When Joseph Yang discovered the opportunity to upgrade his skills in the part-time Bachelor of Technology (Electronics Engineering) degree programme offered by NUS Engineering in 2013, he took his younger brother, Yang Yaoguang, along for the ride. He believed that as brothers, they would be able to support and help each other to succeed in this journey.

An open proponent of lifelong learning, Joseph did not always have this mindset. When he first completed his Institute of Technical Education (ITE) diploma in 2002, it was simply to obtain certification that would facilitate his entry into the Navy. However, once there, he met a senior worker at ST Marine who, despite not having professional education, picked up enough skills and expertise in bits and pieces on the job to rise to a position of supervisor. This man inspired him, sparking his interest in engineering and enlightening him to the value of learning.

I realised it's not about the certificate, or about the grades. It's about the understanding, and whether you can apply after you graduate. I told myself if I'm given another chance, this time round, I must do it correctly, he said.

Taking this declaration to heart, Joseph embarked on a part-time Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Singapore Polytechnic after he finished his six-year stint at the Navy. When he completed this diploma in 2012, he decided that he needed to further improve himself. He was also driven to help improve workflow and processes in SMRT where he worked as a Technical Officer. A degree course seemed a logical next step.

I realised it's not about the certificate, or about the grades. It's about the understanding, and whether you can apply after you graduate. I told myself if I'm given another chance, this time round, I must do it correctly.

� Joseph Yang

Yaoguang started out less sure about this move, admitting that he initially had worries about balancing studies and his work as an Engineering Assistant at Delphi Automative. The presence of his elder brother was a balm to the fear. I felt more secure with him around. If there were things I didn't know, I could still approach him, Yaoguang, who is four years younger than Joseph, shared.

Joseph continued to be an inspiration to Yaoguang during the programme. He's a positive, driven guy, Yaoguang said. He appreciates the work for itself, not because he's forced to learn. This gave Yaoguang further motivation to press on with his own degree. While he never consciously thought of taking a degree before his brother's encouragement, Yaoguang, who similarly graduated from ITE and Singapore Polytechnic, looks back on the experience as a transformative one, and believes that the knowledge gained will enable his career growth.

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On 12 July, the brothers will receive their graduation scrolls together, Joseph with a Bachelor of Technology in Electronics Engineering with Honours (Highest Distinction) and Yaoguang with a Bachelor of Technology in Electronics Engineering with Honours. This programme is now offered by the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education in partnership with NUS Engineering.

The duo are now looking forward to the next chapter in their engineering careers. Joseph started his new role as an Executive Engineer in SMRT this month, and shared hopes of working towards managerial positions, as well as a chance to nurture younger engineers. Yaoguang is pushing ahead in his current job at Delphi Automotive and hopes to eventually take up Research and Development-related roles. Yaoguang acknowledges that the learning has not and will not stop just yet. There's still a lot for me to learn, he said.

Joseph, who is also the winner of an IES Gold Medal and the HP Asia-Pacific Prize, has a word of advice for people considering part-time studies. The beginning will always be tough; once you pull through the first year, you will eventually get used to it. For the first year, you have to make up your mind, know what you want, and put in the extra effort to understand the subject, because eventually these things will help you in your following years, he emphasised.

Source: National University of Singapore