On the 6th of August, a group of Big Brother Big Sister Mentors accompanied students from Bedok View Secondary and Spectra Secondary to Lukoil Asia Pacific, as part of Phase 2 of the Sailing and Sustainability program. We had the opportunity to interact with and learn from the senior executives in Lukoil about the values that have helped them grow and overcome challenges.
Mr Barry Hamberg, the managing director of Lukoil Asia Pacific was the first to share his story with us, and it was about TEAMS. He said that in life, we will be part of many different teams. This is because humans are social by nature – it’s nearly impossible to survive without some form of human contact, and so we usually band together.
And though the word ‘team’ might make you think of sports or cliques, it’s really more than that. The word was broken down for us into an acronym – T stands for trust, E stands for encouragement, A for accept, and M for mentoring.
Trust– we are social beings, and we tend to gravitate towards those we can trust. This makes sense – when you trust a person, you allow them to see the more vulnerable parts of you, safe in the knowledge that they won’t exploit that vulnerability, whether it’s by making fun of you, or leaving you behind.
In any team, it is important to be able to trust that your team members know what they are doing, and that they are doing it well. When we sail on boats that require more than one person, we must be able to trust each other to do their jobs; if they aren’t, and we’re out at sea, bad things could happen.
Trust is something that takes a while to build, but only seconds to break. Once you lose a person’s trust, it becomes very difficult to earn it back, if ever at all.
So when you find yourself in a team – which is more often than you would imagine – know that you need to trust your team members, and they need to trust you. It might not be easy to build that trust, but it is necessary for a well-functioning team.
One way to build trust is through encouragement– through helping your team. When you encourage a person, you help motivate them, and remind them that in their struggle, they are not alone.
This is important – teams almost always form when there are problems that are too large for one person to handle alone. That’s why it’s important that your team members support you. Even if it’s as simple as being the first person to wish them a good morning, or bringing them snacks while working, a bit of encouragement and support goes a long way into keeping your team going.
Part of trusting someone and being able to encourage them is acceptance– their race, religion, attitudes, opinions, etc. This can be tricky to do – it’s not easy to accept something different from you, and oftentimes, there are parts of a person you just can’t accept.
And that is okay.
It is very rare to find people whom you can accept completely. That does not mean you shouldn’t try to accept people, because without acceptance, there is no trust, and with neither, there wouldn’t be a well-functioning team.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you just cannot accept the people you have to work with, then try to accept the situation, and work with it. Try to work with your team members. Try to trust that they will do their parts, and encourage them to do so.
And lastly, mentoring. A mentor is someone who helps you and guides you. You don’t have to be older than someone to be their mentor – if you have a skill or some knowledge you could teach to your teammates that might help them, you can mentor them to improve.
The second talk by Valerie stressed on the importance of education, and how it created opportunities for her future. She shared with us her journey, from being a normal academic student, also in Bedok View Secondary School, going to a polytechnic, and then to university, during which she interned with Lukoil twice. Her dedication and hard work with her company was apparent to her teammates, which lead to her being confirmed a job upon her graduation!
She shared that, perhaps many youths in first world countries like Singapore complain about having to attend school daily, that school is boring, stressful or difficult. She admits that at times, she felt that way too, but she always remembers how lucky we are that we’re given the opportunity to earn an education in our country. Education is important, because for whatever you want to do in life, you need some knowledge and you need some skills.
Aunty Yvonne, who is an Assistant Director for Nanyang Technological University’s Career Services, also came forward to share with us her thoughts about education. Having helped so many students from the Nanyang Business School find career pathways, she shared that some of that knowledge and skills are more academic, such as math or sciences, but “soft skills” – knowing how to work with people in a team, make friends – are just as important.
Learning of technical skills in class is not enough for it to stick – just listening doesn’t lead to understanding. Aunty Yvonne suggested the R24 method to the students. It is based off scientific studies, that anything new that you learn is likely to be forgotten if you don’t revise it within 24 hours. She shared that something simple they could do to improve their learning is to read about the topic of a lesson beforehand, and then after the lesson, revise the material again within 24 hours.
This is something that I have tried personally, and it has helped me. With this method, I managed to pull up my grades for my exams. Like all young people, I would rather play and hang out with my friends. Socialisation is important, but we can also learn to balance and set some time to revise our work.
Uncle Steven Chiang, a senior oil trader with Lukoil talked to us about socialisation, about how your ability to get along with people can sometimes be more important than how skilled you are in your field. That’s why it’s important to build one’s interpersonal and communication skills.
People would rather work with someone who is pleasant and gracious, than someone who has difficulty getting along with others, and cannot work well in a team. Essentially, we want to be comfortable with the people we have to work with – that way, they are more likely to trust you, and will ultimately result in a better outcome for whatever project you are working on.
