Convocation Speech, Northumbria University, 22 May 2010 by Isman Tanuri
Convocation Speech by Northumbria University's Student
Written and delivered by: Isman Tanuri
Marketing Institute of Singapore's 43rd Graduation Ceremony
22 May 2010
Mr. Loh Kwong Cheng, President of Marketing Institute of Singapore Executive Council, Mr.
Mark Howard, Director of the British Council Singapore, the noble Lord Stevens of
Kirkwhelpington, Chancellor of Northumbria University, Dean & Associate Deans from
Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, parents and graduates, distinguished
guests, ladies and gentlemen.
My Fellow Graduates,
Today we joyously celebrate a key milestone in our lives in the fine company of friends,
family, peers, honoured guests and staff of Marketing Institute of Singapore (MIS). I
congratulate you on your accomplishments and on concluding what was a part of your life's
academic journey. I hope your education at MIS will serve you well in your professional and
I was invited to share my story with you today, so please do lend me a moment of your time
to recap my learning journey with MIS and Northumbria University.
My journey started back in March 2007. In the three years since, I am really glad to report
that my life has been transformed in the pursuit of knowledge and formal education.
Let me be honest with you: I was and still am a polytechnic dropout. Fourteen years ago, I
broke my parents' hearts when, at the end of my 2nd year, I decided not to continue with my
film studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. I realised I was just not interested in making movies as
much as I love watching them. I am really glad my parents are here today to witness a much
The next 10 years of my life from that point on was pretty much an adventure in growing up
and being carefree. I was in the entertainment industry and I had career as a stage lighting
specialist. I was also running a small music business with my girlfriend then, now wife and
inspiration. That was quite possibly the beginning of my interest in business and marketing.
Life was good then but I felt I could do better.
In late 2006, I took the plunge. I enrolled in MIS' Diploma in Sales & Marketing program and
never looked back.
And thus began my love affair with knowledge and learning.
That single decision back in late 2006 has completely changed my life. Six months after I
started school in MIS, I was hired by Oracle Corporation, currently the biggest enterprise
software company in the world. And two months ago, I started a new role at Hogg Robinson
Group, a multinational corporation from the UK. This poly dropout is now serving as HRG
Singapore's senior executive responsible for its marketing communications' strategy and
initiatives. Quite interestingly too, I have not officially graduated yet, until today.
Also of important significance, that one decision in late 2006 has also brought me to speak in
front of you today.
(Making a Difference to Your Life)
There are many life's lessons from my own experiences that I would like to share with
you. Firstly, it is never too late to pursue your dreams or ambitions, and all you need is
the right attitude. For instance, the classmates I most admired were the ones with family
responsibilities, especially those with young children. Despite having to juggle parental duties
with the demands of school, they had the belief and the sheer will to succeed, knowing that
their success will be directly responsible for the future well-being of their family.
That is in fact another of life's great lessons: having the focus and forward planning in place
to achieve your future goals. When I started the MIS Diploma program, truth be told, I was
already dreaming of today, graduating from Northumbria's Bachelors program. In fact, I had
jokingly shared with my fellow diploma graduates that last year's Graduation Ceremony was
a full-dress rehearsal for today's event! That aside, just like the companies and businesses
that you, my fellow graduates, will be managing someday, there must be a clear vision and
mission for the journey ahead, so that you know where and what you are aiming for.
But, remember, do not just aim but aim very high.
Seth Godin, one of the best marketing thinkers of this generation, says: 'Be a Purple Cow'.
In other words, Seth is saying 'Be Remarkable'. Stand out from the crowd like an iPad or a
rare Ferrari. In this world of abundance, how do you stand apart from the rest? How do you
stay ahead of the competition?
The answer: Only by being remarkable. But how do you achieve that, you may ask?
