How My Degree Prepared Me For The Future

Zhennan Low

Zhennan Low (Business Studies, 2008, Fylde) who originates from Singapore and is now running his own company there, reflects on his time at Lancaster in the light of the pandemic.

"Covid-19. Within a matter of months this pandemic disrupted what humanity has built and achieved over decades. Apart from the effects of the virus, economies are badly hit and with that massive unemployment created. 

Before the pandemic, futurists talked of how AI would affect roles in white collar work in the same way as how machines in the industrial revolution took over blue collar work. 

All this made me think long and hard about what I’ve done in the past and if my university degree has prepared me for the murky future ahead. And this is my conclusion. 

To begin, I am an average student; I didn’t do too well in my 'A’ levels and I didn’t have many options for a university. I wanted to study business because it’s generic and I thought it could prepare me for the family business. I selected Lancaster thinking I wouldn’t get in, and was surprised when I received the letter of acceptance. 

Coming from Asia, specifically Singapore, I always had the notion that to succeed in education you have to put in the hours, memorise everything and regurgitate it at the exam; rinse and repeat for all subjects. 

However, this wasn’t the case as I began to notice the freedom and flexibility I was given at Lancaster. Sure, I still had my old study habits, but for once I was given the time to take a step back and ask myself “why am I studying for a degree”? Is it for a good job? A great starting salary? 

William B Yeats, the Irish 19th century poet, puts it best “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” 

One example of this was an entrepreneurship course with Mary Rose where the only criteria we had was to record in a weekly journal interesting or innovative ideas we came across. This brought much life and passion to what I was doing - discovering the universal truths that humanity has crossed over history. 

Fast forward to present day and I still apply these truths to what I do. Running a business is like navigating the oceans where there are no answers in textbooks, but rather universal truths observed in our daily lives. Working in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), we have tons of data research companies provide us, with a very high price tag, that tell you what is the most in-demand category for the year. Or you can simply observe these truths yourself by walking down the aisles of the supermarket and seeing how much space is given to these categories as a indication of what’s most in demand. 

So what is my conclusion? 

I believe my time in Lancaster gave me something more visceral than just subject knowledge; a keen hunger to learn about the truth. Yes, the future may be uncertain, complex, volatile and ambiguous, but these universal truths will always be there; it is just about making sense of it all and navigating our way around them. We are given the skills to read the map, use the compass and steer the ship, that’s enough to head towards the future headstrong. 

Patet omnibus veritas - truth lies open to all."



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