Uncle Steven encouraged the students to think about picking up a new language, such as Bahasa Melayu or Indonesia, given that Singapore is surrounded by countries that speak this language. Personally, as someone who wants to be multi-lingual, I agreed with his suggestion to the students.
Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his language, that goes to his heart.”
As he said, speaking to people in their mother tongue instantly forms a connection between you – they are more likely to like you, trust you and do business with you, because language is intrinsically tied to culture. Understanding and respecting the culture of your business partners goes a long way into building a lasting relationship.
The previous speakers had engaged the students to think about enriching their skills, education and EQ. Uncle Joe Leong then shared with them about having the courage to DREAM.
Uncle Joe created an acronym for DREAM – D for direction, R for responsibility, E for education and exploration, A for attitude and M for mentorship.
D is having a direction. Wanting something is essentially setting yourself a goal; whether you dream to be a dancer or a trader, this gives you a place to start. If you want to dance, sign up for dance classes, or join the school dance team. If you want to be a trader, start reading up about the profession, and learn about what it takes to get you there.
The point is that a goal directs you to where you want to go. And direction is a very important thing to have in life. Something I have personally come to admire students who sit for the ‘O’ Levels, receive top marks, and instead of following the stereotype of going to junior college, they choose to go to polytechnic.
Why? Because they know where they want to go.
As a student in junior college, I had no clear direction of where I wanted to go in life; I didn’t know what I wanted to study in university, let alone whether I should go overseas or stay local. And so I admired my peers in polytechnics who knew what they wanted to do, and were ready to start going for it.
R stands for being responsibility. We hear this word being thrown around a lot, by our parents and our teachers. We are told that we need to be more responsible, over our belongings and towards our studies. But I think we also need to remember to be responsible to ourselves.
This means that when you know what you want, you should try to get it, the right way. Find out how you can get what you want, if it’s education or something material, and follow those steps to get to where you want to be. Take ownership of your learning.
My parents tell me frequently that they pushed me to do well in school for my own benefit. They wanted me to be able to go far in life, and the quickest way to do that is by getting a good education. When I understood that I am the master of my own destiny, it became a lot easier for me to put in the hard work.
This was what happened to Uncle Joe. He spent a lot of time as a youth working odd jobs to try to earn extra pocket money, throughout secondary school and polytechnic.
One day, he found himself fixing cables in the then-unopened Singapore Discovery Centre, and he realised he wanted more out of life than fixing cables. He realised that to have the kind of life that he wanted, he needed to further his education. And so he decided to go to university.
E stands for education and exploration. As we have already discussed extensively on the importance of education, I would like to spend more time on the topic of exploration. It is said that every part of the world has been discovered and explored, over time and with advancements in technology. But just because others have discovered and explored it, doesn’t mean that we can’t try to do it ourselves.
Having an adventurous spirit that wants to explore expands our worldview, and gives us experiences that we never think of. These experiences could be both bad and good, but will ultimately build our character and be part of our growth.
A stands for attitude– it’s a reminder to have the right attitude towards things and what you are doing. It can be a challenge to work hard, to have to sacrifice some things for your dream, but having the right attitude can ease that burden. Remind yourself about what you’re working towards, and remember that when you go through any hardships.
And lastly, M stands for mentorship, which I have already spoken about, but Uncle Joe shared a touching story about his personal experience with mentoring.
Uncle Joe is a huge football fan, and his love for the sport motivated him to train to become a better player. For an entire year, he set aside several hours a day to practice and hone his skills, running drills and learning and perfecting tricks. His hard work paid off, and he made the school team.
But rather than just finish there, he went on to earn a certification to become a licensed football coach in Singapore, and started coaching youths from less privileged backgrounds, helping them stay on a better path, and guiding them as a mentor. He said that he does this because he believes in providing them with a safe space to grow, similar to our own BBBS programme.
This leads us to the end of our session where Aunty Yvonne shared with the students some kinds of part-time jobs they could try for, and gave them advice on how they could come to work in companies such as Lukoil.
She shared with them how polytechnics give students their acceptance letters, which consists of several lines, telling them which courses they are eligible to apply for, based on their results. This can range from a small number, such as qualifying for only three courses, to a large number, such as qualifying for eight or more courses. To put it clearly to the students, she asked them if they would prefer to be able to choose what they like do, or if they would rather have the courses “choose” them.
I am grateful for this opportunity to visit Lukoil, because this visit was enriching for all of us, and the talks were well delivered and inspiring.
Thank you to all the speakers and aunties and uncles who came along and shared their stories with us.
Article Written By: Leah