Gaining a foothold in the tech industry

Source: The Sunday Times | By: Hazel Tan

Trained as a chemical engineer, Mr Shaun Lau Choon Jin was looking for a stepping stone into the information technology (IT) industry when he heard about the Graduate Diploma in Systems Analysis (GDipSA) offered by the National University of Singapore's Institute of Systems Science (NUS-ISS).

"I chose to enter the IT industry because I have a keen interest in programming an using that skill to come up with ideas that will help make our day-to-day lives simpler. It is also a fast-growing industry around the world," says Mr Lau, 31, who graduated last year.

Mr Lau, a mobile developer at OCBC Bank, says he chose the GDipSA programme because of the way the course was structured.

"It teaches the fundamentals of programming and builds upon that with projects depicting various scenarios that require us to brainstorm and come up with and implement solutions," he adds.

The GDipSA programme, which started in 1981, is uniquely designed to transform students without IT knowledge into IT professionals within a very short period of time; and they will be equipped with sought-after technical skills and valuable soft skills.

Its one-year learning roadmap is packed with lectures, workshops and projects. One key feature of the programme is a five-month internship, which aims to equip students with the necessary foundation to code, test, implement and troubleshoot IT solutions covering web and mobile platforms.

To date, about 2,000 students have graduated from the programme.

Postgraduate Studies 1- SuT 08-Jan-2017-Shaun Lau

Strong collaboration
According to Dr Esther Tan, the programme's chief, the internship underlines NUS-ISS' strong, collaborative partnership with industries and companies.

"Throughout the internship, students can gain real-life experience as IT professionals, and companies are able to develop prototypes of advanced technologies that they would like to explore. 

Sometimes, companies use the internship programme to scout for potential employees and may even offer the interns a job after they graduate," she says.

The chance of an internship in an IT capacity appealed to Mr Lau, who saw it as an opportunity to gain a valuable foothold in the industry of his choice.

Mr Lau did his internship at OCBC Bank, his current employer. 

"I was tasked to create an app as a proof of concept to simplify a process within the bank. Over the five months, I did a lot of online research on developing such an app and building it in a modular fashion.

I was able to rigorously test each module before integrating it into the main source code," he says.

The experience had left him wanting more, and he is convinced that the GDipSA programme at NUS-ISS helped him to find the perfect career.

A good foundation

"The GDipSA programme has given me a strong head start by laying down the foundations of programming concepts that allow me to explore further on my own.

It has also helped me to perform my current role by helping me to better understand the programming terminologies used in my work and better grasp the advanced aspects of programming," he says. 

Having successfully made the switch to the IT field, Mr Lau plans to stay abreast of IT developments.

"It is very important to continue learning even after the course because IT is a constantly evolving field.

My internship has taught me that there are plenty of other frameworks and technologies that are fast becoming popular and that I should capitalise on the knowledge gained from the course to understand these newer technologies," he says.

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