Alumni Alumni Stories Why Never Cease to be a Student has been a great piece of advice for this alumnus

Why Never Cease to be a Student has been a great piece of advice for this alumnus

Why Never Cease to be a Student has been a great piece of advice for this alumnus

Our alumnus Bernardo de Matos Gua has come a long way, starting out as an aquaculture technician before rising to a leadership position. Through it all, one standout quality – his initiative for learning – has steered him towards growth and success. Bernardo shares his story with us.

Bernardo

If there’s one thing that makes James Cook University (JCU) in Singapore alumnus Bernardo de Matos Gua stand out, it’s his refreshing zest for growth – even if it means navigating unfamiliar waters.

“Be passionate about learning and make it your way of life. Be aware that the fast-changing world of the 21st century requires us to learn, unlearn, and relearn. As the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew once inspired us with these wise words: “I have never ceased to be a student, I have never ceased to learn,” advises the Bachelor of Business and Environmental Science (Majoring in Aquaculture) programme graduate.

“Make proactivity your greatest skill, knowledge your greatest resource, and people your greatest opportunity,” he adds.

It is this mindset that has taken him on a fulfilling ride at work and in life. In fact, one could say that it played a big part in him landing a promotion which he considers to be his biggest work achievement to date. Today, Bernardo is a Research & Development (R&D) Facilities Supervisor – a well-deserved role that evolved from his career start as an aquaculture technician.

“It is great when you perform a job with passion; I gave my best and made a great contribution to my team. And such effort was recognised by the company,” he says.

As an R&D Facilities Supervisor, Bernardo oversees a team that conducts various experiments to develop, innovate, and foster aquaculture around the world. Some of the most common experiences at his workplace are the development of vaccines to mitigate the spread of disease in fish farm production, and the formulation of more sustainable and economical fish feeds. With over thirty laboratories where several trials are conducted simultaneously, he is responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly and is well-coordinated.

Diving into uncharted waters, from technician to supervisor

As with many growth stories – Bernardo’s path to his current role was initially choppy. When he became a supervisor, he was put in charge of overseeing a team of around 12 people. At that time, having no experience in supervisory roles, he realised that dealing with people at work was completely different from what he was used to. As he puts it, “Everything changes when you become a supervisor or manager.”

Determined to succeed, he committed himself to learning about leadership.

“I wanted to better understand people’s behaviour and learn to be always professional, how to speak, how to listen, how to delegate, and how to manage conflict,” he recalls.

He then spent his evenings after work studying about how to become a better leader and gradually applying what he learned to his new work environment.

Life at JCU in Singapore

Bernardo looks back fondly at his time at JCU in Singapore, reminiscing over the social events on campus, as well as the time spent in classes and labs.

“Gathering with mates in the study hubs to study together or have a social talk (always with a Kopi-o from the canteen) was extremely memorable as well,” he says.

When asked how his education at the University helped him prepare for his life after graduation, Bernardo says, “Everything I learned there can be directly applicable to my current workplace.”

He highlights his volunteer experience at the Aquaculture Research and Teaching facility, where he got to work with the Recirculatory Aquaculture System (RAS) – a water treatment and filtration system that allows for the sustainable farming of fish in a controlled environment – for the first time. This hands-on experience was invaluable, as it gave him practical skills and knowledge that are essential in the aquaculture industry.

Beyond work and education, Bernardo is also grateful for the internationally diverse community at JCU in Singapore and his impact on his daily life.

“Studying and doing assignments and group work together teaches you a lot about how to deal with such a variety of cultures and how to get along well,” he explains.

Today, he applies these soft skills in his daily life in Malta – an island in the Mediterranean where half of the population comes from overseas.

Advice for current students

Following the principle of proactivity that has guided him thus far, Bernardo has wise words to share with current students.

“There is nothing that will make you thrive so much as your proactivity, no matter how great the support you have or how great the education you receive. Take the initiative to approach your lectures, and your colleagues, and get things done. I wish I had understood this as clearly when I was a student,” he says.

“I also advise current students to embrace innovation and entrepreneurship. Every field, including the Sciences, relies on your brains to create great things. Do not be afraid to take risks. Grab your ideas and put them into practice. Share them with your colleagues. You are surrounded by smart people when you are in the university. Do not miss this moment, it can be a great opportunity.  We need your ideas.”

“Remember, you are the protagonist of your life,” he adds.

What’s on the horizon?

And his aspirations for the future? Bernardo, ever the passionate advocate for aquaculture and proactivity, seeks to grow even more.

“I aspire to see aquaculture developing further. My goal is to become a Facility Manager where I can face new challenges, take on more responsibilities, and make valuable contributions,” he says.

Spoken like a true leader. Thank you for your time with us, and we wish you well, Bernardo!