgeable and resourceful as my mentor. The academic year of 2013 has truly been a tremendous year for me.
Among my Academic and Curricular Achievements were:
1. Monash Malaysia Engineering and IT Leadership Program (EILP) Participant
2. Golden Key International Honours Society Member
3. Dean’s Honours List (Faculty of Engineering)
4. Vice President - Founding Committee of Engineers Australia Monash Sunway Student Chapter (EAMSSS)
5. Featured in the Monash School of Engineering Corporate Video
6. Head of Program – Engineering Leadership Summit 2013
As a closing statement, I honestly believe that all the opportunities which were presented to me occurred with a domino chain effect. It was always one circumstance that encouraged another to take place, which helped me develop myself as a well-rounded individual. Once more, it is worth noting that everything started with and because of the EILP. As such, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to learn and fellowship amongst the ranks of the academically gifted in the university. It is my highest recommendation that any future undergraduate student in Monash University with the intent on achieving great exploits, make every possible effort to gain entry into this amazing program, the Engineering Leadership Program.
Shaun Ang Ee Xiang
Chemical Engineering Student
Engineering and IT Leadership Program 2013 Participant