Original article here http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/education-about-helping-students-find-themselves-not-grades-sim/3171732.html

As a late bloomer himself, CEO of SIM Global Education and President of the Singapore Association for Private Education, Dr Lee Kwok Cheong, has made it his mission to provide educational options for those who reach their academic peak later than others.

Dr Lee came to Singapore from Hong Kong after being headhunted by the then-National Computer Board, and has been credited with transforming Singapore’s IT sector since the 80s.

As a testament to his contributions, he received the Public Service Medal in 2010 for dedicating more than two decades to the advancement of technical education in Singapore. Today, his focus is on ensuring accessibility to high-quality private education here.

He went “On the Record” with Bharati Jagdish about the true objectives of education, what makes a good school, the discrimination that private education institution graduates face, and what drives him to continue ensuring that education provides for diverse interests and talents.

Bharati Jagdish: Tell us more about yourself.

Lee Kwok Cheong: I think I started too young. My family was quite poor and my father and my mother were busy so they threw me into kindergarten as a way of putting me into some form of daycare centre.

In Hong Kong, we were all refugees from China. My father ran a provision shop and my mother had to help, and there were six of us. So by the time I went to school, there were three or four other siblings, so they were always busy and we were left to our own devices. I think it’s probably quite a common experience among people of my age in Hong Kong, in Singapore and in many parts of the world.

So when I did PSLE, I was 10. I think the typical age for PSLE is 12, so I couldn’t really keep up. And in my home environment we all spoke Cantonese. So I couldn’t learn English because we didn’t use it at all. I didn’t have the right family support, so I fell behind and once you fall behind, it’s just harder to keep up.

Bharati: How did not doing well in school make you feel?

Lee: I actually didn’t feel too badly because perhaps in those days, there was no ranking of schools and I didn’t feel too much pressure. My parents were just happy I was in school. They didn’t have very high expectations. But the shock came when the results of PSLE came out.

So I remember I was called to the Department of Education. They told me that based on my results, I could go to so many schools. So I said: “You mean I did so well, I can go anywhere?” They said: “Yes, but after everybody else has picked their place. So you’ll get to pick from the leftovers.” So my father’s friend who was more educated than my parents gave them some advice and, in retrospect, that was probably the best advice given.

He said I should repeat my exams. So I repeated Primary 6 in a Catholic school and perhaps my development caught up. I did very well and I stayed in that school through Primary 6 and Secondary 1, and after Secondary 1, I was able to transfer to one of the top secondary schools in Hong Kong.

Bharati: We’ll talk more about standardised tests like PSLE and what a good school really is in a moment, but you eventually ended up in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). What stoked your interest in IT?

Lee: When I went to MIT, my dream was to become an astronomer. I didn’t know anything about computers at that time. My secondary school, like many good schools, encouraged students to learn new things, pick up a lot of hobbies, and this is something I try to do in the schools where I have management responsibility.

So I did many things in school: I became the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. was captain of the badminton team, and was active in the astronomers club.

I didn’t do too well in O-levels, but I didn’t do too badly either. Because I actually built telescopes and did all those things, I really wanted to be an astronomer. And I met a few seniors who managed to get into US universities. In my high school, everybody assumed you would just study and try to get into Hong Kong University. I could have gone there but somehow, after meeting people who studied overseas, I suppose as a young person who was a bit of a country bumpkin, I became really curious about the world out there.

So on my own, I just took the SATs and applied to a US university. I didn’t know better, so I just applied to all the universities I thought were top universities and I got into MIT. I’m sure I was not top, academically speaking, but probably because my involvement in badminton, the astronomers club, and all those extracurricular activities, it helped. These things probably meant something to a US university.

Bharati: You say your interest then was in astronomy. Why didn’t you make that your career

Lee: I soon realised my interest in astronomy was less science and more romance: The romance of the deep sky, the origin of the universe and all that stuff. Those are all very interesting, mysterious things.

But I found that I enjoyed computer programming. It’s a form of creative writing. You create something and the most fascinating thing for me as a young person was that you could write computer programmes to do anything. You could use a computer programme to run an aircraft, or control industrial processes, or to keep payroll records. And I was really interested in using computers to develop practical solutions for governments and companies.

