Stairway to Success

Rather than repeating her ‘A’ levels, Nadia chose to switch to a Poly education. She enrolled in the Diploma in Green Building & Sustainability at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), and graduated with Merit in 2013, winning the Course Gold medal with a CGPA of 4.0. She talks about how she had refused to be daunted by her ‘A’ level failure and instead sought and found a new stairway to success, just like her successful invention of the “i-Step” which won top honours in a local competition.

Fresh out of secondary school, I took the JC route, but did badly for my ‘A’ levels. Looking back, that was expected because as a student I could have been more focused and self-driven. In choosing what my next educational path, I was plagued with uncertainty. It was a difficult time and I was rather aimless, but I desperately wanted to make something good of myself.

When I chose to join Temasek Polytechnic (TP), there were many naysayers and people who doubted my choice. They probed and prodded at my decision. It certainly affected me and I had to fight the thought that I was just taking a huge step back, because I was “downgrading” myself from a JC to a Poly. But how could it be? A Poly education is by no means inferior to a JC education! Of course, there were also those who supported me and gave me the encouragement that I needed to move forward.

Coming to TP was like a second chance for me to redeem myself and push my limits to see what I could really accomplish in terms of academic and personal development. My 3 years of study has made me value hard work and perseverance. Besides this, being the President of the ASHRAE Student Chapter, the student club for my diploma, has enabled me to cultivate my leadership, time management and interpersonal skills. Also, I forged many new friendships with peers who shared similar goals and passion as I have for organising student enrichment activities. Indeed, it is very gratifying because the hard work that I had put in has paid off, and I have now created the opportunities I wanted for myself!

Not only that, in my final year, I got the chance to participate in the “Cool Ideas for HDB Living” competition. Realising the difficulty faced by wheelchair-bound residents in accessing their older model HDB flats which come with 3 steps at their front door, my team and I invented the “i-Step”, as part of our final year Major Project. So, what is “i-Step”? It is actually a set of portable steps can be actuated and smoothened into a sloping ramp by a person's weight, thereby allowing a person in a wheelchair to be wheeled up or down easily. Once the source of the weight is removed, the ramp retracts automatically into a staircase, thereby saving precious space along the corridor.

The “i-Step” invented by Nadia and her team

Although we had developed it as our Major Project, my supervisor felt that the project could be sent for competitions. I thought to myself, why not just give it a shot? No harm right? Well, we submitted the project for the “Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living” competition, and guess what… we won the Gold Award! Not only that, our project was also voted the “People’s Choice of the Year” – an award based on voting by the general public. We were shocked and amazed that out of so many projects in the competition, the public actually found ours the best! 

With my “i-Step” team mates and supervisor

I must say, winning this award was one of the most memorable and satisfying experiences of my 3-year poly life (apart from graduating, of course!). That’s because, all the hard work we had put in into the project reaped handsome dividends, and we were even able to showcase it to the public. If the “i-Step” is eventually implemented and used by HDB residents, it would be even more fulfilling that our invention could help others. From drawing board to corridor, our project took 9 months to complete, but it was well worth it!

So after graduating, here we are at a crossroad once again and the question on everyone’s mind is “What comes next?” Some of us have already found a clear direction to go into; others may not have. But in whatever step we choose next, we have to recognise that there will be failures and obstacles. We will make mistakes but what’s important is that we keep learning from them. There will be naysayers at every turn that we make, making us question if we had made the right decisions. My message to you is, Do not listen to them! Just keep your goal in mind and know exactly where you want to go. You have to trust yourself and put in the work, for success requires hard work, dedication and determination. Whether we eventually win or lose, succeed or fail, at least we know that we have given our best.

If there is any moral to my story, it is that you should not be afraid of failure. In fact, it is our struggles that get us to where we are. I am not actually proud of my past, but I am at least proud that I could act on it and determine my future. The famous author, J.K. Rowling, failed time and time again, before her success with the Harry Potter books. She said:

“… Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.”

In conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my lecturers for their support and passion in teaching us. Let us also not forget to show appreciation to our families and friends who have supported and encouraged us.

As another chapter of my life draws to a close, it is a great feeling to have graduated after 3 long years of hard work. My time in TP has been filled with joyous moments and accomplishments, as well as many challenges along the way. The important thing is, I have emerged a better person than when I first came in.

Now let us go head-first, with confidence, into the great mystery which is the future.

(Adapted from Nadia Sulaiman’s valedictorian speech at Graduation 2013)


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ASC Show 2020 - Bringing Science to Life

Main Auditorium Foyer
22 Jul 20