Be like an adaptor plug.
That was the advice Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had for Singapore Management University (SMU) graduates receiving their degrees yesterday, as he highlighted the need to stay adaptable and connected in a rapidly changing world.
From Argentina, where he was last week for a G-20 finance ministers' meeting, to Amsterdam, "wherever I found myself, my adaptor allowed me to plug in, draw power from the places I went, and stay connected", he said in his speech at the opening ceremony of SMU's Commencement 2018.
The ability to stay connected "will be more important than ever" as Singapore positions itself as Asia's global node of technology, innovation and enterprise.
"I encourage you to be daring, curious and to have the openness to know the region well and see the world," he told the 300 graduates from the Lee Kong Chian School of Business. "By engaging with different people all over the world, you will share experiences and knowledge that will take you and your organisations further.
"And it is not only by crossing geographical lines that you can be connected. You can extend the same openness and curiosity to those who come to Singapore to study or work. Look out also for ways to make connections across disciplines of study and fields of experience, across different social groups and communities."
He said growing up in a multi-cultural society and being bilingual have already helped Singaporeans to venture out of the country. But going forward, there will be a need to adapt not only to changes in location, but to changes in technology and the nature of work, he added.
CROSSING GEOGRAPHICAL LINES
I encourage you to be daring, curious and to have the openness to know the region well and see the world. By engaging with different people all over the world, you will share experiences and knowledge that will take you and your organisations further.
FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT, on the need to stay adaptable and connected.
And that means having "to develop our cultural sensitivity and fluency in the different political climates, business environments and social contexts of other countries".
"Adaptability is about the active ability to find commonalities amid differences and a genuine readiness to collaborate, so that we can build connections and rally people round what we have in common, to solve problems and create new value together."
Mr Heng also emphasised the importance of being able to pursue one's own passions. "You are an engine in your own right. So even as you stay connected and adaptable to changes, you will have your own sparks of inspiration, and energise others with your own unique current."
Social sciences student Ang Kheng Kiat, 25, knows first-hand the importance of being adaptable.
Having come from a relatively low-income household - his father is a materials coordinator and his mother is a store packer at Sheng Siong supermarket - he had to partially self-fund his studies. He had to adapt to juggling his tuition sessions, store shifts and school work, which he said was particularly difficult in his first semester in SMU. Things got better in the second semester, with added support and motivation from his family and friends.
Said Mr Ang, who majored in political science, public policy and public management: "I chose this course because I thought it would help me make sense of (my) reality and personal experiences... And it has."
Yesterday's event was the first of SMU's 11 commencement ceremonies to be held over four days.
A total of 1,919 students will receive their bachelor's degrees, with 86 receiving double degrees. Another 988 will be conferred postgraduate degrees such as a master's or a doctorate.
Mr Heng also paid tribute to outgoing SMU president Arnoud De Meyer for leading the university through a new phase of growth and excellence in the past eight years.
Prof De Meyer, 63, will step down at the end of this year. Replacing him is SMU Provost Lily Kong.