When I joined the National Computer Board (NCB), I used computers to help Government departments run better. It was also a lot about people. Basically, we were a bunch of geeks who interviewed users to try and understand their requirements and then developed computer systems to run things better, more efficiently for them. To me, the link to education is how to give people the knowledge and the skills and the methodology to do these kinds of things.

So for me moving from IT services, which is very much based on human capital, to education seemed like quite an easy transition. I also served on the board of the Institute of Technical Education – a school considered “the end” and not a good place to end up in.

Bharati: Not prestigious.

Lee: But I saw with my own eyes that there are many students who might not have done that well academically early in life, they came to ITE, learnt useful things and many of them became very successful. To me, success is being able to do something you feel you are good at and you feel you are contributing. So you may not be doing the same thing as a Harvard graduate, but you still have a meaningful life. And I saw that many ITE students really achieved that.

I was lucky enough to have gone to elite institutions like MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, but my own experience told me that the quality of teaching in these top universities is not really that good. What happens is they get the top students, and the top students, of course, would do well because they were among the best in the cohort. So I look at ITE and I see that everyone should be given the opportunity to upgrade themselves, and they can all contribute in different ways.

I also saw so many polytechnic graduates who aspired to upgrade themselves, not necessarily in a typical research-oriented university, but maybe in a university offering more applied learning. So I got the idea that in Singapore, beyond our public universities, there’s a space for university-level programmes for polytechnic graduates, for people who may have joined the workforce before they had a chance to go further in academia. I feel that such institutions could make a lot of difference to people’s lives.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD SCHOOL “GOOD”

Bharati: You said earlier that what makes certain institutions good in the public’s perception is that they take in students who are already good, and when these already good students continue to do well, they perpetuate the perception that these schools are good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the schools are truly good in the sense that the quality of teaching is better. How do you think the larger repercussions of this, that include the unfair labelling of students and schools, can be dealt with? How can more people start seeing “value-add” as the measure of the quality of a school, for instance turning a C student into an A student, rather than the schools’ admissions criteria? This is part of the reason that PSLE is such a stressful exam.

Lee: Yes, I think the reason PSLE is high-stress is because of school rankings and the public’s perceptions of schools. If we had a different view of what a good school is, it would be less stressful. We mustn’t see it as No 1 or nothing at all. I think Singapore has been on this journey of having a new mindset for some years now, but it takes time for social norms to change.

Also, the important thing is that every school must be in a position to add value and as you said, take a C student to make him or her a B student and take a B to make an A. The best schools, because of reputation, bring in the A students and they will come out as A students. In fact, it’s easier to run an elite school because you have much better raw material to work with.

When I was at ITE, I saw the development of the NorthLight School and I think recently PM visited it. I really respect the teachers there. They have to think of all kinds of ways to teach very basic concepts. It’s a lot harder to add value to a student who needs more help. And I actually feel society should show more respect and support for the students and teachers who have to go through that.

Yes, I think we still need to compare schools, but perhaps, we should move away from “This is No 1. This is No 2. This is No 3.” We should say: “This school is good in perhaps a specific discipline. Maybe it’s good in Mass Communication. That one may be good in Computer Science.”

Importantly, we need to not just look at the university but to look at ourselves as a student. We all have our own strengths and weakness; we all have different learning styles. We have 10 university partners. Some are from the United States, some are from UK, some are from Australia, and I have seen some students, they just blossom in the US style of education, which requires a lot more participation in class, maybe not so much a model answer but your thinking and how you arrive at a particular solution.

Then there are other students who’ve done particularly well in our Australian-style programmes which require more project work. We’re all different and so there should be a diversity of schools and universities. And people should not be judged just because they learn differently.

What we need to do is think in terms of matching. In fact we’ve been doing this every day when it comes to marriage. All men don’t want to marry the same type of women and all women don’t want to marry the same type of men. So even in education, it’s a matter of finding the right match. I think we’re moving in that direction. Our schools provide more counselling now in terms of careers and in terms of what is right for you.

HELPING STUDENTS FIND THEMSELVES

Bharati: In terms of admissions though, it seems like a lot more needs to be done in order to prioritise this.

Lee: Yes, I agree with you. I heard Minister Ong Ye Kung talk about this recently in Parliament and he mentioned universities and polytechnics are using more aptitude tests. In a way, that’s a form of matching. And again, I use my own personal example. My daughter is a nurse and I’d rather have a nurse who really has the heart and a way of working with patients than a nurse who scores A+ exam grades, but may not be the right person to take care of people. In a lot of the people-oriented services that actually are a growing need in our society, aptitude is very important.

