MOSAIC by TEDxSunway University

On the 12th of September 2020, TEDxSunway University held its very first online conference with the title MOSAIC, a virtual experience.

The conference started off with Dr Elizabeth Lee’s opening speech. As Sunway campus’s most lovable and lively person, she brought along her bright smile and launched the event. In her speech, she emphasized on the importance of the internet especially on how it can be used to solve many problems and close the gap among individuals who are faced with disruptions throughout this pandemic. She conveyed that Tedx’s motive is to educate listeners through significant speakers from various fields to broaden one’s knowledge and inspire all within TED which stands for technology, entertainment and design. She applauded the TEDxSunway University team for their hard work and determination to pull off this event despite facing countless challenges.

After that, the ‘virtual microphone’ was passed to none other than the president of TedxSunway University. She stated that her team was here to prove that anything is possible during these modern times. She then elaborated on the theme of this year’s conference which is “MOSAIC”. A mosaic is a pattern or a picture made using small pieces of coloured stones or glass. The mosaic illustrates how important it is as a community to be sharing ideas to accomplish what a single idea cannot hope to achieve.

Calling upon Malaysia’s favourite sportswoman who has touched many hearts with her stories is none other than Datuk Nicol Ann David who is a retired professional squash player and is currently an opinion writer at The Star newspaper. Her speech was about the secret to lasting consistency. Datuk Nicol shared a little back story on what got her into playing squash which started with a handmade wooden racquet made by her father. She finally spilled the tea that improvement is the process of making something better alongside with six bullet points to improve. Number one, focus on the details and slowly progress. Number two, have a vision that will help one prepare to achieve their goal. Number three, “look around you and learn from your surroundings”, as quoted by Datuk herself. Number four, be willing to do it a million times. Number five, listen to others as it is the only way to learn and be open to opinions. Last but not least, number six which is don’t be too confident as there is always space to learn without putting anyone down.  Datuk Nicol ends with a lovely quote saying ‘the more successful you are, the most humble you should be’.  

The conference continued with Mr. Ng Hau Wei who obtained many years of experience as a civil contractor in large infrastructure programmes and tunnel construction experience. He is currently the deputy project director (tunnel) of Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) and shared about tunnelling into a digital revolution. He shared his struggles on spending long and arduous hours underground, without much amenities or guidance. Most of his work revolved around the menial tasks of arranging logistics and calls. With the help of his executives, he was able to build up possibly the world’s first contractor-established tunnelling training academy. This is because he knew that if he wanted to stay in this industry he had to bring a change for the benefit of the people and future generations. He shared his anxiety during the development of the MRT, which is the mode of transportation for at least 50 per cent of the Malaysian population, as it could go wrong at any second by his operators or even himself if there was any miscalculations. He expressed his gratitude for the advancement in technology which reduced the workload of workers and improved productivity especially for the autonomous TBM (tunnelling boring machine). 

After a 10 minute intermission for viewers to take a break, the conference resumed by inviting Mr. Julian Lee, a SEA games figure-skating gold-medalist and who is also an olympian who was the first Malaysian winter olympics champion. He began skating at the age of four and eventually, after becoming the best in Malaysia, made his way to the world championship stage. The theme of Lee’s talk centered around how one can find and grow their passion despite the challenges they may face along the way. He told the viewers his story and drew valuable lessons from it to show the importance of the journey rather than the mere results. Julian recounted his first international competition experience at the age of twelve and how he had been doubting his passion for the sport at that time. Yet, his passion was reignited when he saw how much more was still out there to learn from and grow. “Had I not gone for that competition, I probably would not find that passion again” said Julian. He used this example to inspire listeners to push a little further before giving up on their passions as they do not know what’s right around the corner. 

Julian then went on to talk about how one can find and maintain their passion. After all, this experience was only the beginning of his journey. There have been many occasions where he had to look within himself to find that inner purpose to get him through the more arduous practice sessions and the pressure to perform. From his experience, the first step to finding passion is by having the willingness to try new things. Then, the important part is keeping that passion alive through the right self-talk, mindset and perseverance. Every time he faced doubts, he would ask himself: “Why am I doing this?” and he would remind himself of his journey and why he had chosen it. Julian then highlighted many other ways in which his sports journey has helped him grow as a person and all the lessons he learnt had transferred onto other aspects of his life. He expressed the importance of having good people around, learning from the mistakes of others and practicing discipline in all areas of life. To end his speech, he encouraged the viewers to have an open mind, discover what they want in life and keep going after it.

