He switched to his new passion at the last minute

Mr Chua Yao Hui, 25, was close to becoming an economics major when he switched to mathematical, computational and statistical sciences at Yale-NUS College. Now he is a software engineer at Carousell. He believes that having more flexibility in the cu
Mr Chua Yao Hui, 25, was close to becoming an economics major when he switched to mathematical, computational and statistical sciences at Yale-NUS College. Now he is a software engineer at Carousell. He believes that having more flexibility in the curriculum would benefit students.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Mr Chua Yao Hui had his heart set on studying economics when it was time for him to declare a major after his second year at Yale-NUS College. "I thought it gave a good balance between pragmatism and what I was passionate about," said Mr Chua, 25, who graduated in May.

But while economics helped him to understand social inequalities, his relationship with the subject did not develop further as he continued with his studies during a year-long exchange programme at Harvard University in the United States in his third year.

"There wasn't a spark," said Mr Chua. He found a new love in programming when he took his first computer science class at Harvard. "I saw a way to address inequality through technology."

Despite feeling like he was in "uncharted waters" during classes, as he was not familiar with the methodology, he pressed on, regularly pulling all-nighters to complete class assignments.

"I persisted because I saw so much potential in tech... You can mould it to fit today's problems," said Mr Chua. Though he was close to becoming a full-fledged economics major, with only an honours thesis left to complete, he requested a change in major from economics to mathematical, computational and statistical sciences late into his third year, and got the nod.

After completing his exchange programme, he moved from Massachusetts to New York for an intensive 12-week boot camp in Web development at Fullstack Academy, a coding school, so that he could catch up with other coders.

His mother, a client service manager, was initially doubtful of his decision to change his major so late into his programme, but supported him after he explained to her that tech was his passion.

Now a software engineer at online marketplace Carousell, Mr Chua believes that having more flexibility in the curriculum would benefit university students.

"It encourages students to go beyond their comfort zone and explore new subjects, and this helps to promote innovation."

While he recognises that this might take time away from specialised skills training, Mr Chua said that many young adults do not know much about the various options available before they enter university, and it is worth giving them some time to explore alternatives before committing to a specialisation. "If someone is passionate about what they do, they will do a good job, and they will seek ways to better their skills."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2017, with the headline 'He switched to his new passion at the last minute'. Print Edition | Subscribe