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Our Graduates – The Journey and beyond

Published on: 27-Feb-2019

MS YEAN SEANGLIDET (Computer Science, Class of 2015)

Going against the status quo of attending medical school in my home country, I made it to NTU SCSE at 17. Growing up in Cambodia, I chose Computer Science based solely on my interest in mathematics, science and video games, despite most people telling me that it is not the path for women. SCSE has given me the opportunity to obtain the world-class education, personal growth, and limitless career path, especially for women.

While pursuing the 4-year bachelor’s degree, I have learned from both theoretical fundamentals and hands-on practices. The most memorable experiences were the numerous group projects that we had to do every semester. At that time, from the lecture to the group assignment, the difficulty seemed to be learning from how to ride a horse to slay a dragon. They were related but the challenge seemed huge. I then learnt from a new perspective that university is where we have to practice beyond what is taught, to attempt and improve, and to ask questions. Being the only Cambodian in class, I got to rotate and work with many different teammates. I am most thankful to the experience which groomed me to become independent and a life-long learner.

My senior once told me that “if you get through the 2nd year, you will get through anything”. Facing the real-world for the first time during my internship at Citibank made me realize the hours spent preparing the course materials and course works paid off. Using the fundamentals in programming and software engineering, I managed to create the required system without prior knowledge of the implementation tools. The interpersonal and leadership skills I learnt from projects and extra-curricular activities helped me perform very well in the team. SCSE did not only prepare me for the industrial attachment in my 3rd year but also took me places in 4th year. Choosing electives in Intelligent Systems and High Performance Computing, I had the opportunity to compete in team NTU at Student SuperComputer Challenge 2015, China.

The final year project (FYP) is the “Made to go beyond” experience for me. The FYP had given me the space to get creative with state-of-the-art methods and make a contribution. It broadened my perspective in the scope of computer science and inspired me to pursue a PhD in future healthcare. Upon continuing my study (PhD) at NTU, I have also published my paper in Biomedical journal and eHealth conferences. One way or another, I got the best of both worlds – tinkering with computer algorithm and contributing to the medical field. That little girl’s dream came true.

My advice to current students is to Stay Curious and Challenge Yourself. There is always a learning curve to anything new. Be curious and dive deep (discuss with professors, lab assistants, peers, friends or go online). Stay Excited about Errors: the 1st lesson I learnt through the Computational Thinking course was to be excited about errors. Keep Calm, 1 bug at a time.

Bharath Jayaram (Computer Science, Class of 2013)

I came to Singapore as an International student. When I finished my schooling in Bangalore India, I had admission to India’s coveted universities that one dreams of growing up. The only University, I had applied outside India was NTU, who had come to do a roadshow at my school and I was offered an admission which I believe was due to my top 7 rank in India for Asian Physics Olympiad.

Like most Asian kids, I grew up in a very strict household where the focus on academics was extraordinarily gruelling. Partially due to a high benchmark set by my elder brother, it was never easy to meet the expectations of my parents. The inability to achieve on par coupled with overprotectiveness of my parents, made me feel trapped within my own home. And I wanted to escape all these, be independent and to experience life fully.

Being accepted into NTU gave me the perfect opportunity to embrace independency while pursuing a degree in Computer Science.

I came to Singapore with a lot of expectations and hopes looking for a new experience. However, my initial euphoria was short lived.

As I had already studied Computer science back in India in my school, I knew the content being taught in the first year. I knew them well enough to the point that I was teaching coding to everyone else in NTU’s Hall 7 and helped many course mates with their assignments. However, to my bewilderment after I got my first term results my GPA was only 3+ and everyone else who I had taught ended up getting better grades than me! This was shocking to me. It brought my world and confidence crashing down.

Not wanting to be judged, I kept my grades a secret. I never told anyone – Not to my friends, not to my brother and not even to my parents. In fact I was in denial. I didn’t even want to remember my grades. To make matters worse, my grades didn’t get any better in second semester either.

Throughout my formation years, all of my self-worth was based on how well I fared in school. Because of my non-stellar results, I was constantly in an acute level of stress. Knowing I cannot go on like this, I decided to pick up tennis as distraction, hoping it can serve as a coping mechanism as I continued to pretend that all is well.

It was in Nov of 2011 that I finally decided to confide in my brother, completely breaking down to him in the process. He boarded the next flight out to Singapore from California, accompanying and supporting me upon his arrival.

With the support of my brother and parents, I finally agreed to contact the school counsel to receive full counselling. Taking the advice of my counsellor, I took the semester off and begin my healing process. Till today, nobody knew the actual reason why I took that one semester off.

Using tennis as a coping mechanism was definitely the right thing for me. As I made my serves and forehands, seeing the ball bouncing back to me taught me that although life can be tough, we can always bounce back, like the tennis ball.

I decided to experiment with trading to supplement my income and used the programming skills which NTU had empowered me with, to develop codes and algorithms, creating a system to help me with decision making. With a capital of less than USD 15,000, I was able to grow my portfolio to that of a low six figure within three years, allowing me to quit my job.

Now I am the CEO of TradeShifu, a financial education company aimed towards empowering retail investors with the necessary practical and actionable strategies to generate consistent income from stock markets. I’m also an author, full-time trader, stock market consultant and a coach to those who want to gain that confidence and consistency in their trading. I have spoken at NASDAQ, Harvard Club of Boston, Harvard Club of New York and many more prestigious stages. I was recently on a panel discussion and shared stage with George Ross and Caitlyn Jenner and was also featured on the world’s most iconic billboard at NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square, NYC. It was a long hard process, but the very key things that I learnt in university such as perseverance and hard work eventually paid off and helped me reached these milestones too.

My advice to current students is QUIT

Q - Quit early, quit often – you don’t really know what is it that you exactly want to do – be open, be flexible to trying out new things and when something doesn’t work – let it go as easily and don’t be too emotional about it. You always have a choice and the faster you quit and move onto the next thing you want to work on – the closer you are to finding what that one thing is that you really want to be doing for the rest of your life.

U - University is the last chance to learn any new skillsets, so if you have time spend it wisely to learn something new, perhaps your passion. I can’t possibly imagine what my life would be if I hadn’t make that decision to go out and learn tennis on my own. I strongly believe the work ethic it takes to become a great athlete in any sport is closely related to the struggles of an entrepreneur when he first starts out.

I - Invest on learning and applying the knowledge and not just grades, titles or pay checks.  Focus on the long-term wealth creation and not just short term survival by collecting pay checks and paying bills off. Have a big dream or goal you want to work towards and break it down into small, actionable, specific shorter-term goals.

T – True to yourself. Do what you truly like.  No matter what you are doing, do it because you love it, not because you have to do it. None of what I did in my life so far was planned, and it all happened by accidents and adversities. It comes down to what you see first; whether the DIFFICULTY in the OPPORTUNITY or the OPPORTUNITY in the DIFFICULTY. Stop complaining and see how you can learn and grow from that experience. It is okay to fail. I have failed many many times – but if you learn and grow from it, it is not a failure. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.

Quitting and failure are two words tha t students in general are most afraid of, and in a society where this is looked down at, I want my story to inspire everyone to know that it’s okay to QUIT and it’s okay to FAIL. I hope this helps someone else who can relate to my story and keeps you motivated to pursue what you want to do in life.

© SCSE Outreach

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