But before we even talk about aptitude, there’s one fundamental thing that I try to do and that is to help our students find themselves. I think many young people, even when they graduate from university, don’t quite know what they want to do in life.

Now we say that you probably have to change careers many times in life, so it’s okay, but I think in Singapore more so than in some other countries, people have grown up in a very structured system. So very often, you don’t even need to worry too much about what’s next. You go to school, then take your exams, then you try to get into a good JC or poly. Actually, very often our young people don’t have to make a lot of choices. And when you don’t have to make choices, you don’t need to always look inside and say: “Why am I on this earth and what am I good at?”

So I feel in education, not just for working adults but for young people, even those maybe in the late teens and early 20s, we should go beyond just teaching them academic knowledge or competencies. But help them know themselves.

Bharati: How would you suggest this be done in the education system?

Lee: We need to create an environment where our students can take part in many different types of activities – things you do outside a classroom, ranging from artistic kinds of activity, sports, community services.

Basically, the way you find out more about yourself is to get involved in things outside the classroom and then you might discover your passion is photography, or something which is not an academic subject. Then you will find the academic subjects can actually help you, but they are just ingredients for you to do well in your passion. What we do is to create exposure, opportunities to be exposed. This will include internships, spending some time overseas. It’s not just teaching the academic subject matter, but really sharing experiences. When people are exposed to such things, they can discover more about themselves and make choices.

Role models are very important. There are many occupations or career paths that are not very popular and I find that it’s because people just don’t know about them. And they don’t know about them because they haven’t read about them and they have not seen role models. They need to be able to see that there are many different role models, even in jobs that are not considered glamorous but are important and fulfilling nevertheless. They need to see there are many different paths in life, and then they can figure out for themselves which role they want to take.

PASSION VS PRAGMATISM

Bharati: You seem a big proponent of having students or individuals find themselves and figure themselves out and then work on it. And you’ve mentioned “passion” several times. Ultimately, though, people need jobs to survive and not every passion can be translated into a job that pays consistently. Might prioritising passion be misguided? It’s that argument again about whether education should be for utility rather than passion and interest. Of course, one must also acknowledge that the two aren’t always mutually exclusive, but in some cases they might be.

Lee: I am very conscious of this. It has to be tempered with realism. So we need to look at passion and also at what value you bring. You earn a salary and a business earns revenue because you deliver some value to some customer. So we need to combine this self-interest, self-actualisation or passion you want to follow with giving something back.

I think between the two, most of us should be able to find a career path. For some people, their calling allows them to make a difference, earn a lot of money and I say good luck to these people. But for some people, maybe their hobby or passion has no commercial value then perhaps they can keep them as a hobby or reinvent that sector and turn their passion into something of commercial value. In life, things are never black and white, so what I am saying is don’t chase jobs just because they pay well at the moment or just because it’s prestigious. You must consider what you’re good at, what you are really interested in, what society needs and out of that you make a choice.

Bharati: Some feel that up till now, many in Singapore have been leaning towards seeing education through a utilitarian lens. People talk more now about passions and interests. But while our focus on the pragmatic aspect of education might mean that there are many people doing jobs they’re not really interested in, wouldn’t you say today’s economic climate calls for it. It raises questions about whether being pragmatic was such a bad thing. With skills mismatches and unemployment and underemployment growing, some might say we should just keep an eye on what skills are needed in the market and make sure we have them in order to stay employable. And that should be it. Doing something that we’re passionate about is a luxury few can afford.

Lee: There are two aspects to this. One is what the economy and what the country needs in the next five, 10 years. We should encourage more to go into that, but whether you call that utilitarian or meeting the needs of the nation and community, one would sound more positive, the other would sound a bit negative.

I think what I like about Singapore as we move forward is that we now accept a lot more diversity. We value people who become Olympic champions. We also value people who are very successful in business, people who do good in community service. So perhaps what we should aim for, and what education institutions should do is to promote that diversity.

Education about finding yourself

DEALING WITH GROWING UNEMPLOYMENT, UNDEREMPLOYMENT

Bharati: How do you think the challenges of underemployment and unemployment can be dealt with better, to prevent us from being sucked into this situation every few years, aside from re-skilling, etc? But also while maintaining a sense of personal gratification in our jobs.

