Championing Soft Skills: A Chat with Skilio’s Felix (Part 1)

As renowned naturalist Charles Darwin remarked, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

In this increasingly chaotic and disruptive world we live in, the importance to adapt and stay relevant has never been more important.

Soft skills such as clear communication and empathy are crucial to doing well in both professional and personal domains of life.

Felix is the Founder and CEO of Skilio. With the belief that soft skills tell a greater story than paper qualifications, Skilio is a soft skills measurement and analytics platform that empowers organisations to track soft skill development. 

A current undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Felix participated in NUS Overseas College (Singapore) where he worked full-time on Skilio over 6 months. 

Deeply passionate about educating youths, he was formerly a Lead Trainer at Reactor, where he trained and mentored youths in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand on entrepreneurship skills.

Tun Yong: What was the problem you identified that led you to start Skilio?

Felix: I was previously heavily involved in youth training and facilitation work with Halogen and Reactor. That led me to the thought that academics alone do not define the future career success of an individual. 

The workplace is changing – no longer are you looking at just hard skills, or pure academic grades, to get into the doors of companies. 

Companies are looking at soft skills too – like leadership and teamwork. I was thinking that in all these leadership camps and workshops that I run, the majority of the time, it’s a one-off effect. It’s impossible to become a great leader at a 3-day leadership workshop. 

I realized that the gap was, how could we have that continuous touchpoint, with students to continue to allow them to develop their soft skills. That led me to ask this question of myself, “How can I help students to measure and track development in these soft skills?” 

From there, things started rolling, and we started thinking of ways to answer that problem statement. In June 2018, I started validating some ideas, drawing up some prototypes and testing them with my educator friends and some students.

We reached where we are today after numerous iterations and challenges. In essence, I will say that it started with me identifying a problem that I was very passionate about, and one thing led to the other.

The Skilio Team

Tun Yong: What attracted you to education and youth facilitation work?

Felix: I didn’t come from the most well-to-do family background. When I was in secondary school, I was given a lot of opportunities to grow as a leader and lead the school in various capacities. That gave me a lot of room to develop myself.

I wasn’t very good at academics too. However, my teachers still gave me the chance to develop holistically. When I look back, I realized that not every student was as lucky as I am. 

That got me to perceive education as a way to uplift people that were going through difficulties. Soon, I was thinking about how I can scale up the impact that I can bring about. I got started on doing youth facilitation work and educating youths. 

I was also thinking about how I could translate my work to impact more people. When I was helping out at Reactor, I found out about entrepreneurship and how we could use technology to scale up the impact of our work. 

I found my passion in education a long time ago, it was just figuring out in which part of the education ecosystem I wanted to plug a gap in. I stumbled upon the gap brought about by the lack of soft skills tracking and decided to tackle that.

Tun Yong: In the long-term, do you think that the Singaporeans can change their fixation on grades? Or do you think it is entrenched in society? 

Felix: I think that it can be changed. However, we need support from different stakeholders within the education ecosystem for that to happen. 

If I were to give an analogy, the education system is like a big cruise ship. It’s very hard for us to change the direction of a cruise ship, without having buy-in from different stakeholders, or different people that are operating the cruise ship.

These stakeholders could be parents, students, educators and even the policymakers. If we can bring in other ecosystem partners, such as employers to also look at hiring for qualities other than academics, we can slowly move in that direction and turn away the fixation on grades.

However, I have to say that there are many indications that we are moving in the correct direction. For example, MOE has started to reduce exams in some of the secondary levels and have made it compulsory for students to go for OBS – to get experiential learning in the outdoor context. 

Companies are also looking past your GPA and CAP. They are increasingly focusing on internships and volunteering programmes you have organised. It is a step in the right direction and the different puzzle pieces within the education system are turning away from the fixation on grades.

It’s a long drawn process. That’s why we need people and partners to come together to drive that change together.

Interested in learning about Skilio and the work they do? Check them out here.

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview series, as Felix shares his thoughts on the importance of soft skills and how he juggled running Skilio with studies.

This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great, young minds!

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Tun Yong Yap

Passionate about start-ups that identify problems, develop ideas and execute solutions that value-add to the community. As the Content Manager at EDGE, I seek to connect with youth founders to share their story and inspire others to turn their ideas into reality.

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