The Secret to Being a World-Class Pokémon Trainer, Exceptional Student, and Outstanding Engineer

A guide to excelling in your passions, studies and career


28 October 2020 — The stage was set.

The city, Boston, USA. The event, the Pokémon Video Game World Championships (VGC), where trainers – the term used to describe players who command a team of pocket monsters or “Pokémon” for battle with others – from across the globe gathered to slog it out for the right to be called a world champion.

“Representing Singapore, Kenny… Leeeeeeeee!”

As the spotlight shone on Kenny and his team at the Hynes Convention Centre, with the emcee’s introduction blaring across the speakers, one wonders whether he would get overawed by the occasion and succumb to pressure.

After all, it is not every day that one gets to fly the flag of his country, carrying the hopes of a nation on the international stage. Instead, Kenny was a picture of calm, never flinching even while his opponents stared him down in a bid to intimidate him.

He had no time for nerves. He had no nerves.

Like all the other Pokemon battles that came before, victory was not a matter of merely possessing more heart or toiling more sweat. More importantly, it was about maintaining enough composure and focus to analyse and dissect his opponent’s game plans, and before devising the most effective strategy for victory and executing it accordingly.

Kenny knew this was a battle he was equipped to win.

An insatiable passion for maths and problem solving

Growing up, Kenny has always been passionate about solving problems, with an especially strong love for mathematics.

A love which was hardly surprising since mathematics was all about logic and problem-solving.

Of his passion for solving problems, Kenny says, ““It gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which makes me more confident and motivated to work on harder problems.”

When he was in Secondary One, Kenny upset the odds to become champion of his school’s annual Math Games Festival, and held the title for three years. During his reign as math champion, he also bagged the bronze award at the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad.

A sense of pride grew around being able to compete with others and come out victorious.

Even with that in mind, it is unusual to see a math whiz take to video games, but the Pokémon games called out to Kenny for the same reason he loved mathematics.

To Kenny, being a Pokémon champion was all about mathematical calculations, processing damage values that each character can deal to others (and take in return), using that knowledge to deduce the probability of a successful attack and then plotting a winning strategy.

Coupled with the newfound love for competition, the Pokémon games gave Kenny a buzz.

While he did not win the grand prize at the Pokémon Video Game World Championships, Kenny takes heart at the attempt, telling us, “At first, I was disappointed for not making it to day 2 of the event. However, I felt honoured to compete with the best players in the world, learned a lot from them. I believe that failure is the root to success.”


The building blocks of a successful career in engineering

It was no wonder, then, that Kenny chose to specialise in engineering – as a course of study, and as a lifelong career. He tells NUS SCALE, “I like solving problems using maths and physics, so going into engineering was a natural and invigorating career choice.”

After graduating from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in Precision Engineering – while on a scholarship from the Economic Development Board – he went on to enrol for the Bachelor of Technology (Mechanical Engineering) programme at NUS after his two-year stint as a full-time national serviceman.

“I chose the NUS BTech programme because the NUS brand carries prestige and recognition in the industry, and the modules are relevant to the career I want to pursue. Importantly, the four-year NUS programme covered everything I wanted to learn in a shorter time span than competing five-year programmes.”

Listening to Kenny talk about saving a year by choosing NUS offered a glimpse at his secret to success – solving a problem by analysing the issue on hand, and then developing a strategy for achieving efficient results.

Starting slow, finishing strong

Contrary to the earlier parts of his academic journey, Kenny struggled upon entering the BTech programme. Despite his best efforts, long days and hard work, his first semester results were fairly disappointing. He achieved a CAP of 4.0, which was low when compared to other students in his cohort. Kenny knew that falling behind in the first semester would create a deficit in his CAP (cumulative average point) which was not easy to claw back as he went further into the degree programme.

For a while, this set-back threatened to make his pursuit of the BTech degree an uphill battle.

But, ever the man of logic over emotions, Kenny quickly picked himself up and looked at this as a problem that needed solving; a formula that had always brought him success. He knew he needed to develop a strategy for achieving efficient results to claw back the CAP deficit and do well at the end of the programme.

He took a look at the curriculum ahead and opted for credit-bearing modules that he could cope with and yet were significant enough to positively affect his CAP. He also formed study groups with friends, as he believed that the power of knowledge sharing would benefit everyone involved. Additionally, Kenny also developed a time-management strategy that was pegged to his understanding of each module, so as to ensure he was studying efficiently.

All that logical problem-solving efforts paid off.

Kenny not only clawed back the deficit, but also achieved an outstanding CAP of 4.7, even making the coveted Dean’s List three times along the way!


Bonus strategy: Making full use of NUS’ learning resources

Kenny credits NUS’ additional resources for his impressive transformation, saying, “The academic clinics and webcasts of lectures helped me a lot during those four years. The clinics went in-depth and really gave students a fantastic understanding of each module.”

“Meanwhile, their webcasts are incredibly important for part-time students, as they’re recorded and can be watched at any time. There were countless occasions when I was late for lectures due to work, and being able to catch up on what I missed out was really invaluable.”

Next steps

Having started his career while still in NUS as a Production Coordinator looking after production processes and co-ordinating between various manufacturing departments, he has since been assigned to bigger projects with more challenging tasks after graduating from the BTech programme.

Kenny is even trusted with conducting quality training sessions for colleagues, which are signs that his superiors acknowledge and recognise the new expertise that he has to offer.

Looking back at what he learnt, Kenny says that the programme has improved his skills immensely – especially his CAD and CAM skills, as he’s now more capable of analysing drawings, and improving on designs and manufacturing methods.

Ever the problem-solver, Kenny recognises that there will always be issues that require greater expertise to solve. It is thus not surprising that he has already enrolled in the NUS Master of Engineering programme in 2021 – at where else, but his university-of-choice, NUS.

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30 October 2020