Jeyaragini d/o Davindran is an excitable, 28 year old who dances her weekends away. Quite literally so, as she has been a Classical Indian dancer since she was 10, and has performed at multiple shows around the country.
Speaking to Jeyaragini, you would imagine she’d be working somewhere requiring enormous energy and enthusiasm. And she does – as an Assistant Teacher at Mulberry Learning Centre. Much of her work involves running after playful preschoolers as they explore various activities like finger-painting and outdoor playtime, and gathering them as they sprint for their shower, nap and meal times – all dynamic roles that she relishes.
But this wasn’t always the case. In the last decade, Jeyaragini had studied and worked at something she excelled in, but was not terribly passionate about – mathematics. “I think living in Singapore is really about salaries,” she observes. “There’s a mindset of: Can [one] survive with a certain amount of money? For me, I was good in maths so I did a degree in maths,” she shares, recounting her decision during her tertiary education years to tap on her strength that could potentially yield a lucrative career.
Jeyaragini had graduated with a Bachelor Degree of Science in Mathematics and Economics at the Singapore Institute of Management in 2015, before embarking on a series of roles in the supply chain industry. However, after two years of being walled up in a cubicle analysing figures and churning out reports, she realised that her heart was just not in it.
“It crossed my mind that I didn’t want to do this forever because as much as I’m good in maths, I’m just not a person who can sit in front of the computer for eight hours,” she admitted. “I wanted something that really excites me – full of challenges and changes, you know?”
Looking Inwards and Out
Her search for renewed purpose led her to ponder on her other strengths and passions, and it wasn’t long before she realised that on top of being an extrovert, she also enjoyed being around children.
“I already had a passion to work with kids – I have a nephew who’s three now, and I was so excited when he was born!” Her face is flushed with affection as she recalls how her nephew had sowed a deep love and interest for children in her heart.
“Being with my nephew is always fun and I’ve always been curious to see how children develop and what influences them,” she muses. “And after that I made my mind up. I would pursue a career in early childhood.”
Quelling Early Doubts
Despite her firm resolution, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. For starters, her parents were sceptical of her decision.
“They had paid $30,000 for my degree in mathematics, and I was then going to be a childcare teacher? My parents definitely had reservations about it,” she pointed out.
But Jeyaragini understood (and to a certain extent, shared) their concerns. The early childhood care and education industry, while growing, was not competitive in its compensation package compared to work in the supply chain industry. And there was the matter of entering a completely new sector with no experience or qualifications as well.
Regardless, Jeyaragini was undaunted. In the course of searching for plausible avenues, she chanced upon a programme by Workforce Singapore (WSG) that allowed candidates to gain experience and employment in a different industry for a period of time by undertaking a short trial. She also found additional programmes she could further undertake after the trial, such as the Place and Train programme, that gave participants the opportunity to acquire the necessary qualifications while being employed in their new fields. There were also institutions that offered training subsidies, alleviating the financial burdens of course fees.
Intrigued and encouraged, she signed up. After all, if the early childhood care and education industry was not what she had imagined, she felt that she would be able to go back to the drawing board and re-chart her career course. To her, the most important thing was to adapt, grow and give her passion a chance.
Making the Jump
Under the trial, Jeyaragini was attached to Mulberry Learning Centre for two weeks. Despite the vastly different requirements and scopes between her old and new job, 10 days were all she needed to adjust and fall in love with her new role.
The first few days were “physically and mentally exhausting,” as she found herself always on her toes, in a bid to keep up with the unbridled energies of 20 toddlers at any one time.
“I knew it was going to be very different from my past work,” she laughs. “But I was prepared and because I love kids and I love playing with them, it came naturally to me.” Every day, she takes home pictures and stories of her students to her parents. “They always knew I love working with children, so they gradually became encouraging, and were very positive about my new position,” Jeyaragini says.
She’s also thrilled that she’s able to put her dancer’s flair to use. “I love dance, art and anything creative, so it’s exciting because I get to make lessons fun.” In fact, she applies the skills she learnt from her Indian dance choreography to her classes. “When I plan music and movement lessons, I think about how I can play with different rhythms, beats and tempo. This is also a kind of a challenge for me, because I want to give the best to the children.”
Above all, her new role fuels her with a deeper sense of purpose: Knowing she will have a part in grooming young minds into all-rounded individuals. “It’s not just teaching. We are nurturing them beyond academics. We’re developing social skills, planting imagination. It’s very enriching.”
Happy ending? It’s just the beginning
To equip herself with the necessary skills and knowledge of the industry, Jeyaragini is currently pursuing a part time Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Professional Diploma in Early Childhood Care & Education at the KLC International Institute. The course is part of the Place and Train Programme. Her diploma is also sponsored by Mulberry, which receives funding support from WSG, with a two-year bond to the organisation.
Her journey doesn’t end there either. Afterwards, she plans to take up a leadership course, which will widen her prospects within the industry and allow her to progress further into senior roles such as becoming a principal of a preschool. As she looks back at how her life has transformed over the months, she has no regrets in taking the first step to undergo the trial at Mulberry and eventually making the bold leap to switch industries.
“Every day is a new day,” she beams. “You do new things, and you get a great deal of responsibility and ownership.”
Her advice to others looking for an alternative career? “Be ready to adapt, grow and be flexible. And always go in with a positive mindset.”