“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” This line from Steve Job’s Stanford University commencement address is illuminated when you talk to Toshin Canute Sequeira, President of SMU International Connections (ICON).
With a gift for people development and making those around him feel comfortable, Toshin has spent the past two years making a difference to many in SMU. He devotes his time to working with people through clubs like SMU Students’ Association (SMUSA) and SMU ICON, as a Career Champion, and even with the SMU Drama Society, where he indulges in performing to understand a wide range of personalities.
Do the uncomfortable
Toshin recalls taking up his first leadership role three years ago in his high school student council, with the support of his elder sister. With his friendly disposition and outgoing nature, it is hard to believe that he was shy and introverted just a couple of years ago, before he decided to step out of his comfort zone.
Before coming to Singapore and joining SMU, Toshin had plans to take his time to understand the culture and environment before settling in. But when he arrived, he decided to take the bull by its horns to pursue what he wanted.
“I dived in because these opportunities don’t come by easily. I had spoken to some seniors who regretted waiting too long to get fully involved in school. So I decided to take my shot.”
When asked about his motivation behind joining people-development clubs like SMUSA and SMU ICON, Toshin’s reply is simple, “I choose the things that I really care about. By giving myself a head start, I also had more time to try out different things, and figure out what I wanted at different points in time.”
In his first year, Toshin enjoyed serving, and so he joined SMUSA without knowing much about the organisation. After a year of better understanding the wants and needs of students, Toshin found new purpose in building a family culture and making people feel invested in SMU, so he joined SMU ICON, where he could make a difference for a cause that he cared deeply about.
Toshin acknowledges that his roles to voice student concerns in SMUSA and promote integration on campus in SMU ICON bear heavy responsibility. He explains why he believes in taking care of himself, before being able to help others.
“When you’re in the airplane, you are told that when the cabin pressure drops, and the oxygen mask falls, you have to put on your own mask before helping others. It’s the same thing with leadership. You need to be able to help yourself and understand yourself, so that you can serve better in the role that you’re playing.”
Over the recent years, through taking up leadership roles and a genuine love for talking to people and reaching out, Toshin’s sociability measure has shifted from a strong I (Introversion) to a strong E (Extraversion), according to the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. He credits his personality developments to keeping an open mind and letting go of inhibitions. He shares that this allows you to “discover what you want to be rather than what you were comfortable being.”
Toshin recognises that students who have more introverted personalities might struggle with SMU’s heavy focus on group work, class participation points, and the seminar-style teaching system. In addition to having an open-mind, he shares two more pointers that help with assimilating into a new environment.
First off, be genuine.
“Be genuinely interested in someone else’s life. When you show that you truly care, it is natural for the other party to show genuine interest in you as well, and this helps to strengthen your relationships.”
Secondly, look out for an interest group that resonates with you. Because there are similar interests, bonding will come easier and from there, building up a circle of friends becomes more natural. Likewise, for international students, take comfort in a familiar culture and community, but try not to become siloed off from the rest of the student population. Make friends with classmates, because in class is where you have the opportunity to meet many different people.
Before concluding our chat, Toshin gave us one last piece of life advice.
“Your life is your own puzzle to piece together, and you’re really choosing the pieces when you come to university. It’s a continuous journey so try not to get too stressed out. In difficult moments, take a step back and pick yourself up.”