Breaking Barriers

Three WKWSCI pioneer graduates, three different fields. Collin Low, Michael Lee and Tan Tin Wee (all CS’97) have ventured into career paths beyond the communications sector.

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From a Pilates instructor to an installation artist and a police commander, Collin Low, Michael Lee and Tan Tin Wee (all CS’97) are graduates from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information’s pioneer batch who ventured off the beaten path. Here are their stories.

VIDEO: WILSON YEO

Collin Low, Studio Owner, The Pilates Works: Timing is Everything

Collin Low was looking for a breather from his mundane 9-to-5 job as a regional head of sales at a social media agency in 2007 when an unexpected opportunity popped up.

Amazing Race Asia was then making a call for new participants for its second season. Low jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s all about finding the right timing in life — there’s a time and place for everything.”

Collin LowStudio owner of The Pilates Works

He signed up for the reality programme with his gym buddy, Adrian Yap, and the two ended up clinching the top prize of US$100,000.

“I wasn’t sure of what to expect, I didn’t even understand the format of the show. I went in purely to have fun,” he said.

Capitalising on his half of the prize money, Low left his job and opened The Pilates Works in April 2009.

Since then, the 45-year-old business owner and Pilates instructor has expanded his business. He opened his second studio in November 2014, and currently has about 1,200 clients.

“Winning The Amazing Race gave me the confidence to start up The Pilates Works, knowing that even if I fail, I’ve got some savings to fall back on,” he said.

To remain competitive, Low differentiates his lessons by staying true to the Principle of Pilates — a form of Pilates that steers clear of other similar disciplines such as yoga. He believes it to be a strategic decision as many studios across Singapore offer workouts that are multi-disciplinary.

Pilates has been a field he was passionate about even before his Amazing Race win. Between 1998 and 2001, Low underwent three instructor courses ranging from aerobics to Pilates, while juggling a full-time job. He was certified as a Pilates instructor in 2001.

Starting a new business was not easy.

In its fledgling stages, he relied mainly on friends’ support and word-of-mouth to keep it going.

Still, he considers himself lucky as his family and friends helped out with renovations and logistical needs back then, which greatly reduced the studio’s startup costs.

His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “It’s all about finding the right timing in life — there’s a time and place for everything.”

 

Michael Lee, Installation Artist, Studio Bibliotheque: Don't Get Complacent

In 2006, Michael Lee gave up his job as the Acting Deputy Head of the Fine Art Department at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to teach at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s History department for a semester.

Lee said while his progression path at the academy looked rosy, he had “the nagging feeling” that it was “a bit too comfortable.”

He then turned to his passion projects in the arts. Hong Kong’s thriving art scene inspired a slew of independent art projects, which led to him delving deeper into the world of installation art.

Today, Lee is an installation artist based in Singapore. His installations mostly centre around architectural elements and the environment.

One of his latest works was a topiary exhibit, which involved the clipping of foliage into specific shapes. It was exhibited at Archifest 2017, an annual festival celebrating architecture, in early October.

“Trusting yourself can make you complacent; constantly doubting and questioning keeps you thinking of a better way to do things.”

Michael LeeFounding director of Studio Bibliotheque

To date, he has held solo exhibitions at galleries such as Germany’s Kunstlerhaus Bethanien and Hong Kong’s Hanart TZ Gallery.

The 45-year-old is also the founding director of Studio Bibliotheque, an art studio which he opened in May 2007. Over the past decade, the studio has done everything from curating exhibitions to publishing art anthologies. In 2010, Studio Bibliotheque published the bestseller, “Who Cares: 16 Essays on Curating in Asia”, which sold over 1,000 copies for its first edition.

Lee first dabbled in the arts as a WKWSCI undergraduate, where he and his team produced an experimental film about the gay community in Singapore as part of their Final Year Project. In the same year, they showcased it at the United Film & Video Association Student Film & Video Competition in Philadelphia, where they clinched the first prize. 

After graduating, Lee worked in a television commercial production house for about a year before pursuing a master’s degree in Communication Studies at WKWSCI, then known as the School of Communication Studies.

“It was only after I finished my master’s that I got a job at NAFA as part of their teaching staff. From there, it became natural for me to also practice as a visual artist,” he said.

His advice for budding artists: “Don’t trust anyone, not even yourself. Trusting yourself can make you complacent; constantly doubting and questioning keeps you thinking of a better way to do things.”

 

Tan Tin Wee, Commander (Bedok Division), Singapore Police Force: Give Your Best Shot

A petty shop theft case he encountered early in his career continues to remind Tan Tin Wee of why he serves in the police force.

Then a rookie investigation officer, Tan discovered that the accused was “having a hard time” due to “certain family situations.” He then submitted an appeal to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for a reduced charge.

“Several months later, I saw this same person walking across the road carrying his little kid on his shoulder. It really made my day seeing that he could be out there, reintegrating with society,” he said. “It would have been easier to simply charge him in court, but I took it upon myself to help him. That’s really what policing is about — it’s not just administering justice, but doing it with compassion.”

“I’ve reached the point where I don’t aspire to be at a certain position; I just try to do my best in whatever job I’m given.”

Tan Tin WeeCommander of SPF Bedok Division

Now the Commander of Bedok Division, Tan has steadily risen up the ranks since then after serving in various capacities at the Singapore Police Force, such as the Commanding Officer of Geylang Neighbourhood Police Centre and the Deputy Director in Public Affairs. He oversees Bedok Division’s seven neighbourhood police centres and 16 neighbourhood police posts.

While at the Public Affairs department, Tan had the chance to put into practice public relations skills he learnt while at WKWSCI.

“A job that came under my purview was organising large scale events. Having skills in crisis communication and drafting press releases helped,” said the 45-year-old, who majored in Promotional Communications as an undergraduate.

Looking back at his two-decade long career with the SPF, Tan is grateful for the path he has taken.

“I’ve reached the point where I don’t aspire to be at a certain position; I just try to do my best in whatever job I’m given,” he said.

His advice on making a tough career call: “Just go in and give it your best shot, because that’s all that anybody can ask of you. If you enjoy it and do your best, you will naturally excel in whatever you have chosen to undertake.”  

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