Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Everyone’s had their share of obstacles and struggles; Casper is no exception. Amidst all the setbacks in Casper’s life, he remained undaunted. Read on to find out how Casper has grown into the individual he is today, and what he has learnt from his hardships.
When his time in the 10-week Customised Immersive program came to a close, words couldn’t fully express what Casper was feeling. Yet, if he could pinpoint the rough sentiment that encapsulates the bulk of it, it would be a sense of pride.
Life hasn’t been easy on 19-year-old Casper Tay Yu Heng, but he has gotten to this moment through his never-say-die determination to see things through. We wanted to chat with him to celebrate how he came to be and learn more about the journey along the way.
Casper came clad in a snug T-shirt and a pair of jeans. There was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we caught a familiar sight. His footwear - a pair of slippers modelled after a pair of gaped fishes - eyes wide as if frozen in shock. It brought us back to one of the first moments Casper let us in on his quirky side. During our informal photoshoot, he sauntered in those very slippers when we asked the students to bring their favourite item that best represents them.
Completely unabashed by its absurdity, he took eleven stops crossing from the Northeast line to the Circle line to meet us at our main office located at one-north. Where their mouths were wide open, Casper’s toes peeked through to greet the world.
The fish slippers were reminiscent of Casper’s jovial nature. Describing himself as a jester, Casper comes off as a happy-go-lucky individual. Right off the bat, he was really comfortable sharing with us about how his week went and adventures with his pet parrot, named Happy. During his downtime, he unwinds by watching movies and anime (Japanese animated series). For the most part, he derives the greatest joy from being able to joke around with loved ones, especially his mother.
When asked how he came to be, however, we saw a more sombre mood taking over. Because of how harsh his reality has been, Casper was not exactly one to wear his heart on his sleeve. Like the fish on his feet, his jester’s disposition might’ve been his way of throwing a positive spin on things.
Casper is a Digital Marketing graduate of the Hatch Customised Immersive, Hatch’s flagship impact program. The train-and-place program that catalyses learners’ journeys into the digital and design industry. Under Hatch Academy, Hatch’s training arm, learners can choose to pursue either Digital Marketing or User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX) Design so they can better respond to this trend. These are fast-growing fields in Singapore, as its workforce faces a progressive shift towards digitalisation.
The main reason why Casper joined the Hatch Customised Immersive program was because he wanted to upskill and eventually own a business he can call his own. Starting his own company, having the money to do things he liked, and being able to support his mother comfortably were how he defined success. The path Casper took was an effortful one, but it has brought him closer to his goals. What unravels here is Casper’s heartening tale of resilience: The trying circumstances he has been in thus far, what made him the ‘jester’ he identifies as, and how he got to where he is today.
Rough patches in his formative years
From as early as during his daycare days, Casper had been picked on, ostracised, and called names. This extended to his adolescent years in church and secondary school.
“I didn’t like the things they said to me, so I decided to ‘give them back’,” Casper explained. He often retaliated against unfair treatment by getting into physical altercations with his peers in school and at church.
Adult figures in school were not empathetic of his predicament, to which he felt that they had already made up their mind against him.
He attempted to put an end to the bullying by staying at home. But he could not drown out his thoughts with silence that overwhelmed his empty house. His mother, the sole breadwinner for the household, was out for most of the time juggling two jobs to provide for them.
“I cried every single day, I was sian (sick and tired) of everything already,” he added. Casper came to care and react to things less, which seemed to work for him.
Feeling isolated, Casper left school when he was 15.
He then made a conscious effort to cut off people from his life. Casper erased his social media platforms. But even that didn’t diminish his feelings of emptiness and resignation.
The turning point
Having attended church on a regular basis since he was 6 years old, Casper has built a peculiar rapport with his church pastor. As she was one of the few people that genuinely supported him when he was at his lowest, Casper had no qualms about holding her in the highest regard. “She’s very understanding and very nice, I would never dare to take advantage of her,” he said.
Once, he rebelled by sneaking out late at night during a church-organised camp. He was caught by his pastor, who later asked Casper to leave the camp for causing disruption. Though it may not seem like much at first, the encounter was a significant turning point for him; without it, then, “Today I wouldn’t be a normal human being,” he said.
