THE POWER OF A NAME
MEGA Man|February 2021
With one foot stepping into a life he’s set on defining in his own accord, and another stepping into an industry pressured by brand recall, Dr. Z Teo has inadvertently set out on a lifelong quest to redefine what a name can stand for
KRISTOFF SISON

If someone were to ask you “Who are you?” I would bet my bottom dollar that you will answer with your name. It’s an instinctual response–our name defines who we are. And while it doesn’t literally define us in the same way a word is defined in a dictionary, it gives us enough individuality amid a general populace.

I still remember the first time I was introduced to Dr. Z Teo, not in person, but by name. Initially, I was intrigued. “That’s a name you don’t hear often, or probably ever,” I immediately told myself. It could be a nickname, or maybe an alias just like hip-hop legend Jay-Z (who, at that time, was the only other “Z” I could think of). I shouldn’t have been surprised given that I, myself, carry a fairly unique name that has spared me from awkward classroom call-outs but, in turn, has presented me with the inevitable misspells on Starbucks orders. By the fleeting thought’s end, I landed on an assumption about Dr. Z’s character even before I got the chance to look him up on social media or shake his hand. Just by name alone, a few words entered my mind: sharp, cool and a tad mysterious.

Indeed, names carry power. They are descriptors that allow people to draw assumptions with etymologies and contexts in tow. This cognitive phenomenon is something most people dismiss, yet we all rely on for recognition and recall– with names serving as both first impressions and points of recollection. So, when the time finally came for Dr. Z and me to have a one-on-one chat about the ins and outs of leading the Aivee Group as its CEO, there was no better way to answer who Dr. Z is other than to know the meaning behind the name.

ESTABLISHING AN IDENTITY

“When it comes to my name, the credit is given to my mom. She’s very ahead of our time. She’s quirky and very creative. At that time, nobody ever thought about naming their child after the alphabet,” Dr. Z shares with a big smile. Surprisingly, his full given name Z’Shen has a fairly straightforward origin given family and tradition: “Shen” coming from his grandfather, and “Z” acting as a prefix signifier of him being the last born in the family given Singapore’s two-child policy. “People didn’t know how to call me–Z, Shen, Zshen. It was very confusing. There were times wherein I told them to call me Z’Shen but they would do a double take.” In fact, the name Z was given to him by his friends during his undergraduate years, especially since he was conversing more with people from various countries and cultures. It wasn’t a name he planned on adapting to, but soon after he received his medical license, going by Z went from convenience to necessity.

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