Graduate Stories | Progress is always worth celebrating
Updated: Jan 24, 2022
Success stories are well adored by mainstream media, but they are not the only milestones there are. Here at Hatch, we want to humanise the incremental, oftentimes uncomfortable journey we go through to become better versions of ourselves. Hear the story of Zhi Wei, one of our graduates of the Immersive+ program.
This goes out to all who are still works-in-progress.
“Things that have shaped me are not anything good that [have] happened,” he said with a shrug.
Growing up, Koh Zhi Wei endured a complex relationship with his father. While a sanctuary for most, home was a place of turbulence for the 26-year-old. Verbal and oftentimes violent clashes frequently broke out between the father-son duo.
“He was always so harsh on me, I thought that he didn’t love me,” he said.
Yet, when it boiled down to the single, most defining moment of his life, only one freeze-frame came to mind: the sight of his father reduced to tears, as he bailed his son out of prison.
The moment was bewildering, for Zhi Wei had never once witnessed his father express any form of vulnerability towards his family.
“It hit me quite hard to know that he still loves me, so I wanted to change for the better for him.”
Entrepreneurship weaved into his DNA
At 26, Zhi Wei had already taken on three business endeavours. But his story does not recite a typical tale of burning passion that ignited his entrepreneurial ambitions. Motivations to become a go-getter started out purely on a practical end: for sustenance.
“It was just solely for income. Money was one of the reasons that caused us (his family) to fall apart, so I wanted to earn more money,” he said.
Opening a mobile phone retail shop was his first business venture. As he recalled the moment when he closed his first sales, it’s clear that it still brings him immense jubilation, though it happened over five years ago.
“I thought 哇有钱了 (translated: wow, there’s money),” he said. Albeit a modest victory, it did its magic in boosting his self-confidence. Shortly after, his business enjoyed a season of stability and success running its operations.
That said, it may come as a surprise that he made the decision to close its shutters just under a year later.
“When I started doing it, it’s no longer about the money already. I can’t sit there every day and wait for customers,” Zhi Wei said.
The repetitive nature of his work led him to think beyond profits alone. For the first time, he pondered about alternatives that have greater alignment with his interests.
Following the closing of that chapter, Zhi Wei embarked on some soul-searching career expedition, dabbling into a colourful portfolio of jobs. They include roles as a service staff in various food and beverage (F&B) establishments, a door-to-door salesman selling religious ornaments, and an e-commerce retailer.
By the time he took on his second business venture, he had garnered a greater wealth of knowledge in business know-how. Together with a friend, they started an online business selling analogue watches.
Unlike the mobile phone shop, the watch shop found a sweet intersection between business and passion. Admiring the intricacies of watch designs has always been Zhi Wei’s pastime hobby, but the cost was an impeding factor when it came down to the purchase.
And he was not alone. Zhi Wei saw an opportunity in the market to create quality watches that don’t break the bank.
“We wanted to let everyone know that true value lies in what you believe in. You don’t have to make something expensive to give it value. Value is something you choose to give.”
Taking the next leap of faith to upskill
Zhi Wei was first introduced to Hatch by his social worker from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). He wanted to take the opportunity to pick up digital marketing skills and improve the online presence of his watch business.
Prior to joining Immersive+, he was concerned that his truncated education background meant that he lacked a proper head start compared to his classmates. Having dropped out of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in 2014, Zhi Wei’s highest level of formal education was an N-Level Certificate.
“I was afraid that most of my classmates were diploma or degree holders, or people with experience,” he said.
Least did he expect that Immersive+ was Hatch’s flagship impact program, specially catered to young people from vulnerable and at-risk backgrounds to upskill in emerging fields of technology. Under the Immersive+ program, learners undergo a 10-week social-emotional learning and technical skills training in either Digital Marketing or User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX). Following graduation, they will be attached to 3-month work placements to materialise classroom teachings into practical industry skillsets.
The diversity of peers who have gone through similar life adversities played a pivotal role in helping Zhi Wei assimilate into the learning environment. There was a sense of unspoken solidarity and rapport between his classmates and the Hatch team. It has left an enduring impact on Zhi Wei, one that he still falls back on when he needs a supportive community to this day.
A little heart goes a long way
The conventional education system was all Zhi Wei knew. Back then, learning in the classroom was spurred by a fear of losing out and the pressure to fit inside society’s mould of an ideal student.
From his personal experiences, teacher-student relationships were more rigid and transactional. With success benchmarked on a set of standardised grading systems, it was easy to label who is a “good” or “bad” student based on tangible metrics.
“I expected it (Hatch) to be like a school, but it was totally different.”
There was a steadfast sincerity that translated from Hatch trainers to students which “went beyond what he would expect from a typical training course”. Trainers often put in the extra legwork to ensure Zhi Wei and his peers understood the classroom teachings.
“It felt very personal. The trainers here care about us and will follow up with you like a friend, ” he said.
This ignited a newfound interest in learning for Zhi Wei which he had never experienced before in mainstream schools.
“When I come to Hatch, I always feel it is the right place (to be),” he said.
More than just a Digital Marketing course
Knowledge & Skill
For Zhi Wei, the course exceeded the realm of digital marketing. It also equipped him with skill sets in strategic thinking and execution of marketing strategies across offline avenues too.
He found himself increasingly attuned to the minute details of why brands make certain marketing decisions. Translating this to his own analogue watch business has strengthened its marketing effectiveness and reduced operational costs, he said.
What caught Zhi Wei by surprise the most was the openness of seasoned industry practitioners to share tips and tricks of their trade. Collective wisdom that Hatch trainers have personally accumulated over the years of practice were unselfishly imparted with the students.