He juggles poly, family and bubble tea shop

As he juggled being a father, husband, full-time student, shop owner and holder of a freelance job, there were times he wanted to give up on his polytechnic studies.

But he knew he could not because he would be setting a bad example for his twin sons.

Besides, he had already put so much effort into his projects.

So Mr Muhamad Zulkifie Mohamed Shaffarulla, 34, soldiered on.

And his efforts have finally paid off.

Next Thursday, he will graduate with a diploma in Product Design and Innovation from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Mr Zulkifie hopes his achievement will spur him and his family on to greater things.

Married with three-year-old twin boys, he was pursuing his diploma as a full-time student.

Besides his day job as a freelance product designer, he was also the co-owner of The 2 Monkeys, a five-month-old sandwich and bubble tea shop at NP.

As a freelance product designer, he would spend three hours a day on his projects.

He said: "I felt like giving up sometimes, especially when I had too many school assignments on hand, design competitions, as well as external freelance work."

One of the biggest challenges he faced was juggling the different responsibilities.

But his success owes a lot to the support of family and friends.

His wife, a clerk, works long hours to make ends meet while his mother-in-law looks after his kids.

Before enrolling in polytechnic, he worked as a facility officer after completing his O levels.

He later enrolled in ITE for a part-time course in Higher Nitec in Mechanical Engineering in 2008.

Mr Zulkifie joined NP only at the age of 32.

He recalled spending the initial stages in school as a social misfit because of the age gap with his peers.

His classmates did not treat him like one of them, and he felt alone and uncomfortable.

But they eventually bonded and he does not regret his decision to further his studies as he wanted to pursue his dreams in design.


He told TNP he had made many sacrifices, such as quitting his full-time job as a facilities officer and giving up family time.

He said: "I had to make the most of what I had, achieve success in my studies, and set a good example for my sons."

Mr Zulkifie hoped the hands-on experience of running a business would develop the skills he needs when he sets up his own design studio in the future.

And he is off to a good start as his final-year project, The Fokus Desk, bagged the bronze medal at the internationally-acclaimed A'Design Award and Competition last year.

The ergonomically designed desk comes with unique storage features that helps the user focus on his work and make them more productive.

Mr Zulkifie had also won the Bronze Award Certificate at the International Design Awards, as well as the Singapore Mint Prize.

His wife, Madam Yassmin Banu, 34, has been his pillar of support.

She was a little doubtful about him continuing with his studies at his age.

But she is glad he persevered.

She said: "I am very proud of his determination. The boys look up to him as a role model."

And the advice from this budding designer and entrepreneur?

"Find your passion, jump into it, and just go for it."

This article was first published on May 16, 2015.
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