Left: Lee Zhi Ning, Mandy, who has a Diploma in Culinary Science and Baking, opted against a career in her academic field of study. Now, she is shaping young minds as an OBS Instructor.
Right: Muhammad Syafiq Bin Zulkefli imparts life skills to young people in Singapore as an OBS Instructor. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Nanyang Technological University and uses his academic training to help him solve problems amidst a dynamic work environment.
Outward Bound Singapore (OBS), is an institution that is familiar to most of us. A lot of memories were made when we embarked on our expeditionary courses, and many life-long friendships were forged. Just as important, OBS has been strengthening the resilience and ruggedness of Singapore's youth, as well as developing youth leaders and mentors.
Taking on the mantle of continuing OBS's ethos of teaching valuable life lessons using the great outdoors are OBS Instructors, Lee Zhi Ning, Mandy, and Muhammad Syafiq Bin Zulkefli. Both took on a career path that is starkly different from their academic background. They share with BrightMinds their aspirations at OBS.
Architect of Young Lives
An assumption would be that you need to be comfortable in the wilderness before joining OBS as an instructor. However, Mandy admitted that she had limited outdoor experience and she was only introduced to OBS when she paid a visit to her doctor.
Explained 24-year-old Mandy: "My doctor has an acquaintance who is an OBS Instructor. Knowing my personality, he thought that being an OBS Instructor is a good career option for me." At that juncture, Mandy was at the crossroads as she was considering either furthering her studies or getting a job. Eventually, she opted for the latter, applied to be an OBS Instructor and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I come from a financially-challenged family. During my studies, I always had support from the government, and in return, I want to give back to society," added Mandy, on her career choice. "Furthermore, there are plenty of opportunities for personal growth at OBS and you'll get to shape the lives of young people. This is the perfect job for me."
Indeed, her participants have been her source of motivation.
She admitted that being an OBS Instructor can be very hectic, especially when they have consecutive courses planned. Mandy elaborated that for a five-day course, she will receive students on a Monday and send them back on Friday. After an internal debrief, she will prepare for the following week, when the cycle starts all over again.
"Bringing students out on their expeditions allow them to rediscover certain values and lessons that they can impart to their own life after the course. They will also be able to learn more in-depth about themselves. These experiences are invaluable and essential to their growth. It's particularly fulfilling to know that you have left a positive impact on them."
Mandy advised those who are considering a career with OBS to expect the unexpected and get ready to unlearn and relearn, much like what she has done.
"Changes are always happening in our line of work. Our work is very dynamic, so you have to expect changes, and keep an open mind."
A Meaningful Career
Like Mandy, Syafiq discovered the career opportunity at OBS through word of mouth. His wife was relating to him about her friend's experience as an OBS Instructor. That conversation made him reminisce about the times when he was on an Outward Bound Sabah course.
"It was certainly memorable, reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu as a 15-year-old," he recalled.
Syafiq added that he has always been comfortable being outdoors from his camping experiences while schooling and serving his National Service as an Infantry leader. However, what motivated him to put in an application to be an OBS Instructor was after his stint working with youths during his university days.
"I was part of the Welfare Services Club. I volunteered to work with young people and my role was to mentor the youths-at-risk. The stint made me think more about helping and guiding young people," he said. "After graduation, I was looking for something meaningful and that would require me to be physically active as well. I believe OBS has given me the very thing I was seeking for and I think it was a perfect match for me."
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Syafiq picked up where he left off, shaping the lives and imparting valuable life lessons in his current role. "We aim not only to guide participants to have a good experience in the outdoor, but to be able to convert the outdoor experience into meaningful life skills for them as well."
He added that his engineering training groomed him to make logical decisions amidst a dynamic work environment. Most certainly, his background and experience helped him immensely when he conducted his first overseas course in Brunei.
"It was a huge milestone for me as it brought me to a new environment with different challenges. However, with the training I had, I was confident in running the course and it helped me grow as an instructor as well," he elaborated.
Syafiq is looking forward to the next stage of his career at OBS. The recently re-designated Senior Instructor wishes to remain in the training unit, so that he can influence more individuals in his organisation and beyond.
"I hope to be a better instructor as I believe my learning journey never stops. There is still so much to learn even after three years in OBS."
He wants to share knowledge and experience with his colleagues and juniors, whom he regards as family.
"OBS has a family culture akin to a kampong spirit. It's not only prevalent among the instructors but across the board between the different departments in OBS too. That is why I feel so comfortable at work. It's like having a family at work."
It is often said that an organisation is as good as its people. With motivated people like Mandy and Syafiq in its ranks, OBS is definitely maintaining its success and staying true to its ethos.