Being punished by his teachers back in school had never once fazed him. Yet, watching his actions hurt someone who has always believed in him shook him to the core.
“Back then, I didn’t listen to anyone, and I never reflected on my actions,” he said.
“I shouldn’t have done something stupid like that and disappointed her.”
Since then, Casper’s relationship with his pastor has gotten even stronger, and she continues to be a steady pillar of support he knows he can rely on when the going gets tough. This pastor in mention was also one of Casper’s mentors at CampusImpact, a social service agency that works with disadvantaged children and their families.
Initial brush with Hatch
“When I first learned about Hatch, I thought [to myself], ‘Wah, 可以 (Mandarin for “can”) leh,” Casper said.
At that point, he was helping his pastor as an active volunteer with CampusImpact. Noticing that Casper possessed a good natural intuition towards digital marketing, she shared with him about Hatch’s Customised Immersive program.
Though he didn’t enjoy studying, the program curriculum spoke to Casper as they covered hands-on, real-world application modules that he wanted to learn. To him, studying this way would feel different from conventional studying back in secondary school.
Furthermore, Digital Marketing appealed to him greatly as he saw it as a headstart in his entrepreneurship journey. Having the marketing know-how would save him the costs for hiring marketing staff in his future company. “Waste money, I can do it myself,” Casper quipped.
He came onboard in January 2021, but it took him a while to get used to learning again. It had been almost three years since Casper had been studying in an actual classroom setting. Apart from being active in CampusImpact’s activities, he spent the time in odd jobs such as being a GrabFood rider, a staff at a quaint bubble tea store, and a banquet waiter. It was tough for him to get back in the groove of being at a desk and focusing in class.
“I was always getting scolded because I was not paying attention. Or, if I get bored, I’ll just play games,” Casper said.
As if to make matters worse, Casper was issued a Quarantine Order (QO) amidst the program. He had to stay home, forcing him to miss two weeks of lessons.
The Hatch team tried to work something for Casper by introducing virtual learning during this period. But trying to stay focused in a physical classroom was tough enough for him, Casper’s tendency to get distracted had already set him behind in class, relative to his peers. What’s more, the poor internet stability meant that home was not always the most conducive environment for online learning. To top it off, he also found himself caught in occasional squabbles with his mother when she was home.
And so, Casper’s time with the January cohort came to an untimely end as he had no choice but to withdraw. Back then, Casper felt dejected, and it was such a shame that he could not finish what he started.
That entrepreneurial dream of his was very much still kicking, and at the back of his mind, he remembered how he felt pulling out of secondary school.
“When I dropped out of school, I wanted to prove to everyone, studies are not everything,” Casper said. He wanted to leave his mark in the world, and show everyone he could succeed even without a traditional educational background. The Hatch team had also told Casper he could join the next Customised Immersive in July, and so he set his mind on rejoining and completing the program.
Returning feeling revitalised
From the get-go, the Hatch team noticed Casper was different when he returned for the second run. This time around, he was much more attentive and focused during classes.
“I decided not to give up anymore. I wanted to prove everyone wrong,” Casper said. He was determined to graduate from the course this time around.
True to his likes, he often joked around with his peers as he got to know them better. Casper likes poking fun at others and takes it upon himself to ensure everyone is having a good time. That was his way of breaking the ice and showing others he cared.
“Life would be boring otherwise,” Casper shared. He also posed a rhetorical question, asking, “If you were at a place with no laughter and fun, would you go?”
His so-called modus operandi starts with gentle prods to get them to open up. Before long, he began to pick up more unspoken nuances in his interactions with his peers, able to tell when they are feeling troubled. He often checks in on their progress and wellbeing, ready to provide a listening ear and share his experiences.
On a deeper level, it was telling that Casper’s desire to spread joy and laughter was more than just good fun. His heightened sense of empathy was a direct result of experiences when he was younger. He refuses to let the bullying define him, and dedicates his energy to radiating positivity and ensuring none of his peers will ever experience the hurt he once had (at least, not on his watch).
Casper quickly took a liking to learn marketing strategy, as he enjoys the challenge of problem-solving and figuring out how to craft successful advertisements. It’s no coincidence, then, that his favourite trainer was the one teaching it too. Casper looked up to our Digital Marketing trainer, Soumik.
