Singapore

Busting common misconceptions about IT jobs

Think you know everything about the IT job industry? MELANIE HENG (mheng@sph.com.sg) talks to three poly graduates who bust the common misconceptions

IT'S NOT ONLY FOR GUYS

When Ms Suryani Sortin, 24, started working as an IT security analyst a year ago, there were only four other women in her department of 20 people.

Now, her department has grown to 50 people and about a third are women.

When she told her family she was taking up a job as an IT security analyst a year ago, they thought she was going to work as a security guard.

But the job actually requires her to monitor clients' networks and websites.

Ms Suryani graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a diploma in electronics, computer and communications engineering. She then went to the Nanyang Technological University to study electrical and electronics engineering.

Although IT security was not her main area of study in school, Ms Suryani decided to take up something new to her when a friend recommended the job.

"I was curious about the job and because I've never been very exposed to this area, I had to learn from scratch," she said.

"People often think that when you work in the IT sector, it's purely about coding, but that's not necessarily true because you can be involved in other things too like research."

Ms Suryani added: "(Gender) doesn't matter. What's important is that you discover your own passion.

"If it's something you like, don't let the misconceptions of others affect what you want to do."

IT'S NOT BORING

Two weeks into being in a junior college, he decided that it was not the right path for him and he appealed to transfer to Ngee Ann Polytechnic to study electronic and computer engineering instead.

He went on to study computer engineering in the National University of Singapore on the National Infocomm scholarship for three years and is now a software engineer and iOS team lead in Garena, an Internet company.

And Mr Lee Sing Jie's job takes him out of Singapore.

"Although Garena's headquarters is in Singapore, we have offices in other parts of Asia as well and I travel to places like Shanghai and Taiwan about twice a year," said Mr Lee.

"I provide technical support to the other engineers there because Garena's products are developed here."

He has worked on applications like Shopee, a mobile commerce platform designed for both buyers and sellers to enjoy safe and smooth transactions.

Mr Lee said: "I think people are more accepting of poly students now as compared to before, as polytechnics expose students to different industries earlier."

IT'S NOT JUST FOR DEGREE HOLDERS

He browsed through more than 300 courses offered by polytechnics, but only the diploma from Singapore Polytechnic in games design and development, computer games and programming skills, stood out for him.

In 2012, upon completing his national service, Mr Jum Tan joined PlayMoolah, a start-up that educates and empowers young people to develop a positive relationship with money. 

The 25-year-old front-end developer said: "My parents are okay with the path I choose as long as I am happy, but I've had relatives and strangers asking me why I don't want to get a degree.

"To me, experience compensates for the lack of a degree.

"I feel that learning on the job is more advantageous, especially when you develop applications which people want and can use. It gives you a competitive edge."

Mr Tan finds plenty of satisfaction in his job and feels that he is able to do certain things better than degree holders.

"When it's Friday, I don't find myself saying things like thank goodness it's the end of the week. Instead, I say things like, 'Oh no, I need more time to finish this up'," he said.

"I think the polytechnic route is better for students who want to be in the tech sector because it's a better environment to be in when being introduced to IT.

"It's more practical and allows much more room for hands-on things."

BY THE numbers 

14,600

Number of job vacancies available in IT, according to an infocomm manpower survey in 2014.

 

A BOOMING IT SECTOR

STARTING PAY OF IT POLYTECHNIC GRADUATES:

Cyber & digital security, digital forensics, infocomm security management, information security, network systems and security:

$2,270

Digital media, interactive & digital media, multimedia & animation, multimedia technology:

Not available

Information technology:

$2,000

NUMBER OF IT POLYTECHNIC GRADUATES IN 2014

Total number of IT poly graduates:

3,577

Total number of female IT poly graduates:

1,483

Only 30 per cent of those working in tech jobs in Singapore are women, which is 15 percentage points lower than the national average.

WHAT IS A SMART NATION?

Singapore aims to be the world's first Smart Nation, which taps on technology to improve the quality of lives and increase opportunities for businesses.

It involves pulling together top universities and medical facilities, multi-billion annual research and development (R&D) investments, a fast-growing community of tech start-ups and large pools of investment capital.

The Smart Nation concept aims to make use of the networks of sensors and smart devices to ensure living in a sustainable and comfortable manner and to connect people together more easily.

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