Lee: That’s probably the challenge of our age. I think unemployment and underemployment are becoming a very prevalent problem in rich countries as well as in poor countries. It’s related to a more winner-takes-all kind of economy. You have people who are very rich and command huge salaries, or make a lot of money. And then there are a lot of people with basic skills competing for jobs in effect with people from all over the world. This is the whole globalisation and outsourcing phenomenon.

If we follow the capitalist model, it’s winner-takes-all. So the Government has to decide how much social transfers you can give to help those who need help. And education is generally accepted as one of those things that those from poorer families or modest backgrounds can use to lift themselves.

Bharati: It’s a great leveler, but during difficult economic times, even education seems to have its limitations.

Lee: Short term, there will be disruption. Look at Uber. I think that’s the example Prime Minister talked about. It could one day put taxi drivers out of jobs. In fact I was chairing a panel that talked about this, and then we said: “We are short of bus drivers and all these bus companies are looking for bus captains. Why can’t some of the taxi drivers train to be bus drivers?” On my panel we also had someone who represents the taxi industry, and he told me because some of the taxi drivers don’t want to get up too early in the morning. And they are used to only working when they feel like working, whereas when you work as a bus captain, you must go to the bus depot at 5am.

Bharati: Yeah, there’s a schedule.

Lee: So it’s about people’s expectations. I think Singapore is still better than most countries in that there are jobs.

Bharati: We were talking about underemployment. So using your example, if a university graduate has to go and be a bus driver, while it’s a respectable job, it would still be considered underemployment.

Lee: Yes, and if we cannot create jobs, then everything else is just false hope. We must not only invest in human capital, but put in place all the necessary things that would attract investment to come into Singapore, encourage entrepreneurship here, create new industries and all that.

The challenge I think for all of us now is many of these things will bear fruits, but it will take time. And during dislocation, there are always people who are underemployed or out of a job. So people are being trained and being helped to make transitions. But even graduates have to adjust their expectations in the short term. So maybe I go drive a bus for some time and in the mean time, study part-time and pick up some other new skills. Maybe some new industry will come up and then I can move back.

Bharati: Lately, there’s been a focus on skills acquisition, and let’s face it, a degree isn’t the only way to do this. So since you’re in the business of university education, I’m wondering how you are processing the debate on the relevance of degrees.

Lee: The degree is merely a representation of the fact that you have put in a few years to learn relevant things and develop as a person. But the degree as a paper qualification is not worth more than the paper it is printed on. So we must not confuse a degree as a qualification, with what you have to do to achieve that degree. So if you are able to get in an institution and get into a well-designed and rigorous programme, by all means go for it, because you will learn useful things. And it’s the things you learn that are useful to you, whether you get a degree at the end of it or not. The degree is, in a way, just a symbol that you have gone through, that you have passed the assessment and what not. So we think of professional qualifications like a certified accountant, or certified financial analyst – these are all in a way also qualifications. We all know people who get those qualifications have to study very hard, pass certain assessments, and have to have done enough hours of practical work. So we need to think of a degree along those same lines. It’s what the person has done, what the person has learnt on the way to achieve that degree. I think that’s what counts, not just the degree itself.

When it comes to employment, at the starting pay stage, there’s a differential between for example, degree- and diploma-holders. I suppose companies recruit people with different qualifications into different jobs. So perhaps they recruit degree-holders into a job with a bigger job size, and therefore pay the person more, which is correct. But if it’s the same job, I would at least advocate, that you really assess the person and pay the person based on the job, on contributions and performance.

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PRIVATE INSTITUTE GRADUATES

Bharati: Speaking of pay, recently a survey showed that degree-holders from private institutions are paid less than those from public universities. This is in terms of starting pay.

Lee: I think this is linked back to this notion of ranking. We rank everything and we are so proud when we are No 1 in the world in this and that. This is good, something to drive us toward excellence. But sometimes when we focus only on No 1, we forget No 2, No 3 and No 4 can still be good enough. The rankings are also based only on certain criteria. So, the discrimination against private institution graduates – I think there are two elements to it. The first one is that if you are in a private education institution, it means that you didn’t have good enough grades to go into a public university.

Bharati: Some might say that’s true because most people prefer to go to a local public university than to a private education institution here as employers clearly value degrees from public universities more. Sso if a person goes into a private education institute, it’s probably true – it’s because they couldn’t get into the public university. Then again, are academic results an accurate gauge of a person’s competence and what constitutes a good university – one that takes in good students or one that manages to add value to an individual? That’s something we discussed earlier.

