My Grade 8 English teacher helped me understand that it was the effort that counted and that if I didn’t achieve what I set out to do the first time, it didn’t mean I was a failure. He encouraged me to be courageous and confident, and through his own enthusiasm motivated my efforts. This commitment to his students was not unusual; at UWCSEA, all my teachers cared about me in the same way. As a result, I see motivated effort, regardless of the outcome, as the key to my learning journey."Sophie Syed ’09, Mentor, Community Builder, Art Night Singapore Host and Marketing Consultant
After graduating from UWCSEA in 2009, I was fortunate to attend the University of Virginia on a partial scholarship as a UWC-Davis Scholar. In 2013, after graduating with a double degree in Foreign Affairs and French, I was hired by an incubator to develop a business idea, which I helped to launch as an ad-tech startup in Singapore. Though it no longer exists today, I was able to hone many lessons that began at UWCSEA and which still help me grow in my personal and professional life - the two most important being: learn from your mistakes and keep persisting.
Looking for ways to contribute to positive social impact, I moved into the non-profit space for a different experience and joined the Singapore International Foundation. As part of the Our Better World team, I took on the role of a Social Media Community Manager, where I used my creativity to increase the audience for our video stories online while inspiring them to take action.
From there, I moved back into the technology space, joining HubSpot in a client-facing role, where I consult on sales, marketing and service strategies. Today, I help businesses grow through the concept of inbound marketing, by helping them reframe their processes and shift their perceptions around the way they work.
Outside of work, I host a creative monthly get-together for a growing community called 'Art Night Singapore', and occasionally mentor students from UWCSEA.
Reflecting on my seven years at UWCSEA, most of all it was the teachers who encouraged me to be open-minded, aware, and open to new experiences. My Grade 8 English teacher taught me the etymology of the word “anadiplosis” in one of our first classes. I guessed that it meant “an explosion of letters” and while this turned out to be incorrect, the exchange stimulated my academic thirst for language. That teacher went on to be a mentor for the rest of my time at UWCSEA. He showed me that with motivation, I could achieve whatever I wanted – no matter how long it took and how hard I had to work for it. He helped me understand that it was the effort that counted and that if I didn’t achieve what I wanted the first time, it didn’t mean I was a failure. He encouraged me to be courageous and confident through his own enthusiasm for my efforts. He is just one example of how all my teachers encouraged me to take risks and extend myself to explore the possibilities that were open to me.
The other strength I gained at UWCSEA was the way just being in the community helped me internalise and learn about cultural nuances. This understanding about the differences in people’s backgrounds enabled me to find my place at university, even though I was from the other side of the world as an ‘international student’ in a very different culture.
The maturity I gained from all my experiences at UWCSEA has helped me to succeed in whatever I have chosen to do since - at college, being a Resident Advisor and in other different leadership and advisory roles, when starting my own organisation, or in my professional life.
In the IB Diploma, Sophie studied English, Economics, Biology, French, History and Mathematics.