Q&A with Tan Liong Choon, Associate, Project Management

Tan Liong Choon has never planned on entering the teaching profession.

"To be honest, it was by accident. I joined the now-defunct unit, National Infocomm Competency Academy (NICA), which was part of NUS-ISS, as a Deputy Director to drive and promote NICF courses and accreditation, but after the division I was in got disbanded, I moved on to take up teaching and consulting," said Liong Choon.

It turned out to be the right move. Bringing with him more than 20 years of experience from the IT industry, Liong Choon now shares his experience and knowledge in developing IT and business professionals, a role which he has grown to love.

INNOVATE@ISS finds out what drives Liong Choon at work and keeps him going.

1. Please tell us about your professional background

I am an engineer by training. My first job was actually in the role of a Quality Control Engineer in Texas Instrument, an US IC chip manufacturing company in the eighties. Thereafter, I had an offer from DSO (MINDEF Defence Technology Group) as a software engineer and I decided to take it up. After DSO, I joined the then National Computer Board (now Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore) as an Application Services Manager. In the twenty years of IT industry practice, I have been through a wide range of IT roles and functions, from software development engineer, project team leader and project manager to IT manager, leading a department of up to 40 people. Since joining NUS-ISS, I have been focused on teaching and IT-related consulting work.

2. Could you share more about the work which you do at NUS-ISS?

My teaching portfolio covers mainly three areas - Project Management, IT Outsourcing and Business Process Management, with Project Management taking the bulk of my training and consulting days.

3. Why did you choose to teach at NUS-ISS?

To be honest, it was by accident. I joined the now-defunct unit, National Infocomm Competency Academy (NICA), which was part of NUS-ISS, as a Deputy Director to drive and promote the development and adoption of NICF (National Infocomm Competency Framework) courses and NICF accreditation. Due to a change in strategic direction from the key stakeholders of NICF, the unit was disbanded. I then moved on to take up teaching and consulting. Adapting to the teaching role has been a rich learning experience for me and required adaptation of my skills, as well as learning new skills. With my industry background and diverse roles, I am able to value-add to the courses I teach with real-world industry examples and the practical aspect of applying concepts and skills taught in the course to the real workplace.

4. What do you enjoy most about your work?

My work forces me to continually keep abreast of new developments in the IT industry, new approaches and practices (e.g. agile project management). I also like the fact that I get to meet and interact with many professionals across all industry domains regularly during courses. This allows me to continually learn from others as well as teach others what I know.

5. How do you keep up with the industry?

I keep abreast of developments in the industry through reading community blogs and discussion forums (e.g. Project Management groups on LinkedIn), rich resources / newsletters from Project Management Institute (PMI), attending conferences, as well as books. One of the recent books I read is "Serious Game for Business" by Phaedra Boinodiris. It talks about the use of gamification as a motivational design. One example of the use of games is know Knack, IBM and Salesforce.com are using games to recruit new hires - Top performers play simulation games and their behaviours are captured using data analytics. Potential new hires are also asked to play those games and those exhibiting similar behavioural traits are hired.

6. What are your favorite activities when you are not working?

I like sports in general, watching movies and reading fiction.

7. Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.

I am the pioneer batch in my Secondary School (Tanjong Katong Technical Secondary School), Junior College (Temasek Junior College) and University (Nanyang Technological University when it was first set up as Nanyang Technological Institute).