S’pore sport science grad shares how she pulled off switch to tech role with no prior tech training

Seizing opportunity.

| Nigel Chua | Sponsored | July 21, 2023, 12:29 PM

When 25-year-old Lam Pui Shan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sport Science and Management from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the industry was completely unlike what she and her batchmates had planned for when they signed up for the course.

They were among those who entered the workforce amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and with restrictions on sports activities and events, job opportunities in those areas were limited.

Lam was one of many from her cohort that resorted to looking for jobs outside of their specialty.

She initially considered furthering her studies to become a physical education teacher after graduation, but decided on a customer-facing role at children’s indoor playground Kiztopia as the company had also been looking to expand at the time.

Lam was also keen on the role as she had experience working part-time in a related industry, and had picked up some of the skills required.

Pui Shan with her Kiztopia team

Pondering a career in tech

But Lam eventually found herself working on “autopilot”, and felt she was stagnating in the role. She decided to look for other career opportunities.

After coming across multiple news articles about tech job opportunities, Lam realised that there was a growing need for tech talent in both technology and non-technology companies, as all sectors are tapping on digital transformation for growth.

But one stood out to her as she scrolled through the listings: UOB was recruiting technology associates.

Lam was attracted to the listing as no prior knowledge or background in tech was required for the role.

“Like many, I hesitated in applying for tech roles as I was afraid that I lacked the technical know-how. To my surprise, the emphasis was on my logical reasoning and ability to make clear and sound arguments, rather than a hard focus solely on coding or specific tech knowledge.”

She was apprehensive but excited when UOB followed up with a job offer after the interview.

Gaining exposure through training

Upon joining UOB, Lam and her fellow new hires were put through three months of structured training.

The hectic training schedule made her think it was “almost like full-time studies” all over again.

And for good reason, too.

The courses, conducted by external training providers, covered the basics of coding in Java and Python, as well as database management — all of which would be essential for Lam in her role as a technology associate.

The training was supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative.

Under the initiative, companies like UOB as a programme partner, will offer structured training and on-the-job project-based training with experienced mentors to accelerate the professional development of participants.

TeSA enables jobseekers and mid-career switchers to attain the right tech skills and competencies for their respective industries.

For Lam, her tech education kicked off with the foundational courses and continued through on-the-job training under UOB’s year-long programme.

“The learning curve is not as steep… but there’s definitely still a learning curve. And there are new things to be learned as tech is always evolving.”

Supportive colleagues

Lam is also grateful for the support of her immediate team.

For example, the use of acronyms in her team was quite common, and Lam noticed that her teammates would put in extra effort to write the acronyms in full, knowing that as a new joiner she would not be familiar with these short forms.

“There’s this specific kind of language we use — it’s called Structured Query Language — we use it to pull information from a database,” says Lam, using the full version of the acronym “SQL” for the benefit of us, her non-tech-oriented interviewers.

Lam brings up SQL because it was something she learnt in one of her foundational courses.

She shares that she felt more confident in her new role thanks to the content covered in the foundational courses, as she was able to see that it was useful for her in her day to day, instead of just being theoretical knowledge.

She also values the time where she was given an opportunity to be involved in one of the bank’s projects that sought to tap on tech to improve its overall operations.

As one of the youngest members in the team of 10, Lam had to work on digitalising request forms for stakeholders across the bank to access certain project management tools. Apart from increasing the bank’s overall efficiency by capturing and auto-routing required information of these requests, Lam and her team’s work also ensured visibility and traceability of all requests.

Looking ahead

While her previous job left her feeling stagnated after a while, Lam shared that there is never a dull moment after taking on a tech role.

For instance, she is looking forward to the launch of her next big project — one that improves how UOB manages data and presents it to decision makers.

Lam adds:

“As a young officer, this definitely offers me good exposure, as apart from picking up hard skills in tech and data management, I am able to gain insights into senior management’s decision-making processes in harnessing tech to drive business growth and improve operations. Also, this new project allows me to build rapport with different vendors and teams within UOB.”

“Actually quite amazing”

“If I look back at my journey, these past 11 months have been something that I wouldn't even have been able to think of a year ago,” Lam said, marvelling at how coming into her new role has made her more certain in making decisions about her career path.

Lam also feels assured of her ability to adapt to whatever circumstances she may encounter during the course of her career:

“When I think about it, it's actually quite amazing that right now, without a tech background, I am in a tech role.”

Opportunities under TeSA

Even companies not traditionally considered part of the tech sector — such as banks, telcos, and startups — are hiring for tech roles, as they seek out the benefits of digital transformation and invest in building up in-house tech capabilities rather than relying solely on service providers.

There has been sustained demand for tech skills here, in tandem with digitalisation across the economy. In light of this, the TeSA initiative continues to build and develop a skilled Information and Communications Technology workforce for Singapore’s digital economy.

The initiative supports companies in their hiring efforts and gives them access to a broader pool of workers, including those from outside the tech sector.

As for candidates who may not have tech backgrounds, this initiative also opens up opportunities to take on tech roles as it provides on-the-job training and mentorship, alongside structured courses to equip them with the required skills.  

You can get more information on TeSA and the opportunities it offers here.

This sponsored article by IMDA gave the author greater confidence that one’s educational background need not determine their path in life.

Top image courtesy of Lam Pui Shan