Getting Enlightened by Delapro founder and author of "I'm so ready for life" book series

(This exclusive interview first appeared here on Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 17 August 2017.)

Joseph Wong is a highly motivated individual who's passionate about wanting to bring positive change to those around him. This is so evident from the 35-year career he had with Standard Chartered Bank, where he took on a mind-boggling range of roles and now, starting a new lease of life by setting up his very own training company Delapro in 2015 which, as he described to us in an earlier correspondence, endeavors to "improve the way Singaporeans speak by raising the awareness of phonetics as the foundation for speaking better (English) and to better prepare children for a digital future by sharing my experiences with parents on how to teach their children about how the world works a lot earlier in their young lives". He has, since he left the Bank's employment, obtained his ACTA certification and his Phonetics Workshop (CRS-N-0041012) is offered as an approved course under the SkillsFuture Credit scheme.

In the coming weeks (tentatively end-August 2017, as we were informed), he will be launching his three-book series titled "I'm So Ready For Life"; these were written to imbue school-going children with real-world knowledge such as economics, leadership and decision-making. After all, the only constant in life is change and technology is threatening to disrupt our way of life now more than before. Despite his obviously hectic schedule, he was most obliging when we requested for a little interview to better appreciate his motivations and the driving force behind his overachieving pursuits.

QN: A very warm welcome to you Joseph, we are certainly most grateful to your generous self for granting us this opportunity to chat for a bit. The premise on which Delapro was founded - DELiver A PROmise is rather interesting to say the least. How exactly is this synonymous with the vision of properly equipping folks with communication and writing skill-sets as far as the English Language is concerned?

ANS: It is indeed an honour that you wish to find out more about me. Communication is critical for almost every aspect of life, be it in one's career or simply a conversation with another human being. I remember reading in a Huffpost article a few years ago that poor communication accounts for 65% of divorces. But that's another story altogether. For me, a person speaks and writes the way he or she thinks; meaning that if you communicate with someone long enough and on diverse topics, you will get a good indication what kind of a person he or she is. I chose DELiver A PROmise as my ethos for building DELAPRO because I wish to be remembered for a man who says what he means and who delivers on what he says. This is where communication comes in. If we cannot articulate accurately - in speaking or writing - what we think, how do we deliver on our promise?

QN: Would you say Delapro is in the business of utterly reprogramming one's linguistic abilities from scratch, or simply rehabilitating them?

ANS: To frame my answer, I have to stress that we never stop learning. Even having conducted hundreds of classes on Phonetics and the English language for over 30 years, I am still learning with each new batch of students. So, instead of describing my approach as "reprogramming one's linguistic abilities from scratch", I would rather describe it in two steps:

Step 1: Understand the basics. Know your tools. In order to do this, we must not be afraid to start from the beginning to make sure we have learned everything we need to learn.

Step 2: With a new perspective of the tools, we must try to use them more effectively to continue to improve ourselves.

QN: At the present moment, which demographic constitutes the majority of your clientele? Might there be a sensible explanation for such a trend demand-wise?

ANS: Interestingly, retirees and those above 55 years make up just over 40% of my classes. Just as interestingly, those in the younger age group of 25 to 35 years make up less than 10%. So, what I can deduce from this trend is that perhaps standalone Communication and Phonetics workshops are seen as non-essential among the young while retirees wish to learn it for personal interest. It is definitely a trend I hope to change.

QN: Across numerous popular online forums and news commentary platforms over the past few years, there is an emerging (and somewhat grating) consensus that many Singaporeans speak and write bad English. A rather controversial piece written by one Grace Teng on Quora stands out in particular; what do you personally reckon of Singlish? A cultural "enabler" of sorts that allows one to meaningfully and satisfactorily associate with local quirks, or a sizeable threat to the decent acquisition of the English Language? Pray tell, are you a believer in code-switching?

ANS: Hahaha...this topic has no winner. I don't think that code-switching is necessarily bad. But a person who practises code-switching MUST already possess a good foundation in the language. That means that until and unless you are fluent with English (for me, that means 5 degrees shy of mastery), you do not have the right to code-switch. How do you expect a person who has only ridden a bicycle with training wheels on, to jump straight into the Tour de France, and expect this person to do well? It's the same Singlish. In the right crowd, Singlish might be a unifying factor. But only if you already speak English well.

QN: You have been a banker for almost your entire working life thus far-what prompted you to switch gears and establish your own business? Familial commitments, or perhaps a life-changing episode? Did you weather any significant storms whilst growing Delapro from the ground up, and if yes, how did you overcome them? In hind sight, would you have done things differently?

