LUMEN Issue 2 - December 2011 | Page 21


From a young age , Roger ( SJI Graduating Class of 1965 ) was not a fatalist . Instead , he is a staunch believer that one should not bow in defeat to hardships and difficulties . “ Never say die , make adversity work for you ,” he tells me .

Unable to achieve satisfactory grades in his Primary School Leaving Examination ( PSLE ) in 1960 , Roger was sent to St . Joseph ’ s Afternoon School ( SJAS ) for the first two years of secondary school . He was passionate about Science but unfortunately , SJAS did not offer the science stream . This strengthened his resolve to do well in order to be transferred to SJI where he could pursue specialization in the sciences . His efforts paid off and Roger was one of the eight students who scored well enough in the examinations to be transferred to SJI .
However , although he was a top student in SJAS and recipient of bursaries , he was told that he would not be offered the science stream in SJI . Upset at the turn of events , this led to a rather rebellious phase for Roger .
He chuckles as he recalled his teenage days in SJI . “ I went to perm my hair and there was this Brother in the school , Brother Patrick but everyone called him ‘ Black Panther .’ He hated my permed hair and gave me the nickname ‘ Susan Beauty Parlour ’ referring to a hair salon just outside the school campus in Bras Basah Road .” Roger ’ s Scripture Studies teacher , the late Mr James Frank also often picked on Roger for his permed hair and on many occasions , had made him stand on the chair as punishment for being unable to answer his questions .
After his ‘ O ’ Levels , Roger worked for the civil service and the National Library Board . However , this did not mark the end of his learning . Constantly eager to learn and improve himself , he also took night classes , studying Science whilst attending lessons at the Institute of Business Administration from Australia .
The turning point in his career came when he volunteered to help with the technical drawings ( where ? For whom ?). “ In those days , the drawings and all that had to be done by the civil service department because there were insufficient engineers .” A highly efficient worker who took his work seriously , Roger boldly volunteered to help with the technical drawings in his department .
Despite not knowing much about the requirements of technical drawings , Roger stepped up to the challenge . As it turned out , he was good and his drawings did not go unnoticed . Soon , he was working for an electrical contractor in an oil refinery . During that time , he constantly studied and read up about electronic theories and within six months into his new job , Roger was doing estimates in tendering , implementing management theories and establishing good practices . So capable was he , that when his boss was away , Roger was the one who was running the entire company . After one and a half years , Roger felt that he did not have adequate practical experience and asked his boss to let him be a trainee at the field . Determined to learn as much as he could , lunch-time was a quick five minute affair and the rest of that time was dedicated to training himself to be more adept at the toolbox . Soon , he became so skilled at the toolbox that he challenged the work instruction of skilled workers because he believed that his method was more efficient . They had a quick competition and the older workers lost to Roger and therefore , adopted Roger ’ s ‘ good practice ’.
It was at this time that the thought of starting his own business struck Roger . With everything else in place and a capital of his own $ 3,000 and $ 12,000 from four other partners , Roger started Rotary Engineering in 1972 . By 1978 , the company was also registered in Port Dickson and thus , began its regionalization programme . In the early 1990s , Rotary Engineering had expanded to Thailand and China . In addition to those countries , Rotary Engineering now boasts a global presence through its expansion in
Indonesia , India , Australia , Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates .
Success of course , was not God-given . Roger recalls a criticism by a Japanese client . Roger said , “ He asked me how I could call my company an engineering firm if we did not do designs .” Undaunted by this , Roger immediately set to work and created a Design Department in his company . It is clear to see that his constant desire to improve himself was an asset to his business as well . Additionally , Roger believes that in order to succeed in the business world , one must be honest , truthful and stay focused . “ Do what you like to do but don ’ t be fickle . Once you have chosen your path , stay focused . You cannot be greedy ,” he says with much gravity in his voice . He also attests that one should also stay out of Envy ’ s path as that is very often detrimental to businesses and the person in the long run .
For young Josephians who are thinking about their careers , Roger warns that they will find themselves in a less than friendly environment . He believes that the affluence of the nation and the existence of small family units has unfortunately , created young people who may not be resilient enough to face challenges . But competition is a reality . The small population in Singapore cannot sustain its rapid economic growth and so , the young Singaporean will find that he or she has to compete with foreigners who are hungry for success and a better life .
For them , Roger has these words of advice , “ Make adversity work for you , work hard , work smart and be innovative . Take ownership for the things that you do and when you have chosen your path , stay focused .”
This page : Secondary 4F with Form Master Mr Roy Suffhil . Roger is standing at the last row , second from right .