My Two Cents: Academic Dilemmas

As of late, I received an email from a rather distressed member of the youth community. He wrote in to me about his dilemma concerning his studies and his future career pathway. With his permission, I have decided to share with you his e-mail, and with it my two cents' worth on this issue.


When I was growing up, I have always believed in investing my life in building people.

Coming from a full-fledged Engineering background, however, all I ever had my hands on building were mechanical gadgetries. Maths and physics were my constant companions throughout my academic days. Halfway through my degree, I realized that I was not getting anywhere near to realizing my dreams. That being said, however, I continued to persevere and did not call it quits. I gave it my best shot and finished it off.

The rhetorical question recurs: Do I regret studying what I did? Not at all.

In fact, I did enjoy the tutorials, lectures and even (some) exam papers. I believe that to a very large extent, what I studied constructed my current personality and perspective on life. As an engineering graduate, those years spent in the labs has trained me to be a meticulous, rational and logical person. On a positive note, I heard its easier to score in engineering subjects as compared to business ones. (I remember quite fondly scoring a 98% for a first year subject, Computing Engineering)

As person driven by passion, I did not let my degree deter me from pursuing what I am passionate about. As much as a paper qualification is a springboard to better job prospects, I never allowed the certificate to be a determining factor to my career path. Therefore, during the 3rd year of university, I took up the challenge and started my first business venture in a field totally unrelated to Engineering. I co-founded a company that provided outsourced marketing and promotion services. At the initial stage, my business partners and I faced countless setbacks due to the lack of experience. As every failure led us closer to success - by the 2nd year of operations we had a comfortable office, a sizable group of staff and ample amount of funds stashed away.

I'm sure all motivated individuals, including myself, take pleasure in being ahead of others. However, one should constantly bear in mind that patience is in fact a virtue. My tertiary education spanned acrossed 5 years. The fastest way to finishing off your studies may not be the best way to succeed. Instead, include your education experiences as part of your learning curve. Do remember life is a journey, not a destination. Pick up the movie Click and identify the values of appreciating life as a journey through the show. (Bonus: Kate Beckinsale is quite a sight too)

Lastly, do make sound decisions in your studies to ensure better job prospects, but don't let it determine your future - as learning is a lifelong process which doesn't stop at your graduation ceremony. Be willing to take up challenges and gear yourself towards adapting to new environments. The stronger your will to take on more responsibilities, the further you'll go in the learning curve.

"Education is the fundamental stage to building one's life, relationship and career. The hunger of acquiring knowledge in addition to possessing a strong determination to learn will constantly give that little extra to succeed in all aspects of life" (

For those of you who have more to add, do feel free to share your point of view.


  1. i can't agree with you more. at this moment, i'm *gasps* unable to throw out my point of view. very well written!

  2. A degree is just a passport towards the employment market. It should not dictate who you should become, but instead, it should be used as a tool to refine what you wish to do in life. I crossed this path before, although there's a bit of twig from the sender's email.

    My mum has always wanted me to take up the so called 'professional' Chemical Engineering in my university years due to the fact that she could easily pull me into the material procurement line once I stepped off uni (a short-cut way indeed). Although I secured good grades in Science subjects during my school days, but to study them was like dragging myself like an earth worm everyday. In other words, I hate technical stuff and without it, I still believe that I can achieve my ambition as a professional career woman.

    I took up Marketing & IB. My first job landed in the Semiconductor industry turned up to be the toughest working years without any engineering background. Although I was blamed for not adapting mum's advices, I was determined to break my biggest barrier, ie understanding the core-product (molding compound), and it took months for me to learn it before I could promote the range with credibility to the engineers of my major customers in the market. Well, I did it, being the first Industrial Sales Engineer lady in my ex-company to service major clients for more than a year. Who was I dealing with? Only engineers, who didn't even know anything on my background!

    With satisfaction, I left the previous company to pursue my initial field- Marketing. Again, there are so many areas in Marketing that you cannot possibly say "That's the thing I wanna do" without having a foot in all areas first. It's the 'try-and-error' experiences that you need for now. For all you know, your interest might end up in a totally unrelated field of your study after several hoppings.

    So, it's the matter of your interest plus determination to turn encountered barriers into smooth pathway towards your ambition. Besides, even you're an Engineering grad. in the future, you can still opt for MBA in later years when you need it in your pratical work experience. It's never a waste in any field of study, whether it's 2 years A-Level's or 1 year Matriculation, or 3 years Commerce degree or 4 years Engineering degree.

    Anything you wish to achieve, 'JUST DO IT' with determination, and never afraid to learn!

