Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interview for IES

Back in August, I conducted an interview for IES (Institution of Engineers, Singapore) as part of their National Engineering Day 2011 (NED 2011) efforts to encourage high school students in Singapore to consider engineering as a career option. While I have conducted many interviews in the past for my school and college magazines, this was the first time I did a project that is outside of school and up for display publicly. It was fun and exciting and I enjoyed the process even though wrestling with semantic nuances was challenging at times. 

I wanted to share this now that its up on their website.



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Interview with Ms Wang Ai-Chie Principal Package Design Engineer, Micron Semiconductor Asia Pte Ltd Written by: Mr Rohit Menon (Temasek Polytechnic). Ms Wang Ai-Chie. I was invited to meet Ms. Wang in..

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

30 Day Challenge for October

My 30 day challenge for October is to 'learn a new word everyday'. Its been nine days into the challenge and I have been consistent in my effort. I shall be updating this post daily with the words that I have learnt. The list goes as follows:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Report on 30 Day Challenge for September

My 30 day challenge for the month of September was to 'stay away from carbonated drinks'. I have always loved drinking Coca-Cola (and other aerated drinks) and been hooked on to it for so much time that my dentist began to complain. I used to drink at least three cans of cola on an average day and this was the case for quite a long time. I could actually differentiate between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. So to try and beat this habit, I embarked on this challenge. Initially during the first week and a half it seemed unpalatable, particularly when the weather here is so hot during the day. I substituted my regular choice of drinks with iced tea, cold chocolates and smoothies. Eventually, it turned out better than expected and I was able to stay away from the cola for the entire month except for one instance at the F1 Singapore GP, where the only other alternative to coca-cola was beer.

This challenge might seem a little mundane but the idea was to break out of this habit. I am glad I did. Its been more than a month now and I still haven't really felt the urge to pop a cold one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Of Gambles and Payoffs

The semester just ended and it brings with it the completion of my three year diploma. Its a cliche but I can't help but reflect back on the past three years that, looking back now, passed by rather swiftly. I consider these three years a major milestone in my life and career, one that I learned the most from and one that has influenced me more than any other.

Freshmen Orientation Week - October '09
Three years ago at this time I began the diploma with a lot of apprehension. You believe that a person as old as nineteen is expected to at least have a vague idea of what he or she wants out of an educational program; especially when there is a lot of promises and hopes at stake. Well I did not. At the time, I was already in college wasting my time. It was the uselessness of that which served as the inspiration to not be useless anymore. I was conscious of learning this fact the hard way. As for the diploma, I didn't really know what I wanted to get out of it other than what was covered in the curriculum. I was rather naive, I must admit when it all began in October of 2008. All I wanted to do at that time was to get past the first year properly and see what the future in Singapore held for me. I would be walking a thin line for the next one year.

Did I forget to mention the fun I was having? - Christmas '09
Come October 2009 and my life changed for the better the moment I stepped onboard the flight to Singapore. Ever since then, there has been no turning back. I was beginning on a clean slate. In Steve Jobs' words, "You are already naked, there is no reason not to follow your heart." The next two years have been the most amazing ones that I've ever had. It has been an adventure about which I can go on and on and on, but I'll save that for some other time. Being in Singapore made all the difference to me and I cannot be thankful enough for the opportunities this country has to offer. I got everything that I wished for and there were some other things that just completely blew me away. It was here that I actually began to do 'great work' because I was doing what I loved. The teachers who taught me were some of the best I have ever come across. Some of them were industry veterans who were the best people to turn to for seeking valuable advice. Something that I noticed about some teachers was that the ones who were the most respected and dedicated are the ones who completely erased the line that separates a student and a teacher. It is this tiny group of individuals that make all the difference in a student's life. The rest just impart information, nothing else; barely even knowledge.

The extended family with the teacher who made a difference!
Now that this wonderful journey comes to an end, I can look back and cherish the many fond memories that have come to form the basis for my life here. There is also the wonderful friendship that I have formed with many of my peers. They are some of the most talented people whom I have ever worked with and I owe them a lot. I was lucky that things worked out well for me. But there were a few people I know for whom things were not the same. All it takes is one mistake - one momentary lapse of reason - for everything to go horribly wrong. Overall at a personal level, I understood the value of commitment and the meaning of responsibility very deeply. I will take these as two important lessons that I learnt outside the classroom. If there was one thing that I remember kept me inspired (and still does) is Steve Jobs' famous "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish..." speech and you will soon recognize where some of the references I made in this post comes from.

