Yale-NUS graduate becomes carpentry apprentice to fulfil childhood dream
27-year-old Ziyad Ahmad Bagharib was a theatre actor, but wanted to chase his dream of building his own homestead.
What happens when you realise you have lost interest in your job and cannot find the motivation to go to work?
You take a trip to unwind and clear your mind, and hope that the trip will provide some sort of inspiration as to what you can do for a living next.
For 27-year-old Ziyad Ahmad Bagharib, that was exactly what he did.
A graduate from Yale-NUS college, Ziyad always thought performing in theatrical plays was his calling. He first started acting when he was 17, when he was studying at the Raffles Institution, and had continued to do so even in college.
But after graduation from Yale-NUS in 2018, he “somehow lost the joy” in working in the arts.
“I had to pause and reevaluate where I was going with my life,” said Ziyad.
So the jovial and easy-going Ziyad took a holiday in Sumatra, Indonesia. While on the trip, he went trekking in the jungle and that would prove to be a life-changing decision.
“While I was there, I saw people building their own homesteads and I thought again to this long time dream I had since I was really little to someday build my own homestead in the wilderness,” shared Ziyad.
“Going on the trip cemented in my mind this idea that it’s possible, that if you say yes to it and decide it’s something you want to do, you can work towards it.”
Ziyad also thought about a YouTube channel, My Self Reliance, by Canadian Shawn James, who lives in a log cabin that he built himself. Then, an idea came to his mind: He can become a carpenter.
When he got back to Singapore, he started applying for carpenter apprenticeships, much to the dismay of his father. It took three to four months before anyone got back and when he went for an interview, he was accepted immediately.
Today, Ziyad is a full-fledged carpenter with Reno Scout Pte Ltd.
As a carpenter, Ziyad spends his days either at the factory cutting up pieces of wood and cleaning glue stains off furniture he built on his own, or spending it at a customer’s home styling the furniture.
“If you asked me one-and-a-half years ago if I would be able to build a kitchen from scratch, I would have no conception as to whether or not that’s realistic. But now, I’m doing that and I love it very much,” explained Ziyad.
Making the transition from a performer to carpenter wasn’t easy, however. Ziyad said that it was nerve-wracking at the start. Every mistake was demoralising and he began overthinking on every project he did, for fear of messing it up.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes on this job. There was a particularly instructive one, where I spent the whole afternoon trying to determine all the measurements for this piece of laminate so that it will fit the dimensions of the table exactly,” recalled Ziyad.
“I brought it to the study table and found that one U-shaped notch that I cut that was completely off. And this is like a big piece of laminate. So I had to call my boss and say I screwed up this piece of laminate.
“He came back, looked at it and was just like, ‘we have to throw it away’. I was very demoralised because I had spent so many hours on it and I had to go back the next day and use a different method to make sure my measures were all determined correctly.”
Thankfully for Ziyad, his boss has been kind with him. He took every mistake he made as a learning opportunity and gradually became more confident.
“You just have to take things one step at a time. As long as you keep doing so, eventually, everything will come together,” Ziyad shared.
Observing Ziyad at work, one can tell he thoroughly enjoys it. While most might complain about jobs that require plenty of labour work, he seemed to relish it instead. Barring that focused look he puts on when working on the table saw, Ziyad can be seen carrying a smile even when lifting several pieces of heavy wood at once.
“What I enjoy most about this job is just the satisfaction of making something from scratch. When you first go to a site, it’s bare. There’s nothing there except some pipes and some cracked tiles,” said Ziyad.
“You take a bunch of measurements and go to the factory with this idea in your mind about what it’s going to look like, then cut the wood and bring it there. Suddenly, it’s a functioning space.
“There have been times when we went back to a site that was already completed and I see the customers working there at the desk and that space was made by me. It’s super satisfying, I love that and I feel that brings me the most joy.”
Another reason Ziyad enjoys working as a carpenter is the camaraderie he has with his colleagues. Describing them as “a bunch of positive individuals” with a very good work ethic, he added that there is a “nice, family-like” environment at work.
“I’m always happy to come to work and see them,” Ziyad said. Interestingly, he does not necessarily speak the same language as some of his colleagues, who are from China. But when we visited Ziyad at one of the work sites, he was able to communicate perfectly with one of his co-worker and divide up work that needed to be done.
Having worked as a carpenter for over a year now, Ziyad said he has learnt plenty. Not just in terms of actual skills he needs to do his job, but also life lessons.
“I feel what I’ve really taken away from this job is this attitude of being able to learn anything if you want to,” said Ziyad.
“I want to continue down this journey acquiring skills and knowledge that I want to acquire and I want that to pervade all spheres of my life. That’s my goal.”
Of course, there’s that homestead that he’s always wanted to build. And one suspects he’s a lot closer to that goal now, as compared to before.