Helping students find direction
Alex Tham Koy-siong
Teaching fellow in the department of marketing at City University. I also consider myself a facilitator who helps students find direction in their career paths.
I love reading, especially autobiographies by successful people. I like to read about their failures and I learn a lot from them.
I like 1980s Canto-pop. I find the music of George Lam Chi-cheung and Roman Tam very encouraging.
I was born in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and moved to Hong Kong in the 1970s with my parents.
I studied here so I speak fluent Cantonese.
During my undergraduate years, I wanted to study something fun and interesting, so I chose marketing. But everything becomes boring when you have to study and memorise it. You lose your motivation to work hard. When you lack motivation, you also lose your sense of direction in relation to your studies and your future. I had to search for my own direction.
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I worked for about a year and then did an MBA in Britain. When I returned to Hong Kong in my late 20s, I had realised I really enjoyed teaching, so I joined CityU, and I've been there ever since.
I realised a lot of students were as puzzled, confused and lost as I had been during my undergraduate years. My students enjoyed their lectures, but they lacked a broader life perspective. They didn't read newspapers or magazines, and they lacked English communication and writing skills.
I launched a scheme called the Active Learning Programme to encourage students to read, listen and watch anything and reflect on it in English. I wanted them to think, and interpret their thoughts. But some students thought it was not helpful, and due to the generation gap between me and my students, they didn't think the scheme was relevant.
In 2001, I started meeting my students individually for lunch or dinner to talk about their plans for the future. I asked them to map out plans for the next five years, and bigger goals for the next 10 or more years. I wanted to inspire them and help them find their way to success.
I have had lunches and dinner with hundreds of students in the past few years, and I have realised the problem for many of them is being passive about learning. To succeed, you need to be active and take the initiative to ask, to learn and apply.
I didn't have much patience when I was a student. I lost interest in a lot of things after a short time. But I've seen so much of life, I've realised that patience and passion are related to each other. It's like when you really want to date a girl, you need a lot of patience to wait and work hard to get her.
Vision for future:
I'll continue to work hard to inspire my students, and remind them that when you don't have passion for your future, you'll have no patience to work hard now, so you'll never act to achieve anything.
My daughter is only eight months old - my wife is planning ahead for her, but it's still a bit too early for me to counsel her.