Published on: 08-Mar-2017
Rebecca Lim picked NBS because it offered a three-year track to an honours degree. It turned out to be a serendipitous decision. She had always known she wanted a vocation in in tourism; however, as there were no such degree available then, she chose what then seemed closest to that dream.
By the end of her first year, NBS offered its business students a brand new programme
– a chance to specialise in hospitality and tourism management. Rebecca jumped at the chance of course, and after a gruelling set of interviews and tests, finally got into the specialisation.
The years in NBS were good
– the coursework was great, she enjoyed hostel and school life immensely and made lots of good friends she still keeps in contact with today. "The selection tests really picked those with such similar interests and we really clicked together."
She remembers fondly her prof, Ivan Polunin, who shared about his backpacking adventures. He had also been involved in Tourism 21, a national blueprint to guide the growth of Singapore's tourism sector from 1996 to 2000. She was intrigued by his tales and his passion in the destination marketing of Singapore.
After graduation, her first aspiration was to join Singapore Tourism Board, but fate led her to take on a series of more hands-on jobs in events planning and account servicing for outbound corporate travel. Those stints were invaluable, giving her the chance to experience tourism in the operations in its nuts and bolts.
She finally joined Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 2001 but again, her path was circuitous
– she spent a few years with Marketing Services, handling destination marketing content and materials. Two and half years later, when STB started a new Singapore Medicine focus , she formed part of the pioneer team and then later moved to work with the International Office HQ which worked closely with STB's network of overseas offices.
When the opportunity came up in 2005, Rebecca chose a posting in India. At STB Mumbai, she spearheaded the pan-India branding and communications plans. Her most memorable experience was in conceptualising the campaign that rolled out with the first Bollywood movie, Krrish that was filmed in Singapore; and after that, a TV integration project of a popular Hindi drama serial that had three episodes shot fully in Singapore. Years later, she would meet Indians who when she mentioned she was from Singapore, would remark, "Yes, I remember it from Krrish" or "My son really wanted to visit Singapore ever since he saw that show." That was wonderful validation that her work had lasting impact.
Most of all, India changed her life. On the personal front, it was the first time she had lived overseas. It was also the first time she came face to face with such poverty and saw the huge socio-economy disparity. It planted the seed that she wanted to do work that would bring positive impact to others more directly. "India has grown on me and now I can't get India out of me," she confessed. She continues to visit her friends in Mumbai regularly.
In year 2010, she moved to Singapore International Foundation (SIF). It was there that the idea for Our Better World (OBW) emerged and she worked on piloting OBW, a digital platform that harnesses the power of stories to encourage others to do good. While there existed other US-based platforms that were doing such work, there was not a similar one in Asia that was telling Asian-centric stories in a professional, creative and authentic manner. OBW plugs that gap. The site hopes to use these stories to matchmake worthy causes with people in Asia that are keen to contribute back to society but do not know how or where to start.
She elaborates on her vision: "Our Better World aims to be a world leading storyteller for good and as a digital disruption for social impact."
It has been close to five years since the project started, but the results have been encouraging. In 2016, OBW stories achieved over 18 million online views and it has a growing online community of 400,000 from around the world.
She believes that OBW can be a Singapore innovation that brings a global community together to do good. She says, "Singapore is always known as striving to be best in the world. We have done well and will continue to do so. However, as we mature as a nation, I believe that Singapore can also be best for the world
– And OBW is one expression of that."
She stood guided by her passion for tourism, pursued it. One thing led to another; at each step she embraced each opportunity and gleaned valuable lessons that prepared her for the roles ahead. Looking back on the journey, the skills picked up and the experiences that shaped her character prepared her for the role she plays today at OBW.
In Rebecca is a story for each of us. Her journey seems uneventful: there were no earth-shaking moments, no sudden promotions, no fairy godmothers. It is characterised by small steps, even some steps that seemed to take her away from her goal
– as when Steve Jobs did calligraphy classes and friends asked him why he attended such an irrelevant programme but which led to the gorgeous fonts we now see on Mac software – but she continued to tread surely and firmly.
In this, Rebecca, and the success she has made of herself provides an inspiration for those following on in NBS
– in all things big and small, significant or seemingly irrelevant, do your best, be authentic, be open-minded, be sincere. And when you do that, your dreams find a way back to you.
Keep the NBS flag high, Rebecca!
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