As I wait to begin work next week and get ready for life post school, I can't help but think about the anxiety that looms over me. This time though its bearable and normal because the future now seems a lot clearer than before. I got what I was looking for, if not more, in terms of the wonderful time that I was seeking. My gamble had paid off well. It could not get any better than this...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In conversation with Tan Jie Yim Priscilla

An edited version of this article was featured in the July 2011 issue of ENGINEERRUS (The official magazine of Temasek Engineering School) under the title of "Tower of Strength". Below is the original transcript of the article that I had written before it was sent for editing and publishing.

Standing at a mere 147cms tall, Tan Jie Yim Priscilla can easily be mistaken for an ordinary girl who follows the ideal life of a student. This is true until you take a closer look at what she does. Unlike many others, this former TP student, who graduated in 2010 with a Diploma in Business Process and Systems Engineering (BZE), has a rather unique and rare pasttime of stilt walking. She works as a performer with Tian Eng Dragon and Lion Dance Centre and has been regularly performing with them at several major events and shows that include Resorts World Sentosa. She credits her penchant for learning and the interest to try out new things in life as the key reason to why she was attracted to the sport.

“Stilt walking is not an easy task and it needs balancing which is most important” says Priscilla who has been performing since 2004. “When I started off, it was very scary and I took a few hours to learn and balance myself fully”. Standing at a height of two meters, seeing Priscilla perform often leaves viewers in awe in addition to giving them goosebumps. “After you tie everything up and are ready to take the first step, you are always wary of falling and keep wanting to hold something” When asked if she had any bad experiences while performing, Priscilla mentions a time when she fell during one of her performances after accidentally stepping on a patch of water and some flowers. “The key is to fall forward with your knees bent, instead of backwards, as the shin guards and hand pumps offer protection and support.” She mentions determination and discipline towards practice sessions as vital traits of a stilt walker’s success.

She acknowledges her family and friends who supported her during her studies and encouraged her to work hard towards her aspirations. “I had a hard time coping with my studies, but I always had my family, especially my Dad and boyfriend, whose constant encouragement kept me going” recalls Priscilla who now works as an Admin Executive at Trillion Lifestyle Pte. Ltd. She hopes to work hard and eventually tour the world with her parents who, despite setbacks, kept going and never gave up.

With her hardwork and persistence, we are certain that she will reach even greater heights in life - those that lie beyond the realms of stilt walking.

Friday, June 3, 2011

10 years ago on this day...

Remembering the events of a day, particularly something that happened 10 years ago is very difficult. But sometimes, the memory is so strong that it just seems to be cemented in your mind forever. 3rd June 2001 was one such day for me. It began a new phase in my life. It was my first day at a new school - St. Peter's, an Anglo-Indian boarding school located in the beautiful town of Panchgani, about 265 kms from Mumbai. More than a hundred years old, the institute serves as an Alma Mater for thousands of grateful alumni who are now in different corners of the globe. From kindergarten to primary school to secondary school to college years later, I have attended a few educational institutions in my life. But none of these transitions has had a profound impact on me as much as my enrollment into St. Peter's School in the summer of 2001.

The beautiful hillside of Panchgani

I vividly remember helping Dad pack my aluminium trunk, stuffing it with all the things we purchased as per the school's requirements. Newly stitched shirts and pants, new shoes, raincoat, a mattress rolled into a gigantic holdall and a million other things... everything was packed a week before I was scheduled to leave. The school required all the new students to report on the 3rd of June before 6.00pm. I can vividly recall the emotional farewell with Mom (who kissed me and wished me luck) but I don't really remember the long journey from Mumbai to Panchgani. 