Lee: It may be true, it may not be true – but society needs everyone who can make a difference, and sometimes the person could well be able to get into a public university but they cannot get into the course of their choice, so very often we get very good students coming to SIM.

The other element, I think, is because Singapore is very restrictive in terms of who can issue degrees, so we work with foreign university partners. We work with people like University of London, University of Sydney, Manchester University. These are good universities but because we work with a foreign university, people use old terms like “distance learning” and once it is “distance learning”, people feel like it’s not the “real stuff”.

Education system in Singapore

Dr Lee presenting Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Vice-Chancellor, University of London, with a memento to mark the 30th year of partnership between SIM Global Education and University of London at an event this April.

But I can assure people that good private education providers, when we work with a good foreign university, they will make sure the quality is the same as the quality as what it would be if you studied in London, in Manchester, in Sydney because they also need to protect their own reputation. These are some of the perceptions we need to turn around.

Maybe a student doesn’t have the grades to get into NUS, but that doesn’t mean the person cannot upgrade himself or herself to a degree programme or whatever education programme. It doesn’t mean this person cannot do well in life. It doesn’t mean this person cannot contribute to society. Judge a person based on work performance, not on which institutions they come from.

Bharati: People might say that at the beginning, when you come in for a job interview for an entry level position straight from school, what else can they judge you on besides which university you went to, what grades you got and things like that.

Lee: And I am very sympathetic to HR professionals who receive hundreds and hundreds of applications and they cannot interview them all and they have to do some shortlisting. So obviously they would use what I call signifiers: Good university, top grades. And these individuals are likely to have a certain quality of mind or whatnot. By all means, use these signifiers. But also perhaps look at the student’s other achievements, and this is where my colleagues in the private education sector know we have to work very hard at. We have to work against some negative perceptions and it’s our job to change those perceptions.

One thing we must do, and this is related to my earlier point – we must create opportunities for our students to do stuff outside the classroom. This can be something that can be captured in their resume. I have one student who got SIM to start a windsurfing club because he was into windsurfing. It sounds like no big deal. It was just his hobby. But the fact that he convinced an institution to set up a club and he got it organised and found sponsors – those are skills that are very relevant in the working world, and he got a good job. I understand the interviewer very quickly looked beyond his degree and his grades and asked what else he had done in life and he talked about that, and he was recruited into the banking industry and he has done well.

So private or public education institutions – we must allow our students to find themselves but in that process, also create a portfolio of things that they have done. And I think in certain professions, the portfolio is much more important than A or B in certain academic subjects. So we must allow our students to build that portfolio and show the potential employer their abilities.

Bharati: MOE and the Council for Private Education have said they’ll work on measures to address discrimination against private institute graduates. But on your part, how would you convince HR professionals to do this?

Lee: It was not too difficult when we had full employment in Singapore because companies were always short of talent and when you’re short of talent, you look beyond the traditional sources, the few universities in Singapore. But now, the employment situation might not look as rosy as it was a few years ago and there are probably a lot more candidates for the jobs available. So I can see in the next few years, my colleagues and I really have to work very hard. And my philosophy is this: you cannot change the world in one go. You have to take it one step at a time. And I think telling them if they have never recruited students from us, why don’t you take a few students from us just to do internships? It would help. It’s not very high-risk, and we make sure we provide all the necessary support.

Bharati: What about the pay issue?

Lee: We cannot force employers to pay everybody the same or they might end up not taking in your students. But what I have been very encouraged by is that most employers, public or private sector, only look at your job performance once you are in. So our graduates might start at a lower staring pay, but those who do well will catch up and soon, some of them will do better than public university graduates.

In the end, it’s about the individual’s ability, drive and motivation. So I think it’s important for us to accept that right now, on average, graduates from private institutions are paid a lower starting pay. So either you accept it and focus on performing well at work and move up, or you complain and complain, but in the end you are not going to improve the situation. So we need to work on that. We must look beyond the starting pay.

Bharati: Of course, we must also acknowledge that there have been black sheep in the private education space over the years. These have certainly hurt perceptions.

