Interview with Felix Tan – Founder of Skilio

(photo courtesy of Felix Tan)

1. What activities did you take part in while studying Global Studies in NUS?

In my first two years as an undergraduate, I stayed in Temasek Hall and spent the last 1.5 years in Shears Hall. I was extremely active in sports such as football and Speak Takraw. I love to exercise and not be too desk-bound for a long time. I was also part of the National Overseas College (NOC) programme where I spent six months on Skilio, building it up full-time, and subsequently took a gap semester to focus on Skilio. This one-year commitment to my own start-up enabled me to get a grant from Enterprise Singapore. I was also very involved with the N-house community, formed by students who came back to campus after their NOC experience.

2. What is your greatest takeaway from your education years?

My greatest takeaway is we should be clear on what we want as having that clarity gave me a lot of opportunities and room to explore what I hope to grow in. I learnt how to start my own enterprise, how to be resourceful, networking and organising events. You own your own destiny; you can choose how you want to chart your own educational experience in any school or in any other setting by having a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve at the end of it. Personally, my goal was to do decently well for my studies while building a sustainable business simultaneously, and I am glad to have been able to achieve that on top of attending different events and honing my networking skills.

3. What inspired you to start Skilio? Why the name “Skilio”?

I come from a modest family and had to grow up early. Due to the surroundings I grew up in, I kind of had to short circuit my childhood days and with an earlier maturity, I was more mindful and self-aware of the things that were happening around me. I was blessed to have been given opportunities to serve in leadership capacities in my schooling years, and that gave me a greater appreciation of the importance of self-awareness. At the end of the day, it all boils down to how we decide to choose to live our journey that matters. I am fortunate to have found a deep passion in the education and youth development space early on in my life due to the prior exposure I had in the various school activities I partook in. My personal experiences gave me deeper clarity on my passion, and I would encourage everyone to explore what their passions are to find greater clarity and purpose in their personal calling. While I feel lucky I found my calling early, I do strongly believe that everyone has their own journey to take to get to know what they want, and there should not be a premium placed over someone discovering their calling earlier in life. It is always a constant journey of self-discovery.

I started Skilio to help students ease the school to work transition. The word ‘Skilio’ is an amalgamation of the words ‘skills’ and ‘portfolio’. In creating Skilio, we hope that students would be recognised for their skillsets and not merely recognised based on grades. There are many people who may not boast a string of As / Distinctions but their other skillsets enable them to do amazing things for the society and the world. By benchmarking success to a letter grade, we are not unearthing gems and talents that might suit different professions.

4. What are some of the key challenges you faced in running Skilio and how you overcame them?

We pivoted the business many times to find what makes sense for students, and how we could best impact students positively. These have always been our guiding north star. The core of what we do will always essentially be finding ways to  help students transit better to the workplace.

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The challenges we faced revolved around credibility and product development. When we first started this business as undergraduates, it was common for people to ask if we were going to sustain the project for the long haul as most had the perception that school projects might not be around six months down the road. We had to position ourselves in a way that we knew what we were doing and are committed to the cause. In the initial phase, like all young, ambitious and eagled-eyed undergraduates, we wanted to solve multiple different problems and our product eventually felt confusing to use by our end-users. We stayed the course and used our experience to pave a better path forward. We realised that there are simply too many problems in the world, and there are many different facets of each problem, thus we deliberately refined and scoped our problem, and with constant experimentation, we were able to figure out the best product to help students with the school to work transition. This takes consistent product and service delivery.

5. Where do you see yourself five to ten years down the road?

I don’t think I always have a clear picture. I always think that life is always in a flux, you will never know what is coming your way or what opportunity might come along. The areas where I am passionate about are youth development and empowerment, how to get young people to solve important problems and there are many methods to go about creating value-added solutions. Ultimately, it is always about the core values and purpose I hold dear to in all the work that I do; this is what will remain across all of my endeavours. While the modes may be different, I do see myself contributing largely to this space for the next few years.

6. Where do you see Skilio five to ten years down the road?

We want to be the leading platform for skills-based hiring for campus recruiters, and move further downstream to impact every worker. The current method of recruitment is still very much based on a resume, and that is not sufficient to enable us to see the true worth and value of each and every individual. Skilio wants to help everyone to showcase the skills they have honed/developed over time and how they are able to apply the acquired skills in their prospective line of work.  We are confident that this would be a better indication of ability, rather than only looking at past experiences and academic abilities on a piece of paper. We want to promote skills-based hiring phenomenon in the industry and move the success indicator away from traditional measures and look at abilities and skills.

7. What are your hobbies?

I enjoy running to decompress and relax. I also like to follow football, am a huge arsenal fan, and I catch the games every weekend. I enjoy watching Netflix and am a sucker for thriller and mystery genres as they resonate with me. Money Heist is a superb film which I love and keeps you on the feet all the way! I also dabble in investment and keep myself abreast of current affairs.

8. What is one quote you live by?

There are many, but I especially like the one by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Don’t take the path well-trodden, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. That left a very deep impression on me when I was younger, as I was someone who will ask, “Why are we following proposals passed down from previous teams to run a certain event and not try something new? If we followed what was already done previously, there wouldn’t be some new fun right?” I will always question myself and my team, “How can we do things better and differently?”

We don’t always have to follow convention, we can challenge assumptions, and do things differently. These are the things that I live by.

9. What is one thing you would tell your past self and your future self?

Past Self: Good job so far! I lived my life to the best I could, given the circumstances. (It is alright to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!)

Future Self: Don’t be afraid to fail because as we grow older, we tend to become more risk averse and play it safe due to certain obligations, responsibilities and circumstances. But, don’t play it safe.

10. What advice do you have for young business owners/entrepreneurs in Singapore?

Just do it. We always think about doing something, we think, plan and put everything on paper, but we don’t execute. For anyone starting any ground up or side hustle, just do it and figure the way out later. Most of the time we wouldn’t even know what to expect anyway. You can have a plan but it may not be fool-proof, just do it, take the first step and work out the rest of the steps as it comes.

More about Felix Tan

Felix is deeply passionate in empowering people to achieve their potential in life and building tightly knitted communities. He is also a strong believer in giving a chance to each individual to lead a purposeful life, regardless of their circumstances and background. Discover more about his journey here.

More about Skilio

Skilio is a school-to-work skills digital portfolio that helps you to build and showcase skills sought after by employers. They have a dedicated Campus Academy to help you better understand what employers look out for and their hiring information. You can also take part in Skills Pathways and Skills Modules to build you the skills that your preferred employers are looking for.

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