Issue 99, June 2011
Managing ourselves
Participants at the 18th Distinguished Alumni Forum learn all about achieving work-life harmony from four speakers.

The speakers drew upon their own career experiences when addressing the forum topic titled ‘CEO of Me - Energising Work, Engaging Life’. Close to 200 alumni, students and staff attended the session held on 27 May, at NTU’s one-north campus.

The forum was chaired by Associate Professor Yow Kin Choong from the School of Computer Engineering, who is also an alumnus from the National Institute of Education’s Class of 2001. Joining him at the session were speakers Associate Professor Lam Yeng Ming (MSE/1996), Professor at NTU’s Materials Science and Engineering; Mr Darryl David (NBS/2001), Media Consultant and Senior Lecturer, Temasek Polytechnic; Ms Merry Riana (EEE/2002), CEO of MRO Consultancy Pte Ltd; and Mr Lau Tat Chuan, Director, Centre for Fathering and Adjunct Faculty, Centre for Creative Leadership.

Planning and prioritising
Associate Professor Lam Yeng Ming (1996/MSE), a renowned scientist in the area of polymer self-organisation, stressed the importance of allocating time, energy and other resources wisely. With a proper plan in place, one will be able to find the best possible ways to allocate these resources. “To become CEO of ourselves, we need to take control of life and we need to have a strategy,” said Prof Lam.

Speaking of prioritisation, Prof Lam added: “We tend to be too restricted with how we manage our commitments. It is always good to prioritise, as quoted by the German philosopher Goethe, ‘Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’”

As for Mr Darryl David, he spoke about prioritisation when managing his multiple roles as a lecturer in Temasek Polytechnic, as well as a father and husband at home. “I keep my roles separate so as to be able to dedicate 120% effort into each role. I am crystal clear about what I am focusing on. For example, when I am at home, I switch off my working roles mentally to focus on being a good husband and father. Multitasking is not always a good idea as although you can do many jobs at the same time, you might not be doing them well,” he shared.

The importance of time management became even more critical when Ms Merry Riana started a family. “I used to work 14 to 16 hours, everyday of the week and it seemed like I was juggling my life. But after I had my daughter, I realised that I need to spend more time with my daughter. So I began prioritising and managing my time to allow me enough time with my family as well as for my work,” she explained.

Final speaker Mr Lau Tat Chuan provided the participants with an insight of energy psychology based on some past research done. He spoke about the ‘Integrator’ style of work-life prioritisation which has ‘dotted line boundaries’ between work tasks and personal life duties. “While it is not right or wrong to adhere to a specific style, it is more important to decide on a style that we are most comfortable with. It takes great coordination and vision to equalise the work-life balance scale.

Remaining optimistic
As life has its ups and downs, one must always look on the bright side and work hard to overcome the woes. Mr Darryl David shared two ‘Cs’ which have helped him in his working and personal life – communication and courage. He shared with the audience, some useful ‘tricks’ he had learnt for better communication with fellow colleagues and family members. He also explained that one also needs courage. He or she must dare to take action for the right cause even if it might not be the most popular plan, but is one that will bring long-term benefits. It can be as trivial as apologising to your children or making a big decision at work and taking full responsibility for the consequence.

Of course life has crests, troughs and dark long valleys, but as all the four speakers shared, one should be graceful for what one already has and be energetic in the pursuit of individual ambitions. “Life is not like a GPS system. It is more like navigating with a compass, where you roughly know the direction, but you may not always find the right direction to go towards the planned target. You need to persevere, confront the terrain or re-direct yourself when you meet the obstacles and opportunities”, concluded Mr Lau with a laugh.

The question and answer session which was facilitated by Forum Chairperson Associate Professor Yow Kin Choong, was one that was filled with interesting discussions among the participants and the speakers. At the end of the session, Professor Er Meng Hwa, Vice President-Designate (International Affairs) and Senior Associate Provost, NTU, presented tokens of appreciation to the Forum Chairperson and speakers.

One of the participants, Mr Jeremy Ng (MAE/2007) found the forum session very useful as it helped him understand how others handle real world situations and how best one can pursue work-life balance.

© Alumni Affairs Office