The next speaker was Mr. Dzaeman Dzukifli, the director of the Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Center (TRCRC) in Malaysia. The focus of his talk was on how the TRCRC is working to maintain a functional forest among a sea of human-dominated landscapes. Their core mission is to preserve and protect Malaysia’s tropical rainforests. They lead landscape-wide projects to achieve this mission in both east and west Malaysia. Dzaeman shared several photos of rainforests showing the vast diversity in species and how the whole ecosystem interacts within itself. Many of these species are highly vulnerable to extinction. That is why the TRCRC are setting up “nurseries” where seedlings are collected and replanted in an effort to recreate the full diversity of the rainforests. One major concern is the vulnerability of some species to “forest fragmentation” or the division of forests into smaller segments. The “Central Forest Spine” initiative aims to tackle this issue by strategically connecting forest areas together. The center’s efforts also include the building of wildlife crossing bridges and the garnering of support from indigenous Orang Asli communities in collecting seedlings. 

Dzaeman mentioned that these projects often need to be well planned very far into the future. That is because many of the tree species pose the challenge of long vegetative stages; meaning they can take up to 5 to 7 years from planting before they start to flower and reproduce. The challenges also include large areas of degraded land being transformed into palm oil plantations and for agricultural use. It is difficult to reclaim the biodiversity in these lands as the TRCRC would have to collaborate with the land owners to come up with creative ways to “develop conservation initiatives that can have a win-win situation”. The TRCRC also looks for ways to connect different forest sites through urban areas with any vegetation patches, stepping stones or corridors in the area. Their simple goal is to “restore biodiversity in Malaysia”. And with that, Dzaeman ends his speech and encourages viewers to learn more about the NGO at their website https://www.trcrc.org/.

There was a short break afterwards to show appreciation for the Tedx Sunway organizing team who were able to work remotely to make the Mosaic event possible. Next, the following speaker was Dr Derek Kok, Research Associate at the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development. His research focuses on social and welfare policies for children, and so his talk at the event centered around universal child grants, an innovation which, according to Dr Derek, can help a country achieve a number of goals including: reducing poverty, increasing physical and mental health, better nutrition, education, living standards, gender equality and even future productivity.

Derek begins by discussing the current state of poverty in Malaysia especially in relation to children. 1.7% of children lie below the poverty line. This is significantly higher than the poverty rate of 0.6% across all ages. Additionally, if the poverty line were to be increased to the international threshold, this percentage would increase from 1.7% to 12.6%. This shows us that poverty affects children the most and the cost of raising children can be a major challenge for families. The Malaysian government already issues grants, however they have not been sufficient nor consistent. Dr Derek explained that the concept of universal child grants have recorded successes all around the world. He also addressed a few common misconceptions about the cost of implementing such a program, stating that the sheer cost of managing targeted grant programs exceeded that of establishing a universal grant. Just 0.5% of Malaysia’s yearly GDP would be enough to cover the grant, but the results are massive. While Malaysia is aiming to become a high-income country, our expenditure on social protection still lags behind. The innovation of universal child grants, according to Derek, represents “an opportunity to change this situation and invest in our children and our future generation’s success and well being”. On that note, Dr Derek ended his speech and the next Speaker was introduced.

Anna Teo, commonly known as the “Durian Queen”, is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Hernan Corporation, which is one of the pioneer companies of durian export in Malaysia. Anna shared in her talk some advice for anyone hoping to embark on a business journey, especially as a woman in a male dominated industry. She shared six main points with some anecdotes from her experience. Her first point was the importance of self-belief and the belief in the product the entrepreneur hopes to sell. Strong self-belief makes it possible for buyers, consumers and suppliers to believe in the product and in the entrepreneur. Secondly, “in order to be successful in business we must have a strong vision and a strong sense of purpose” as quoted by her. Third: Mindset. Entrepreneurs must be flexible and adaptable in terms of their mindset. Fourth: overcoming failure. Failure is part of the journey that one must learn from. Five: Time management; it is important to recognise that there is a time for work, a time for family and a time for leisure and not to mix up different areas of life. Sixth: Customer Relationship. “without customers there can be no business”. She mentioned that she maintains very close and strong relationships with her customers, some lasting up to 25 years. 

Other keys to success in business that she shared were developing the confidence to overcome challenges, being innovative and “one step ahead”, embracing IR 4.0, eliminating negativity, being flexible and facing the challenges head-on. In her journey, Anna had to overcome government and business regulations, supplier shortages, financial shortages, and export restrictions in order to keep her business running. In her early days, she had to determine the machinery she needed to integrate in order to align an autonomous production process. She prepared herself to invest in these systems because she knew that the transition from traditional facilities to IR 4.0 systems would be costly otherwise. She consistently traveled to discover new innovative machinery that can help her business improve. She believes in keeping a positive mindset and having a strong team of talented people around who complement her skills. She encouraged viewers to take on the business challenge as they can never know their potential unless they try and. To end her speech, she asked the viewers “For me, the sky’s the limit; What about you?”

With that the event came to an end. The emcee Jin Yoong thanked the speakers for their valuable insights and the attendees for their support. 

Written by: Hiba and Nivyha

Edited by: Wu Wen Qi

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