CONGRATULATIONS to Mr. Gan Teong Hock, who had achieved his Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) Title!
We had conducted a short interview with Mr. Gan on his journey to DTM, and here are what we found out:
- How did you come to know about Toastmasters?
I was introduced to D’Utama by my brother-in-law, Johnson T S Chan, who was also a member of the Club until he migrated to Canada. That was way back in 1987, when Toastmasters was still a very well-kept secret in Malaysia. There were only very few clubs around and D’Utama was one of them. Therefore, although I was residing in Taman Muda, Ampang then, I traveled all the way to KDU to attend D’Utama meeting. TS was introduced to D’Utama by his friend who was a member, and he told me about Toastmasters, Table Topics, prepared speeches, evaluations, the whole work… And I thought it sounded a good way for me to practice and improve my English. So, the next meeting I joined TS to the meeting and I was impressed by what I saw. And to my surprise, one of my secondary school senior, Peter Wong, was also a member. After the mandatory three consecutive meetings, I joined the Club as a member - it was towards the end of Steven Si’s Presidency term (end of 1987 – in those days the club officers’ terms were from January to December) and the next thing I knew, both TS and I (both being accountants) were elected as the Club auditors for 1988 when Koh Moh Tang was elected as the President to succeed Steven. I then served as Treasurer under Peter Wong’s term in 1989 and as SAA under JC Quah’s term in 1990. Then in 1991, due to my work commitment, I opted out of the Exco and also slowed down my participation in Toastmasters. In 1994, after prolonged absence from D’Utama meetings, I decided to quit Toastmasters. Little did I realise then that I would one day return to D’Utama to continue my unfinished journey. I came back to D’Utama in November 2002, when Michele Ng was at the helm. And like they said, the rest is history.
- What motivated or inspired you to go on to pursue DTM status?
The learning opportunities offered by Toastmasters is the one strong motivating factor to keep me going.
As I mentioned, I joined D’Utama with only one simple objective: To practice and improve my English. I was from Chinese primary school and my secondary school was Catholic High School, which is just another Chinese school although it is a governmental school. I conversed in Chinese and Chinese dialects most of the time except at work where I have to use my “broken” English at times. I like reading but I read Chinese books most of the time except for study and working materials. With this background, you can see how impressed I was by D’Utama members who can speak well in good English. I was even more impressed by members who could motivate with their speeches or make audience laugh with their humours in their speeches. I would be happy if I could be just half as good as them. That was my motivation then – to be able to use good English to deliver speeches in proper English. At that time, although I served in the Exco, I have no idea about the leadership track in Toastmasters – my primary focus was on my communication track. You see, I have to repeat most of my speeches, sometimes repeat again! (Those days, the evaluators literally told you that you had failed and asked you to repeat your speech!) So, when I began my 8-year sabbatical leave, I had not completed my CTM (Competent Toastmaster) yet. I finally completed my CTM in 2003 – I think I must have been the record holder in completing the first ten assignments over a span of 15 years!
The quest for leadership excellence arose for me when D’Utama members elected me as the Club President in 2004/05. I began to understand the dual-track education offered by Toastmasters. Even then, I did not set any target for my DTM award. I decided to move with the flow, be participative, play roles, do my speeches, take up more leadership roles, and see how far my journey will take me in Toastmasters. I am happy that it culminated in my DTM award today, 25 years after I first started my Toastmasters journey.
- How has Toastmasters helped you?
Toastmasters had brought great transformation in me, in many ways. I was naturally an introverted person. As an accountant, my jobs revolved around numbers and figures, not words or speeches. Since joining D’Utama, I had been transformed from being ultra-introverted person to somewhat more balanced between extroverted and introverted. Toastmasters have also given me the platform to give speeches and presentations using words, not numbers. I have also accomplished my initial objective of joining Toastmasters, ie to improve my English. In fact, I started reading English novels (not the simplified version that the school taught) after I became a Toastmasters.
Most Toastmasters are positive and inspirational, so that helps me a great deal too. Coupled with my improved command in English, I became more confident, more self-motivated and strongly positive in my outlooks since becoming a Toastmaster. I have also learned to be a more effective leader and listener. All these transformation have a great impact in my career advancement too. In short, Toastmasters has certainly played an important role in shaping my life to who I am today.
- What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I like reading, playing chess, listening to classical, sentimental, light and easy music (not the heavy stuff). I am not much of a sports person although I enjoyed jogging and jungle tracking (within my limitation.) And of course, Toastmasters meetings ranked highly in my hobbies and interests.
- Who are some leaders you admire and why?
If you’re referring to leaders in Toastmasters fraternity, I have many. First come to mind is our Charter President Victor Vincent Wong, for his ability to motivate his audience with his inspirational speeches all the time. Past Presidents Steven Si and Koh Moh Tang are also leaders I admired greatly with their leadership qualities. Past Presidents JC Quah and Sharon Ng have been my mentors at different stages of my developments in Toastmasters. And there are many other members, within D’Utama and from other clubs, who have helped me in one way or another, inspired me with their leadership and communication skills, and to whom I still looked up to and seek guidance when in need. To name just some of them: President Johnson Yike; Past Presidents Peter Wong, Gary Lim, Wu Tse Sing (deceased), Vijayakumar, G Siva, Lee Wei Seong, Allen Kam, Nancy Liew, Teoh Chun Ming and others; Tham Chee Wah, Low Yat Seow, Soh Fong Wai and Henry Fu; Ivy Cherng and Sam Leong (both Metropolitan Bilingual); Sue Ding (Shaklee); Dr Sharon Tong and NJ Singam (both WIM); Jon Tan, Cheong Kuok Sum and Lee Xi Wen (all TTDI); Tan Lay Theng and Kim Chow (both Friendship); Zaharah Ibrahim (MAICSA); Geoff Andrew and Ramdas Nayar (both MIM); and of course, the three ladies who helped me in my High Performance Leadership project as members of my Guidance Committee, LeAnn Tang (Taman Indrahana), Lum Woon Foong (Metropolitan) and Lim Lay Kun (DU Advanced). The list just goes on and there are many more leaders whom I admired but not able to name them all here.
- What advice would you give to a new Toastmaster?
Allowed me to borrow the words of Steve Job, “Have the courage to follow your heart. Stay hungry, stay foolish”. With these attributes, there are many learning opportunities and learning points in Toastmasters for us to improve as a leader and a communicator.
- Now that you’re achieved DTM, what’s next in line for you?
Continue to enjoy my journey in Toastmasters, learning and sharing with fellow members, for as long as I am still enjoying it.