On a personal level, back in school, I was deeply saddened when I hear of my peers only
wanting to 'pass' or 'make it through' the program. The end-goal they had in mind was
merely the piece of paper presented today. In truth, we may not all be academic superstars
or the high-flying executive in the office. But, by making the simplest conscious effort to do
our very best in our work and studies, that IS the right step in being remarkable. Even if we
fail in attaining any of our set goals, the path of dedication and perseverance you have taken
is remarkable enough to be noticed by others around you, including your employers, family
You may not have become a Purple Cow but you are not an ordinary white and black cow
either. You have chosen to be remarkable rather than mediocre.
Here is another opportunity to be remarkable and something that I urge you, my fellow
graduates, to seriously consider.
My academic research during the MIS and Northumbria programs brought about a big
discovery and realisation: each and everyone of us is our own brand. Try this at
home: do a Google search for yourself. What does Google say about YOU? Which of your
achievements will Google 'present' to your future employers? Remember, all employers and
recruiters are more than likely to google potential candidates before that very first interview.
A simple online search can translate into a huge real life implication: 'you will not know
what you cannot find and cannot see'
With more people, especially the younger generation, increasingly producing content on
Facebook, Twitter and blogs, to really stand out among the crowd is becoming more and
So how do you differentiate Your Personal Brand? Will you be able to compete with your
younger counterparts in the future? The generation that is now growing up with the iPhone
and netbooks? How do you become remarkable?
The only plausible answer is to market yourself, just as you would your company's brand.
My personal advice to you is to embrace the online world and create your personal 'Avatar',
so to speak. Build your professional profile and add your resume on LinkedIn. Do not be
afraid of Facebook, Twitter or even blogging your thoughts. No one is too old or late for the
It is time to give some serious attention to your personal brand and let yourself be found.
However, I understand that some of you are unwilling to share your personal life and that you
value your privacy. So I put this to you: you do not lose any of your privacy if you learn to
control and understand what you are sharing. Just like your company's marketing program.
Share only what you are willing to share but, most importantly, let yourself be found.
The modern world is built on the open sharing of knowledge. If no one is willing to share
knowledge and information, Google.com will be such an empty place. To my fellow graduates
and those progressing on to their Bachelors or Masters program, I urge you to share your
expertise and knowledge with your fellow students and help each other out by collaborating
openly and closely. You will be surprised at how much more knowledge and trust you will
receive in return for sharing your own.
Let me share with you my own experience in knowledge free-sharing. I had published my
Final Project's literature review, something entitled 'Role of Social Media in Contemporary
Marketing' by making it available online through my blog and slidesharing services
(Slideshare and Scribd). I am proud to reveal to you today that the University of Chicago's
Graham School, through Professor Jason Parker whom I have never met, had used this
piece of work as a required reading material for a post-graduate program. Somewhere on the
other side of the world, a class of students is reading my own academic work for knowledge
Now ponder this: what good would it be if all my hard work, hours and hours of research and
learning, had remained forever in my hard disk or in the two printed copies for final project
So let it be known: Information and knowledge want to be free.
On behalf of my fellow graduates, I would like to collectively thank the people that mattered
in our lives, and with whom we share our accomplishment today: namely, our family,
parents, spouse, friends and peers.
A big gratitude also goes out to MIS' family of lecturers and administrators. In the three years
that I had attended school in MIS, I was charmed by the responsiveness and friendliness of
the people that represent the MIS brand. You are an organisation that listens, so continue to
All those nights putting together assignments and drumming-in exam notes are thankfully
over, for now at least, and I hope you are enjoying your evenings and weekends with family
and friends. However, let this not be the end of your learning and that you will continue to
pursue the world's knowledge and wisdom. In that, I wish you well in the next phase of your
journey and of life-long learning.
Lastly, believe that you can make change happen and you can achieve anything you want.
Remember, I was and still am a poly dropout.
I leave you with a quote from my favourite book, 'The Alchemist', from the great Brazilian
author, Paulo Coelho:
"When you want something bad enough, all the universe will conspire in helping you achieve
Congratulations, best wishes to you and be remarkable.