It takes nerves of steel to perform in front of a big crowd, especially if you're a novice at it. But, at the nail-biting grand final of the my paper Executive 2012 competition last Friday, the 16 finalists took that challenge head-on, in a bid to be named Singapore's savviest executive.
And they did so quite admirably, with style, aplomb and, most impressively, unwavering confidence. The two-hour showdown at The Lawn @ Marina Bay saw the finalists - a motley bunch from industries including finance and law - try their best to impress a panel of judges with their poise, eloquence and charisma in front of a 500-strong audience.
The $10,000 grand prize eventually went to architectural assistant Austen Chan, 28, from Singapore-based firm DP Architects.
His colleague and good friend, 26-year-old architectural assistant Mandy Too, clinched the third prize of $3,000, while consultant Marcus Royce Lee from business consultancy aAdvantage placed second, taking home $5,000. Miss Too also bagged the award for Most Stylish.
Indeed, this year's batch were decidedly more confident overall, said one of the five judges, my paper's lifestyle and entertainment editor Jill Alphonso.
"The final 16 were particularly striking this year as they showed themselves to be extremely driven individuals with clear goals and ideas when it came to both their professional and personal lives," she said.
Now in its fifth year, the my paper Executive contest attracted a record 535 applicants.
Ms Rose Tong, the director of retail management for venue sponsor Marina Bay Link Mall, and another of the night's judges, praised the top three in particular for their ability to engage the crowd. "Austen was charming and and sincere, while Mandy was quick-thinking and showed she had brains as well as beauty," she explained. "As for Marcus, he was suave and seemed like a gentleman."
The trio's winning moxie was best showcased during the "firing-squad" segment, when the final five contestants were tasked with answering rapid-fire questions from a team of quick-witted personalities.
Mr Chan, for example, was quizzed on whether he'd choose brains over looks in a potential partner, and his off-the-cuff answer sent the audience into peals of laughter.
"I'd definitely choose looks...brains can be trained," the self-deprecating guy, who added that he possesses neither, joked.
More seriously though, Mr Chan stressed the importance of teamwork at the office, when asked what he would do if his boss claimed credit for his work.
The other judges were Mr Goh Sin Teck, consulting editor of my paper (Chinese) and editor of Lianhe Zaobao; Ms Elsie Chua, executive vice-president of display advertisements for Singapore Press Holdings' marketing division; and Mr Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at recruitment agency The GMP Group.
Still, it was not just the judges who were impressed by Mr Chan's honesty and sharp sense of humour. His fellow contestants, such as strategic planner for Iris Worldwide Nicky Nole, 27, were also blown away, especially as the guy had been considered an underdog in the lead-up to the main event.
"He really brought his A-Game...he was great under pressure," she said. In Singapore's bustling corporate landscape, being resilient is, indeed, a crucial quality for any executive.
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