[Reactor Alumni] Soft Skills Development: A Young Founder's Solution To A Grades-Obsessed Singapore
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
This is the second piece of an interview-commentary series, Alumni in Action, profiling Reactor Alumni on their past and future entrepreneurial journey, insights and anxieties on what entrepreneurship has led them to.
Responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
University can be a hectic phase for most students, with the array of co-curricular activities to assignments to readings — yet there are more students like Felix, co-founder of Skilio, who are putting themselves out there in the venture scene. I first heard of Skilio through Reactor School where Felix was one of the lead trainers at an entrepreneurship bootcamp I attended — who shared his personal journey in starting up an educational-technology company during university. Skilio is a soft skills measurement and analytics platform that aims to help organisations document their teams’ development through various activities and projects they do.
Sherman: To start things off, could you share something interesting about yourself?
Felix: I have been an entrepreneurship trainer for close to 3 years now. Officially been pursuing Skilio for 1 year and 11 months.
Sherman: What experiences have you had that shaped you to be an entrepreneur?
Felix: I would say that my time facilitating at Reactor really shaped me a lot in terms of how I view entrepreneurship as a tool for change. The principles and lessons learnt here helped me to have a framework to build my own startup.
Felix training a group of students at the Pre-Global Entrepreneurial Internship Bootcamp
Credit: Andrew/Reactor Media Photo
Sherman: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Felix: Find a problem you are passionate about and just do it!
Sherman: What was your key driving force to pursue entrepreneurship?
Felix: I was unhappy with the current state of education and it’s over obsession with grades. Hence I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship as an avenue to disrupt the status quo in the education system.
Sherman: Do you believe there is some sort of formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Felix: I wouldn’t say that there is a fixed formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur as every entrepreneur’s circumstances are very different. However, I do believe that there are a certain set of principles in entrepreneurship that the majority of entrepreneurs can apply to build a successful startup.
Sherman: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Felix: The top three skills, in my opinion, would be adaptability, ability to challenge the status quo and willingness to learn
Sherman: What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?
Felix: Firstly, reading widely helps to broaden our perspectives which could potentially give us new insights on how to build our startup. This will benefit greatly in terms of equipping oneself with the knowledge and know-how in starting up.
On that note, connecting with mentors and like-minded entrepreneurs is equally important. As no man is an island, building a support network is essential for any entrepreneur as starting up can feel like a lonely journey. I believe that a strong support network will be helpful to tide you through any storm.
Sherman: What motivates you?
Felix: The fact that what I am building can have a significant impact on the youth of today.
Sherman: How do you generate new business/project ideas?
Felix: To be open-minded and expose yourself to the problems around you. This can spark off some creativity in you to think of innovative solutions to solve issues around you.
Sherman: What are some struggles, obstacles or pitfalls you have encountered as an entrepreneur?
Felix: As a student entrepreneur, building up credibility has always been a struggle as clients, VCs might not trust you because you are still studying. In order to overcome it, you’ve got to carry yourself professionally, do detailed planning such that people will be impressed by your level of maturity.
Sherman: In 1 sentence, how would you describe your entrepreneurial journey?
Felix: A thrilling yet rewarding rollercoaster ride.
Sherman: What was your experience like, interning at Reactor School?
Felix: I previously interned at Reactor School for about 6 months, and I have to say that I really learnt a lot during my stint there. We were all like mini entrepreneurs within our own department, given the flexibility and freedom to propose new ideas to bring the company forward.
Sherman: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In terms of career development and entrepreneurial growth?
Felix: In 5 years time, I see myself still building Skilio to be a global ed-tech company and impacting millions of youth around the world.
Sherman: Skilio recently attained the $30,000 StartupSG Founder Grant, what are your immediate plans?
Felix: We are in the midst of iterating on our Skilio platform to add in more features based on the user feedback that we have received in the past few months of beta testing. We are also aiming for an August launch date of the newly improved Skilio platform. Besides the product, the Skilio team is also working tirelessly to partner up with HR departments from various companies in order to build up a community of HR Professionals that youth on our platform can reach out to. This is highly aligned with our mission to shift the conversation away from academic grades as the only indicator of success for the youth of today.
Sherman: We understand that the Skilio Industry Immersion Programme has been successful, would you see any specific area of growth in the coming months? Felix: The Skilio Industry Immersion Programme (SIIP) is a #SGUnited initiative to support youth who got their internships or overseas exchange cancelled due to COVID-19. As youth ourselves, we saw the pain and disappointment that COVID-19 has caused the youth in Singapore. Hence, we rolled out the SIIP for students to provide them with accelerated industry exposure and opportunities to pick up critical soft skills competencies in a workplace environment. Till date, we have 40 companies contributing 82 projects and 223 students placed in a company project.
Running the SIIP has taught us that employers are crucial stakeholders in our ecosystem and in our bid to change the education system for the better. Moving forward, we are introducing the Skilio Talent Network where we engage HR professionals to provide mentorships, webinars and many others to help prepare youth for the future workforce.
Sherman: You mentioned that there’s a growing gap between the skills needed in the workplace and skills taught in school, how do you see Skilio being more involved in preparing students for the future of work?
Felix: At Skilio, we believe that soft skills like leadership, teamwork are crucial in the future of work. With AI and automation, technology can easily render hard skills obsolete in the future workplace. Our education system has done tremendously well in equipping our students with technical skills, but I believe that schools can take a more deliberate approach to helping students develop their soft skills.
This is where Skilio’s AI software comes in to help students to measure and track their soft skills development in the daily activities that they do. These activities can range from participating in their CCA to volunteering in the community, our platform can be used to put a tangible metric to a student’s soft skills growth. By doing so, students are able to understand their areas of strength and potential blind spots to work on to improve their soft skills. This is how we feel that Skilio can come in to plug the gap of soft skills development in the education system.
Felix: #BeBold! This value is close to my heart as I believe that in this day and age we need more people stepping forth to change the world for the better. This is only possible if we have people who are willing to be bold and take the risk to create a better world.
Amid a grades-obsessed climate in Singapore, the shift to adopting a more holistic approach towards education becomes increasingly imperative as students are encouraged to develop a core set of 21st Century Competencies. The Skilio team has made it their mission to champion the importance of soft skills development among students through their app-platform. For more information on honing future-ready soft skills, visit https://skilio.co/
Dear Teachers, Reactor School is online! Find out more about our EntreCamp (Virtual Edition) and Design Thinking (Virtual Edition), now available in Bootcamp and Masterclass format. Interested to run an Entrepreneurship Programme for your School? Contact us now.
Written by Sherman Tham
Sherman is the Marketing Ensign at Reactor School, and a Reactor Student Alumni.
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