By Alan Yuen
June 11, 2018
WHEN Mr Ouyang Cunping clocked out of work, he boarded the train and joined a carriage of weary office workers.
But unlike others, he was not headed home for a well-deserved rest after a long day.
Instead, his 90-minute train ride would take him to the Singapore Institute of Management Global Education (SIM GE) on another mission — to the classroom to earn a degree.
Despite having a full-time career as an accounts executive in a Swiss MNC then, Mr Ouyang wanted to have more than a diploma.
Says the 32-year-old: “I wanted to challenge myself and stimulate my personal development. But I didn’t want to stop working and lose my income. My family is not well-off.”
After applying to the University of London in SIM, he started pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Accounting and Finance in 2014.
The three-year degree was well known for its gruelling curriculum — but would equip him with knowledge of financial budgeting and loan calculations.
Mr Ouyang’s schedule proved to be equally punishing. He started work at 8.30am, knocking off at 5.30pm — after which he would rush down to SIM.
If he was late, he would have his dinner in the classroom. On most days, he would reach home close to midnight.
Eventually, this hectic schedule took a toll on him.
Says Mr Ouyang: “You can’t do it half-hearted. But the constant grind of staying alert throughout a three-hour lesson after working nine hours got progressively tougher over the years.”
But his biggest hurdle surfaced during his second year, when he got retrenched. In 2005, almost all the staff in the accounting department of the Swiss company that he was working in were laid off when the company decided to outsource its operations overseas.
“I thought of quitting my studies a few times during this period,” he recalls.
With the help of his study mates, and a new motorcycle to reduce time spent commuting, he ploughed on.
Reaping the rewards
His efforts finally paid off — Mr Ouyang graduated with first-class honours last year. Soon after, he landed a job with Maybank as a finance executive.
The course gave Mr Ouyang a sharper eye and deeper understanding of accounting concepts. This has helped him in his current role, in which he scrutinises financial reports and eliminates discrepancies.
He also found it easy to apply theoretical concepts he learned in school to his job. Performing seemingly abstract tasks such as loan calculations or using arcane accounting systems suddenly seemed easier, he added.
Although his journey to higher education was an exhausting one, he looks back on the time as a crucial growth period.
“I believe that anything that is difficult to achieve has value. Conversely, anything that can be attained easily will not be highly valued,” says Mr Ouyang.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on June 11, 2018.