ANS: I believe there comes a time in everyone's life when we would ask the question "Is there more to life than this?". I suppose that time came for me. My daughter was then 16 years old and I was (am still) healthy. Meanwhile, I had my dreams, albeit a handful, in a box in my study. Pursue my dreams - finally!, spend more quality time with my family....if not now, then when? I decided that I would retire at the top of my game and so I did. Growing Delapro from zero was predictably hard because there are already so many free lance trainers out there. That's why I have decided to give a little to take a little back, by giving free talks at the Lifelong Learning Institute and Library to build my brand. Would I have done things differently? Nope. I don't look back; I make the future happen for me.

QN: Let's talk about the series of titles ("I'm so ready for life") you authored which is primarily targeted at children. Apart from the synopsis you have provided on your website, might you be able to furnish a more comprehensive peek into what to expect in terms of content to whet the appetite of readers? From conceptualization to print, were you solely involved in the project, or were there others who helped out? What substantive steps have you taken to ensure the underlying real-life lessons are delivered in a cogent, palatable manner to the young ones who pick up your books?

ANS: When I became a dad at 41 years old, I realised that I was able to condense life's many lessons into bite sizes for my daughter. For instance, I taught her Newton's Third Law of Motion - every action has an equal and opposite reaction - when she was just 4 years old, by making her stand and experiencing the force for herself while travelling on the MRT. She understood it till today. Then I continued to realise that I had a knack for picking out life lessons from the most innocuous situations, such as why a certain food stall had a longer queue than another selling almost identical food. Demand and supply! So, over the years, I started writing down these lessons in the hope that one day, I could turn them into a book for children. Well, that day came. It made sense for me to share these lessons because I believe some parents may need help with spotting these lessons in their hectic life. By reading these books with their children, I hope they would be inspired to find their own lessons. Oh, and I wrote all my lessons in the form of stories and analogies so that children can better understand them.

QN: The present generation of kids have been assigned an unflattering label of being "strawberries"- overly pampered and mollycoddled to the point of being perceived as creatures of weak resolve and poor temperament; what is your take on this? Might your books also employ a nuanced tone of tough love to engender the importance of being independent and iron-willed?

ANS: There is no one way to develop a child because each child is different and responds to different motivations. There may be some messages in my books that could qualify as "tough love" because sometimes we have to accept reality. I also take the opportunity to drop hints of kindness and respect in my stories. So, there's something in my books for everything a responsible and conscientious parent would teach a child.

QN: You have an 18-year-old daughter, Amanda, whom you adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage when she was just three months old. Did she in any way inspire you to write these books? Extrapolating this for a bit, how did your family contribute to and/or support your ambitions as a budding author?

ANS: Yes, as I said earlier, becoming a dad was how I discovered this innate ability in myself to see a life lesson in the most innocuous situation. Perhaps love moved me in this strange but beautiful way. I have, therefore, dedicated "I'm So Ready For Life" to Amanda and this dedication is printed just before the Prologue page. Because these are collections of all the lessons I created with Amanda throughout her life, there's nothing she or my wife isn't surprised about. You can imagine how proud they are of me.

QN: Will the series eventually be made available for sale in physical bookstores, or remain exclusively distributed online via your website? What are your intended marketing strategies?

ANS: I wish my book could find its way on to physical book shelves here and elsewhere in the world because I believe so many children would benefit from reading it. At the moment, due largely to my ignorance of the distribution practices, I am financially not able to sign up for any distribution deal. So, I will be keeping my sale online, both on Partridge Publishing's site as well as my own ( However, I remain hopeful that once more parents see the value in my book, some bookstore would come knocking on my door.

QN: Fast forward a decade, okay maybe make it 5 years. Where will Delapro be? More importantly, what will Joseph Wong be doing? Will he still be authoring books to share his wisdom and expertise?

ANS: These are my hopes for Delapro in 5 years:

1. Have at least 3 companies using it as its preferred training consultant.

2. Be acknowledged as a differentiator in providing phonetics, communications and creative thinking training.

3. Offer its services to school-going children on script-writing, presentation, public speaking and report-writing.

QN: Before wrapping things up altogether, please do leave a few parting words for our readers here.

ANS: This is a quote from Henry Ford which I live my life by - "If you think you can or you can't, you are right!"

It has truly been a great honour making your acquaintance. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish you the very best in taking Delapro to greater heights, and of course may your books sell like hotcakes! :)

Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my thoughts.