Four outstanding alumni from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information were honoured in the second WKWSCI Alumni Awards, held on Sept. 20, this year.
Anna Keranina Tolentino (CS’11), current affairs producer and writer at Channel NewsAsia, and Richardo Chua (CS’07), founder and Managing Director of Adrenalin Group, clinched the WKWSCI Impact Award this year.
The Impact Award recognises alumni whose achievements influence society, industry or a social cause, while the Emerging Star Award recognises the achievements of alumni in the early stages of their career.
About 120 faculty members, alumni and guests attended the ceremony-cum-networking event held at the Esplanade Mall. The annual Alumni Awards were launched last year as part of the school’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
For this issue, WKWSCI Alumni Magazine spoke to two award winners who are lauded for the accomplishments in their start-ups.
Richardo Chua, Recipient of WKWSCI Impact Award: Giving Back To Society
VIDEO: DARREN CHING
After bringing down the curtains at a Singapore Boys' Home concert in 2008 – one of the first events that his company, Adrenalin, organised – Chua was walking the boys back to their dormitories.
He asked one of them what he planned to do after he was released in two weeks. The boy, previously a part-time assistant to an undertaker, told Chua: “I am going to do the only thing I think I’m good at, which is moving dead bodies.”
While Chua had already started hiring people with special needs and youths at risk for Adrenalin, the conversation was "a confirmation from the universe" to continue doing so.
“[The conversation] crystallised the need to hire people with special needs,” said the 36-year-old Managing Director of Adrenalin, a social enterprise events agency.
Over the decade, Chua has hired former offenders, the hearing-impaired, wheelchair-bound individuals and people recovering from mental illness.
Out of the 25 members in his team, six of them are special-needs employees, who perform various roles from administrative tasks to design and photo editing.
Adrenalin manages and executes events and campaigns for a number of government and corporate clients such as Changi Airport Group and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
Organising events and volunteerism run in Chua’s blood. As a kid, his parents, who were police officers, and helped to organise many division ‘dinner and dances’ and family days.
His parents also did a lot of charity work when he was younger, he said.
Chua’s father once invited a foreign worker home for a few days as he had nowhere to stay before returning to his hometown.
"I always saw my parents contributing in one way or another."
Chua started to volunteer for community projects and host events during his secondary school years. He also went on an overseas volunteer trip to Cambodia to help build and paint a school.
While studying in university, he emceed for various school events and also served as the social secretary for the Communication and Information Club in WKWSCI, where he ran events for the student body.
“I think I spent more time on stage hosting events that I spent in classrooms,” he confessed.
In addition to being an inclusive workplace, Adrenalin ensures that at least 40 percent of their 80 to 100 events each year contains elements that will benefit the less fortunate and people with disabilities.
For instance, the agency worked with Mount Elizabeth (Orchard) Hospital in 2014 to create a three-day, 24-hour treadmill marathon as part of its Christmas celebrations.
With every 50 kilometres clocked, the hospital would sponsor one cataract operation. At the end of the marathon, enough distance was clocked to cover the operation costs for 100 needy elderly.
“Through the work we did, 100 old people, with the help of Mt Elizabeth (Orchard) Hospital, can see better,” said Chua.
“It is a surprise, a very deep honour, and I am extremely humbled.”
RICHARDO CHUA (CS'07), founder of Adrenalin
“It serves as a timely reminder that we (Adrenalin) are on the right track, and at the same time, have a lot more to do.”
Josephine Chow, Recipient of WKWSCI Emerging Star Award: Thriving in The Start-up Scene
Josephine Chow landed in the e-commerce start-up world by chance.
In March 2012 — a few months after completing her one-year stint as a part-time research project manager in NTU — a friend asked her if she would be interested to apply for a social media marketing position at Zalora, an e-retail platform.
She started as a social media executive and became the company’s regional head for its marketing and partnerships department in three years.
However, an opportunity to work at e-commerce start-up, ShopBack — an online shopping portal where users earn cash rebates after making purchases — came knocking at her door.
In 2015, the two founders of ShopBack — whom Chow used to work with in Zalora — wooed her to join the start-up as its country head and co-founder. As its country head, Chow was tasked to manage ShopBack Singapore’s revenue and growth.
It did not take long for Chow to move to ShopBack because she embraced change and liked the company’s business model.
“I am someone who needs change to keep me really excited about things. I work better with change.”
JOSEPHINE CHOW (CS’11), SHOPBACK CO-FOUNDER and FORBES 30 UNDER 30
“I am someone who needs change to keep me really excited about things. I work better with change,” she said.
Nevertheless, moving from an established company to a brand new start-up was challenging because she had to persuade potential users to support ShopBack and show them how the cashback portal works, she added.
Four years since its birth, ShopBack has reached the markets of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Australia.
As the head of expansion in the Asia Pacific region, Chow leads a six-person team in Sydney. She spends the bulk of her work day discussing partnerships with retailers, learning about the Australian market and finding the right talent to expand the Sydney branch.
Chow said she learnt the importance of teamwork when she was editor of the student-run newspaper The Nanyang Chronicle. During her time at the paper, she had to pull all-nighters to put the paper together despite early morning classes the next day.
“We did things together, suffered together and bonded better together,” she said.
“These experiences taught me to do what’s important because there’s always a limited amount of time,” she added. She practises these soft skills in ShopBack, from working well with her colleagues to responding quickly to customers’ woes.
The Emerging Star Award is not the only accolade she has received this year. Earlier this year, Chow and her ShopBack colleague, Lai Shanru, were featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 list in the retail and e-commerce category.
Another ShopBack colleague, also a WKWSCI alumna, nominated Chow and Lai on the sly because she wanted to surprise them for their 30th birthdays this year, said Chow.
“Forbes must have received thousands of applications. I think [the listing] has to do with our ShopBack success story. It put ShopBack in the spotlight, and we were both really excited,” she added.
Chow said she was surprised that the school presented her with the Emerging Star Award because WKWSCI produces many successful and decorated alumni. She did not expect to be part of the list.
“Being recognised for what you’ve done and what you’ve delivered is always nice.”