  3. very useful piece of information for thousands of confused undergrads out there..including me.
    well.. many said it will work and in most cases proven as well; guess it's best to take it as a guideline if you really have no idea what to do.

    cheers and good luck to all undergrads!

  4. I'm an accounting graduate, and recently completed my Chartered Accountants program. But I want to be a swim coach or gym instructor, how? Actually I just want a job that allows me to keep on training... hahhah.

  5. Just bear in mind that, what ever you learnt from school, college/University (whatever courses/degree/masters it's), it doesn't matter.

    What matter the most is, the process of learning all those which in away shape the way you think. You will become more matured when you handle a situation after you taken a degree compare with yourself when you were in high school. College/University taught me how to approach a situation/problem/trouble logically. I guess, that is what matter the most.

    It doesn't matter whether the degree you got, is the industry that you work. In the end, it's bout the passion that you have, and the believe and trust in yourself, that you can.

    When you believe you can, you will.

  6. Thanks Jen.

    I'm sure many can relate to your journey as well. As a recap, it is the will to learn that makes a person grow - one should not rely on the paper certificate to dictate future career paths.

  7. Hi casey,

    Don't worry too much and keep your options open. As an undergraduate, chances are you may not actually be certain of what you would like to do. Therefore, as long as you're positive and optimistic about learning opportunities, you'll do well.

  8. Kev,

    You're thousands of miles away. Get yourself back to Malaysia and we'll go through your options.=)

  9. Hey Chris.

    Speaking like a true stage manager from Gegar U! It was fun working with you, although at the start we were faced with a number of challenges.=) Next year, again?

  10. i remember back in uni days, i didnt know what i wanted to do too. i guess its by trial and error that i found out my passion in life.

  11. Here's my two cents worth! Or maybe four cents since it's kind of long. : )

    Nobody really expects you to know what you want to do with your life at 18. The important thing is to get an education because it instils discipline, enhances your research skills, teaches you how to manage time, perform under pressure (a.k.a exams) and build social relationships, etc. In short, it builds in you qualities you'll need when you come out to work later.

    When I was 12, I thought I wanted to become a famous fashion designer. I insisted on studying fashion design much to the chagrin of my parents who would have much rather seen me do something related to economics. After getting my diploma in fashion design, I decided to supplement it with a business degree. By then, my parents were not so willing to finance my education and I was told that if I wanted to continue studying I would have to support myself.

    I went into journalism thinking that I could work full-time and study part-time. That didn't materialise but by then I was enjoying myself too much to return to my studies.
    Every day brought new and exciting experiences. As a journalist, I had the chance to learn how to ice-skate, surf, go-kart, jet-ski, water-ski, go white-water rafting and climb Mount Kinabalu. I stayed in hotels that cost more than RM1,000 a night and dined on caviar and food I would never have paid for myself. I've travelled to Belgium, Maldives, Japan, US, China, Hongkong, Taiwan, Bali, enjoyed first class and business class flights and met Jennifer Aniston in person in L.A. My work has taught me so much more than a university education could ever have.

    Looking back, my life would have been so different had I pursued a business degree. I don't think I would have had the chance to live such a rich and fulfilling life. I wouldn't have met all the wonderful people who have come into my life or forged priceless friendships with some of the dearest friends I know.

    I used to be disappointed with my parents for not allowing me to continue my education but now I believe that everything happens for a reason.
    That all the events that have happened are little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle called life and one day everything will come together. Even the mistakes that I made, the hurt and disappointment that I felt were all meant to happen to make me a stronger person and prepare me for better things to come.
    Knowing that, I can live my life without regrets.

    The only thing I wished my parents had done was to send me overseas to study, because a foreign education exposes you to different cultures and different experiences. It opens your eyes to a whole new world where people talk, act and react differently to situations. It widens your perspective and makes you more open minded.

    As for my fashion education, it didn't go to waste. I worked with British India for a year and learnt about the retail industry, my fashion background helped me to write substantial articles and once again, my fashion knowledge will be put to good use as I embark on a magazine project that's fashion related.

    Not all my ex-classmates from design school pursued a career in fashion. One became a DJ while another gave up and got hitched to a rich dude. The only notable successful designer that came from my class was Melinda Looi.

    My point is, it doesn't matter if you don't know where you're heading or what you want to study. It doesn't mean you won't succeed in life. Sometimes you take a wrong turn but even that can lead you to where you should be.

    Whatever you choose to do, pursue it with passion. Take pride in your work. Believe in yourself and everything will fall into place. All the best!

  12. Ping2: Did you drop by the funeral whilst in genting yesterday?

    So you went to the same school as Mel eh. I'd say: the fashion industry is extremely competitive, whereby both creativity and hardwork is vital. It makes you more picky as well.=)

    Kim: And you thought mine was well written.