Friday, February 13, 2015

Can You Succeed Without A Degree?

I am degree-less. Actually, I plan to stay this way until I breathe my last (the philosophy: one gets to be creative and see how far one could go in a limited/restricted environment) but then something happened. I fell in love. With Italy. My Italian immigration lawyer (I have yet to engage him but we've been communicating and he's very generous with information) informed that for me to obtain a PR in Italy, I need a university degree. This is why, my friends, I am finally taking the plunge.

Books (I own almost 2,000 in my personal library, excluding Kindle titles). TED. Coursera. Webinars and trainings. YouTube. Even Netflix, aren't enough for me anymore. In the name of love (for Italy), I NEED that darn piece of paper. I suppose it would be a lot easier if I find myself an Italian husband—maybe—but that's like striking the lottery. I probably have a better chance with the lottery. I'm jinxed to be forever alone, so the husband-route is out of the picture.

Back to the resources I've just mentioned, although they are perfect for me they aren't enough anymore. I could find anything I want and learn everything that I'm interested in using those methods, but I need that degree. So, at the age of 37 (in October last year) I finally enrolled myself in an MBA program. Coincidentally, folks in their 30's are the best pool for MBA.

So, can you succeed without a degree? My answer is yes, you can. It will take a longer time and the willingness to wait, and start from the bottom rung of the ladder. It's really not that bad because as you work your way up (or if you eventually start your own company), you gain valuable insights and perspective that otherwise wouldn't have been accessible to you if you are the regular guy (or gal) who graduates and work.

Snapshot from a deck I presented in 2009 during a conference in Singapore for Personal Assistants and Executive Assistant. To see the full deck, please click here.

Why am I degree-less? It's a long story dated way back to when I was 17 (that's more than 20 years ago), but here's the shorter version: I had to forego university and help my mom in supporting the family. Dad decided to disappear and we knew what his vices were, but being the eldest of six siblings, I must help my mom. That was the beginning of my strategic thinking practice, and survival had a lot to do with it.

I knew back then that I wouldn't be able to go to the university and do all the cool stuff my classmates would be doing. I had strategized my entire school life gearing towards U-day and for a scholarship by holding positions in school clubs, being a class monitor for several years and eventually a prefect then head prefect, but when dad left, I was left with no choice but to start working so I had to do a complete reset to the grand plans for my future. The 17-year-old me sent in unsolicited job applications and trawled job advertisements. I consulted my mom in a lot of things. She's a very strong woman. Books have always been my best friends even when I was a toddler and my entire life is shaped by the books I read. I have no regrets; I just did things differently and still achieved my goals.

Snapshot from a deck I presented in 2009 during a conference in Singapore for Personal Assistants and Executive Assistant. To see the full deck, please click here.

I am where I am today due to the opportunities that people and companies have given me and their trust in my capabilities. I did all the preparation the unconventional way, I worked hard (and still do), and actively looked for work that would ultimately shape my CV. I may not have a degree but that doesn't mean I'm not educated or knowledgeable. From the humble beginning as a clerk 20 years ago, I am now a regional platform manager. This journey has taught me to be a better person, to treat everyone with respect, never be a snob and definitely not a know-it-all.

I am finally working towards a closure and by that I mean, in getting a degree. Every day I am closer to achieving and living my dream. Need a jolt of inspiration? Check this out...

P/S: In the near future, I would like to earn an Italian degree, studying in the language.