Education is always a continuous experience. But for the most part, it’s something where we pretty much spend our first 20 odd years crossing that academic education hurdle. From 1st grade mathematics, to a postgraduate qualification, its a ladder a lot of us climb (or at least try to). Social norm dictates that you get a degree, get a job, get paid well and move on with your life. Then, you retire and live the rest of life in peace. But what if it simply isn’t enough? What if you moved on with your life, but the hunger for knowledge still remains? Meet Rex Fernando, a man who believes in lifelong learning.
60 years young, still hungry for knowledge
Back in the 1970’s, Rex Fernando had just completed his degree in Mathematics. A few years later, he got his postgraduate diploma in Mathematical Physics. This was a followed by a certificate in Information Processing and then a masters in management science. At the time Rex mentions that he specialized on operational research and Management Information Systems. This was in the 1980’s – 1990’s where he worked at NIBM before moving on to MAS Slimline, to the apparel industry.
Even at the early days of his career, Rex truly believed in the whole idea of continuous learning. Few years after joining the apparel industry, Rex pursued his MBA at the University of Wollongong in Australia and continued his executive education at National University of Singapore & Cornell University. Rex went on to lead several key positions from General Manager to Head of Division for leading companies in the apparel industry including MAS holdings, Brandix and Emjay Penguin.
So, after about 20 years in HRM one would assume that a well deserved retirement plan is on the cards. But no. Rex was still keen on learning. Along with his enthusiasm for learning, Rex felt he needed to diversify his career opportunities. Process improvement was a domain Rex felt he should look at. Hence, he decided to follow Lean Six Sigma. But Rex didn’t just follow. He even managed to complete the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course (more on that later) ahead of any of his peers in class.
Rex Fernando: Rebooting myself with lean six sigma
Rex wanted to up-skill/multi-skill himself to be on par, if not be ahead with the younger generation today. A system reboot if you will. He believed Six Sigma was the way to do it. But what exactly is this Lean Six Sigma? In Rex’s own words, Lean Six Sigma simply refers to a structured problem solving methodology that provide a skill set for one to improve any process or an operation.
For those of you curious, Six Sigma is a structured problem solving methodology which was co-created by late Prof. Mikel J. Harry and Bill Smith in Motorola in 1986. This focused on reducing variation and improving velocity of value in everything what we do based on a structured approach commonly referred to as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve & Control). Lean on the other hand build upon Toyota Production System (TPS) with a similar focus look at reducing waste (muda) and variation (mura) and doing so aim to reduce stress on resources (muri). It helps to improve the flow of operations using a set of five principles. Lean Six Sigma is the combined approach that binds the goodness of the both worlds and teaches problem solving tools covered by both concepts under the DMAIC approach.
Lean Six Sigma competency credentials follow a belt based system introduced by Prof. Mikel J Harry similar to what you would see in Karate. The more skills and experience you acquire leads to an higher belt class. The first level starts off with White Belt and goes on until Executive Master Black Belt qualification. Rex, recently completed his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (BB) certification at the Dr Mikel J Harry Six Sigma Management Institute Asia (SSMI Asia), ahead of many participants. Most of them whom represented the X & Y generation. That’s quite the achievement considering he also became the first to be certified as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in Sri Lanka after 60 years of age.
We can learn a thing or two from Rex Fernando
Looking forward, Rex hopes to get into the data science/data analytics field while get elevated to Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt (MBB). Most of us seem to follow the norm of study first, get a job, earn enough retire. But here’s a guy in his 60’s aspiring to diversify his career opportunities and get into the data science field. If that isn’t motivation for you, then I don’t know what is.
Rex Fernando’s attitude and his approach in life is not only inspiring. But it also goes to show that nothing really is impossible if you set your mind to it. You’re never too old or too young for that matter, to learn something new. Kudos to Rex and here’s us wishing him the best of luck.
In case you’d like to get in touch with Rex, here’s his LinkedIn profile.