Upon reaching school, Dad and I found out that I was assigned to Bason Hall. This was my dormitory for the first year and I was under the care of a very strict and caring matron - Mrs. Peters. It was a rainy day and I could hear the sound of the rain pelting on the asbestos roof of Bason Hall. Rains in Panchgani would ofter get very heavy and the weather at that time quite reflected my distorted state of mind. I was very apprehensive. I was only 11 years old and this was my first time away from home. After we found a vacant bed and locker, we unpacked all the stuff from the trunk that we had carried along with us. I also made a friend - Gaurav Suri. Like me, he was a second generation Peterite (My father attended school at St. Peter's. He was from the class of 1973). Suri would be a great friend for the next four years of my life there, and to this day, we maintain that great friendship. I quickly changed into the school uniform as it as time for dinner. I met Mr. Martin at the linen room and he gave me my striped tie and scarlet cardigan. I had my first meal at school sitting beside Suri. His cousin, Himanshu Suri, had been at St. Peter's since class 3 and was a lot more familiar with the place. He helped us a lot in settling down in the initial few months.

"Comrades on the fields are we,
Comrades in the class to be,
And in all our daily rounds,
Comradeship must still be found... "

Dad left later that evening. The first night, I was an emotional wreck, I missed my Mum terribly and cried for a long time. Mrs. Peter's heard me crying and spent some time talking to me. After she put me to bed, I cried some more until I eventually fell asleep. The next morning was far better. At school, we were addressed by our respective surnames and I was called 'Menon'. Till date most of my friends still call me 'Menon'. Each student was sorted into one of four houses (all named after former principals and founders) - Ashlin (green), Cornwill (red), Drury (blue) and Rowan (black). My Dad was from Drury and so naturally I was asked to remain with it. I was happy to be a part of it under the care of Mr. N. A. Khan. I am a proud Druryite who still cherishes the house motto 'Facta Non Verba' (Action not words).

A few of us at our farewell dinner - March 2005
So began the most beautiful period of my life. For the next four years, I entered the most creative periods of my entire life. I was able to explore my strengths and weaknesses and grew up understanding myself a whole lot more. Skills that would transform me from a mama's boy into a responsible young man ready to face the world. I was lucky to grow under the loving care of great teachers who helped us not only within the classroom, but also outside its four walls. Students don't become academic lovers at St. Peter's, they grow into men with character. There were a lot of memories with the place and every visit to Panchgani brings back fresh ones. I met fellow students who came from different parts of India who would become my best friends for life. We played together, we laughed together, we studied together and we grew up together. I had excellent classmates in the form of Priyam Banerjee, Kadam, Steve, Ciril, Purav, Ash, Pande, Akshay and several others, each of who taught me something unique and exciting.  They are the closest friends I have ever made and the friendship just seems to grow stronger and stronger as the years roll on. Thanks to the internet, although we are on different continents, we are still in contact with one another. 

"Down the avenue of years,
Oft comes a thought too sad for tears,
Of the happy carefree days,
Of a joyous needless ways..."

My class (Class of 2005) was the 100th batch of St. Peters and it was fantastic to have been a part of the centenary celebrations. Looking back now, 10 years seemed to have passed rather quickly. Today, when I am about 3000 miles away from Panchgani, it all comes back to me. The emotions are still very strong. I might have cried on the very first night, but on the last day of school, when my batch mates and I were about to part ways, I cried even harder. I feel privileged and proud to have been a part of this very large family. I could go on and on about the memories of St. Peter's because my time spent there really was that fruitful. It left its spirit in each one of us. Inside me the spirit of St. Peter's, my Alma Mater, lives on every passing second... 

UT PROSIM!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

30 Day Challenge for May

I was on a holiday during the month of March and April and hence did not really attempt a 30 day challenge because I knew it would be a disaster. Now that I have returned, I have decided to do my next challenge for the month of May.

My 30 day challenge for May is to "track and keep my finances in order". I intend to note down my daily expenses, tabulate it and keep a record of it for the next 30 days. With this I hope to get an overview of all my expenses and see if there is any particular area that needs looking into. I've been trying to do this task for quite a while but I didn't really focus on it. But now I am determined to do it as a challenge. Of course, having an iPhone does help an awful lot. I am using the Money Journal v1.4 (Lite) app to help me record my daily expenses.

