Battered by Covid, this 49-year-old businessman learns how to create a new virtual world

The Specialist Diploma in Immersive Experience for Business allows entrepreneurs to adapt to the fast-changing industry through Augmented and Virtual Realities.

| Sulaiman Daud | Sponsored | February 16, 2022, 11:57 AM

Maybe the old cliche is true, that most children rebel against their parents. But as we’ve seen time and again, there is more than one way to achieve success other than the path well-trodden.

Sheldon Gooi is a 49-year-old Singaporean businessman whose parents were both teachers. He did well enough in his studies to attend the National University of Singapore, but left to pursue a career in business instead.

With a keen interest in “music and parties”, Gooi wondered if he could combine his passion for music with entrepreneurship.

Speaking to Mothership, he candidly said that his parents did not see “partying” as a valid career option, and hoped he would continue his studies instead.

However, Gooi persevered, and started off by venturing into “Mobile Discos.” His hard work and positive attitude managed to win the respect of his parents and that turned things around.

He recalls:

"They were however supportive when they saw I was serious and putting in effort to make the business work, rather than just using it as an excuse to go to parties."

Today, Gooi is the Director of The Production People (TPP), a company providing technical support for live events. TPP provides audio, lighting, video and structures, which involves a lot of detailed and technical work.

Gooi has a small team, but also works with many freelancers to deliver the shows his clients entrust him with.

He adds, “I guess what’s really exciting is that there are many different kinds of shows, as well as clients, so no two days are ever alike. Live events also provide an adrenaline rush like no other.”

One day, the Programme Head of Republic Polytechnic’s Specialist Diploma in Immersive Experience for Business, Jackie Tay, approached Gooi, thinking that his staff could benefit from the programme by learning news skills they could use in their business.

The specialist diploma aims to harness emerging technologies in Augmented and Virtual Realities, and show businesses how they can use them to enhance their own products and services.

The pandemic limits physical interactions at commercial venues and keeps people at home. This led to a growing demand for immersive experiences through digital technology.

For example, check out this 360° amazing virtual tour of the Singapore Zoo. People can “visit” the zoo without leaving the comfort of their homes.

The next step is to make the experience as immersive and as true to life as possible, and technological know-how is the way to get it done.

But Gooi found himself intrigued.

“When I looked through (the course), I realised that there was a lot I didn’t know, for a very current topic, so I decided to enrol myself,” he said.

Gooi started a one-year course in June 2021. He elaborated that what intrigued him was how much he did not know about this new and emerging industry, with things like Augmented and Virtual Reality seeming as “alien” technologies to him. However, he did recognise that events in a virtual world are becoming more accepted by the public.

"I had always been doing live events, and with Covid, we moved into virtual events quite quickly. Getting a deeper understanding into immersive experiences and the prospect of being able to bring better outcomes to my clients is what motivated me to sign up."

Learning again

Once he signed up, Gooi quickly got to grips with the curriculum, which included both theory and practical classes.

“The first half saw us in more technical classes, like 3D Art Asset Creation, where I was surprised I could build a 3D model of a living room with animation.

The modules on Lighting & Projection and Soundcape are somewhat related to my work, but with the focus on immersive experiences, and the perspective from the audience, it changed my way of thinking.”

Soundscapes are the recording and cueing of sounds that contribute to an immersive experience, which goes very well with 3D Asset Creation.

Gooi was particularly proud of his 3D model, saying he “quite amazed” himself.

A 3D model depicting a home entertainment set-up. Photo from RP.

He enjoyed the experience, crediting his trainers for being understanding, especially as he was a mature student going back to school for the first time.

Gooi also said that his friends and family were surprised at his decision, but he wanted to inspire others to learn new things, even if they have been in their industry for a long time.

He shared how the things he learned directly helped him to enhance his own business:

"Even being able to explain how a lighting and projection design contributes to the impact on the audience is something I never focused on in the past.

In the Immersive Reality module we were exposed to AR, VR, 360 Virtual Tours, and Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine is used widely in my field of work, so getting introduced to it has been very useful, but getting proficient in it still requires a lot more work. I was able to make a 360 Virtual Tour of our own livestream studio."

Pandemic problems

The events industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic, given the lockdowns, crowd restrictions and safety management measures put in place.

Gooi shared that his company was very badly affected, with revenue in 2020 just 20 per cent of pre-Covid levels. Fortunately, he had some support.

The Temporary Bridging Loan implemented by the government was helpful in obtaining low-interest loans that kept the company afloat. But the main thing was to adapt to the changing circumstances, and take advantage of new opportunities.

"We pivoted into online events in mid 2020, and also took the opportunity of the downtime to migrate our inventory and show management systems. Being in a unique industry, we could not use off-the-shelf business software, but instead found industry-specific solutions that are now working very well for us."

Gooi said that while things have improved, there’s still some way to go before reaching a full recovery. The Covid restrictions still in place mean that many events are still unable to proceed.

However, Gooi appreciates the new skills and knowledge he picked up from his Republic Polytechnic’s Academy of Continuing Education (RP ACE) course.

“I was able to see my work day to day in a broader scope. Understanding the audience experience I believe will be very useful as I work on growing and expanding my business,” he said.

Gooi also hopes others will find an opportunity to help their own ventures, no matter their age.

"Just do it! Lifelong learning has always been a buzzword, and older people either don’t think they can learn anything new, or don’t think they are able to go back to a learning environment. Adult learning is very different from school, and the programme is well tailored to add value to working adults. No regrets!"

Upskill and advance your career. Register for RP ACE’s online course preview for the June intake of Part-time Diplomas, Specialist Diplomas, and Work-Study Programmes today:

Republic Polytechnic Academy for Continuing Education course preview

RP ACE will also be offering three new full-qualification courses in the upcoming June intake:

Click on the links above to check them out.

Top image from Sheldon Gooi’s Instagram and Unsplash.

This is a sponsored article by Republic Polytechnic.