Lee: The private education space now is quite well-regulated. Perhaps before the Council for Private Education came in, anyone could set up a school, and it was easy money. But right now, there are many safeguards and standards to meet. I can say to any business person that if you want to make easy money, don’t go into education because you need to invest in order to meet the minimum standards. So the days of cheating unsuspecting people through paper mills are over. So the last few years, it was a painful process but the number of private schools have come down from 2,000 to around 300 today. Those black sheep schools have been closed down.

THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION

Bharati: Nevertheless, there have been accusations over the years that for private education institutes especially, the focus is money, nothing more. What do you have to say to that?

Dr Lee (middle) with overseas delegates at the London School of Economics and Political Science Institutions’ Symposium 2016 held at SIM headquarters in May.

Dr Lee (middle) with overseas delegates at the London School of Economics and Political Science Institutions’ Symposium 2016 held at SIM headquarters in May.

Lee: Our students are a lot more savvy than perhaps 20 to 30 years ago. You can easily find out about the reputation and the track record of a school just through the Internet or word-of-mouth. Higher education is a significant investment for most families, so I am sure they will do their due diligence.

On your comment on if education is run as a business – the best universities of this world run their school as a business. They make very good money. You pay tons of money to attend executive programmes in Harvard or Cambridge. And they really generate a lot of money for the university. So I would argue, institutions can command a good price for a good product and if there is a willing buyer, don’t begrudge them. Let them make their money, and let the money go to subsidise a maybe not-so-popular part of the university like some of the art programmes. Some schools will generate more money than others but as long as the money is channelled back to the university rather than paid out to some greedy shareholder, I think that’s a good thing.

In Singapore, Singaporeans get Government subsidies for education. But what’s important is that if universities were run as a business, with efficiency and the ability to face competition, it would probably mean, if they were a public university, that they are more efficient and they would need less taxpayers’ money.

At the other extreme is the fact that education is a public good and should be funded, etc. We have seen in many countries public universities that are very bloated. There’s no competition so they don’t need to worry about profit. They don’t need to worry about where the money comes from because it’s a government grant. This is also not a good outcome, so I think between funding universities purely as a public good or just running a university as a business, there is a middle ground somewhere.

Bharati: You have said in previous interviews that the education landscape is changing and today, short skills-based courses are more in demand. What do you see as the trends to watch in education in the next few years?

Lee: Education should be for life. It should help a person to get a meaningful job or start a company, but it should also allow people to live a life and learning beyond worrying about employment. And for that, I think we all have to move to a mix of online and classroom learning. Also, we need to move more towards a sophisticated modular system and don’t force entire programmes on students. For example, a student may want to just do one or two modules from a specific course at one university and another module from another course at another university. We should allow that if that’s what the individual wants.

Think about it this way: In the past, we used to buy the whole CD even though we just wanted one song. Now you can download whatever songs you like from different albums. You don’t have to buy the whole CD. So I don’t see why education shouldn’t be like that. With this, even rankings could go out the window, because you might take one course from MIT, another class from elsewhere and you take it because it’s relevant to you or it’s relevant to your job.

And in the end it will just be about what you can do and are capable of and not what school you went to. I think we should move towards that, rather than brand a person based on whether they went to RI or Harvard.

Bharati: We talked earlier about turning your passions into your vocation and the possibility that if one followed their passions, they might not be doing what they are doing today. In your case, if you had followed your passions, what would you be doing today? Or is this really your passion?

Lee: Someone just said this to me this morning at a business meeting. He said: “If you cannot marry the one you love, love the one you marry.”

Bharati: Is that what you have been doing? Loving the one you married?

Lee: Well, I think in an ideal world, you know what you love and you do what you love. I try to do that. But I look at my own life and very often, I discovered I loved something only after I had been exposed to it. I mentioned I went to MIT planning to become an astronomer, and I happened to take a programming course which everyone in MIT seemed to take. And I discovered I loved programming. But later, I found out that I was not really into computer science, but into using computers to do something else.

Life is a discovery. And as you discover more, you probably know more, you have more choices. And among those choices, there are some you like more than others. You have a natural affinity to do well in some. So let’s look at it as not a big choice you make at one moment in your life. For example, you say: “I want to be a doctor.” Then you pursue that for the rest of your life and you become a doctor. For many people that’s how it works and it works out fine. But for most of us, life is a series of choices. So always be open to new possibilities.

If we use the analogy of marriage, don’t marry the first man or woman you meet.