Not only was Soumik a self-taught Digital Marketing specialist, he had a knack for being able to transfer his knowledge to others in an effective, engaging manner. Most apparently, it was because Soumik was very chummy with Casper, often reciprocating to Casper’s jokes.
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going
Around midway through the program, Casper’s groupmates started to leave the program one by one due to various personal reasons. The group had shrunk from 6 to just 2 a couple weeks before they were slated to graduate from the program. On top of stress, he felt indignance. Still, he grit his teeth and chose to press on.
Amidst the moments of admirable perseverance, the truth was there were times Casper faltered too.
“Nearing the end I really wanted to give up. I was very, very tired already,” shared Casper. “But I didn’t want to run from my problems anymore.”
He took refuge in a piece of advice given to him by his mentor at CampusImpact, who encouraged him to push through for the last half of the program. Casper saw the finish line clearly, him as a graduate, and the obstacles at the moment seem to have lost its weight.
Above all, Casper wanted to accomplish what he had set out to do. He also hoped to make his mentors and his mother proud, all of whom he hold close to his heart.
The end of a chapter
The capstone project is the final assignment in the Customised Immersive, where learners put their acquired skills and knowledge to the test on real-world problems posed by Hatch’s industry partners. For the Digital Marketing team, they worked on a problem statement issued by Changi Airport Group, which sought to draw new consumers to purchase from iShopChangi.
Casper’s graduation presentation takes place in an event called Demo Day, commemorating learners’ hard work and marking their graduation. For Demo Day, learners present the hard work they have put in for their capstone project. This is the last milestone in the Hatch Customised Immersive for learners to reach, one they share with their loved ones, Hatch’s partners, and prospective employers.
Casper was very excited for Demo Day; it was his first time doing a presentation to a live audience. His mother and mentor were both present to watch him during this milestone. Right as he thanked the audience at the end of his presentation, he felt ecstatic.
“For the first time ever, I felt accomplished; I had done something I can be proud of,” he said.
Casper’s mother had teared up as the event came to a close, which he found unsurprising and amusing. “My mom is like that, she has always been very emotional,” he says with a mischievous grin.
He even goaded her after the certificate presentation ceremony, asking, “You thought I wouldn’t complete this program is it?”, to which she denied with a smile.
Before we brought the interview to a close, we had one final surprise for Casper. We shared a recording with Casper that his mother made for us on a request. Though the mother-son duo has deep appreciation for one other, they were mostly implicitly understood.
In the audio recording in Mandarin, his mother expressed her pride having witnessed Casper’s immense growth over the past year, and was both proud of him and thankful for the opportunities he received. She also emphasised, “妈咪永远支持你。(Mandarin for: Mommy will always support you)”. The whole time he was listening, he was nodding along as well.
Though it was largely unspoken, Casper said: “I always knew this (her encouragement) from the start; she’s a very supportive mother.”
The beginning of another
After graduating, Casper became a marketing apprentice with Hatch Mediahouse, Hatch’s consultancy arm for digital projects. He continued to demonstrate a great work ethic and was receptive to the feedback sent his way. He also maintained strong communication with the project leads, who were happy to have him on board.
Moving forward, he’s still working towards that entrepreneurial goal of his. “First, I [will] need to build my capital,” Casper said, hoping to work in more digital marketing roles to accumulate experience.
But he also has many other dreams, one being his wish to work in Apple one day, as he admires the work they do; he’s read a book written by Steve Jobs too. Casper also expressed his desire to return as a Digital Marketing trainer for Hatch one day!
“I want to give back to Hatch as they’re the ones who got me to where I am today. I also want to help others who are just like me — low family income and drop-out youths. I hope to be a trainer to help them get a better life.”
Gratitude comes intuitively for Casper, and he never fails to find a way to multiply good, to pay it forward.
Delved deeper into all that ambition and pursuit of success, however, one goal stood out the most. It’s a simple one, but it’s heartwarming nonetheless; he wants to earn enough money so that he can take care of his mom. She has been his biggest supporter thus far, and he will always remember that.
To advise those who are considering the Hatch Immersive, this is Casper’s tip:
“Try to learn as much as you can, and prepare
yourself for it mentally. And don’t give up.”
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