Even though this post is dated 17 May 2011, I have already begun this challenge since the 1st of May. I shall report on my progress within a fortnight.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

30 Day Challenge for February

I waited quite a while for Blogger to role out its new 'draft template', a new UI loaded with better features, to post this update on my next 30 Day Challenge but I guess it may not be happening anytime soon.

My 30 Day Challenge for February was 'to walk home daily from college'. Since February 2011 has only 28 days, I began this challenge on the 31st of January and extended it to the 1st of March. This challenge would have been a 20 day challenge because theres no school on Saturdays and Sundays, but I did my walking on weekends too and completed all 30 days.

The distance from my school to my block is about 2 miles which roughly takes me about 35mins to cover (Approx speed = 3.5mph). With the help of a walking calorie calculator I was found out that I burned an average of 186 calories per day. This means that in 30 days, I burned roughly 5580 calories by walking home every evening. For me, the benefits did not end there. A typical one way trip home from school by bus costs me $0.81. Over a period of 30 days, I ended up saving $24. All it took was a little music and some podcasts that I follow quite regularly.

I did not attempt this challenge with the aim of saving money or losing weight (I play soccer regularly and my BMI is within the 'healthy' range). It was mainly aimed at cultivating some self discipline and see if I could keep up with it for 30 days. It was hard though, mainly on weekends when I had no particular reason to step out from home. 30 days later, I have eventually liked walking, particularly in the evenings, because it gives me time for myself, to reflect on the day's events and the pleasant weather is a bonus. All in all, I am happy with the way this challenge had progressed and hope to continue walking home in the days to come.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fireside chat with Ms. Wang Yuyan

An edited version of this article was featured in the January 2011 issue of ENGINEERRUS (The official magazine of Temasek Engineering School) under the title of "No Mountain Too High". Below is the original transcript of the article that I had written before it was sent for editing and publishing.

Back in 2006, TP introduced its new Diploma in Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) course. Five years on, it has become one of the most sought-after courses in TP. We caught up with Ms. Wang Yuyan, one of the students from the pilot batch of 2006, and who graduated in 2009, to see how she was coping with life after TP.

Ms. Wang recently graduated from the prestigious International Hotel Management Institute (IMI) in Lucrene, Switzerland with a BA (Hons.) in International Hotel and Tourism Management. It is interesting to note that Ms. Wang’s acceptance into IMI throws light on how versatile and well recognized TP’s Diploma in IFM is. Taking time out to answer a questionnaire, she credits TP for preparing her for the future. “My Diploma in IFM provided me with the basic foundation for the hospitality industry. It has helped me to better understand what was being taught in class and as a diploma graduate it allowed me to advance to a higher level of study” she remembers. Some of her favourite subjects included Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism, Introduction to Language and Culture (French) and Attractions Management and Club and Resort Business. She fondly recalled memories of staying late in school with friends to meet project deadlines and how much the facilities provided by TP helped her to conduct her own self- study or for doing group work with friends.

Talking about life in Switzerland, she described how much she thoroughly enjoyed studying in Europe. “In our free time, my classmates and I would take the opportunity to travel around Europe. So far I have been to Milan, London and Amsterdam, places I would never think I'd visit. It has been quite an experience so far as it is my first time studying abroad and I am enjoying every single bit of it”.

Ms. Wang aspires to hold a managerial position at a five star hotel someday. We wish her all
the very best in this endeavor.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

30 Day Challenge for January

Happy New Year everyone! My 30 Day challenge for January 'To take a picture everyday' was not much of a success. mainly for two reasons. Firstly, I was a little busy with an important school project which kept me occupied for most of the month and secondly I didn't really travel that much and my daily routine and travels were almost redundant. There was nothing really interesting to photograph. However, I did remember to take photographs during the few times that I traveled.

I will be travelling in March and I intend to redo this challenge, this time with better focus. As for the photos that I took this past month, here they are*.

I managed to take only 17 from my target of 30. Some of the pictures taken at night are grainy too. Apologies. I shall remember to carry, with me, a better camera next time.

Till next time...

*Update: When Blogger was updated to the newer version, my embedded slideshow broke as a result. So I had to add a link to the G+ album instead.