IT proves to be a 'great leveller' for youth

Mr Lee, 24, won in the IT Youth category of the IT Leader Awards given by the Singapore Computer Society for founding InspireArts, an online business development company, and Jobook, a job-matching site.
Mr Lee, 24, won in the IT Youth category of the IT Leader Awards given by the Singapore Computer Society for founding InspireArts, an online business development company, and Jobook, a job-matching site.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

IT award winner comes good after struggling with his studies and playing truant in school

When he was in Primary 4, Mr Raniel Lee scored zero for his Chinese examination despite completing the entire paper. "My teacher told me, 'That takes some skill', " joked the former EM3 stream and Normal Technical student.

Yesterday, the 24-year-old was honoured for skills of a different kind when he won one of the IT Leader Awards given by the Singapore Computer Society. The awards recognise the achievements of people in the infocomm and digital media industries.

Mr Lee won in the IT Youth category for founding InspireArts and Jobook, an online business development company and job-matching site respectively.

At the awards ceremony, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who was the guest of honour, said the Government is committed to building a strong infocomm workforce in Singapore. He will be elaborating more on new manpower programmes in Parliament next month.

For Mr Lee, the award is not only an affirmation, but also an opportunity to inspire other young people.

As a child, academics was not his strong suit. He struggled through school, scoring 90 out of 300 for his Primary School Leaving Examination.

"People would make fun of me, saying things like 'Why are you so stupid?' Those comments from peers were very demoralising," said Mr Lee, whose mother is an office manager and whose father works in warehouse logistics. He has a younger brother and an older sister.

In secondary school, he taught himself how to code and was appointed chairman of his school's media club. However, it was also around that time that he began to fall in with bad company. He played truant and was caught stealing.

He hit a turning point in Secondary 3, when his form teacher took him aside for a heart-to-heart talk. "She told me, 'It's time to wake up. Do you really want to go on like this forever?'," said Mr Lee.

He buckled down and threw himself into his studies, eventually taking infocommunication technology at the Institute of Technical Education and business informatics at Nanyang Polytechnic. During his final year in polytechnic, he developed Jobook, a platform to directly connect job seekers and employers.

Singapore Computer Society president Howie Lau said infocomm technology is a "great leveller".

"Many folk in the tech industry start with different backgrounds, but with the right level of curiosity and willingness to learn, unlearn and relearn, tech really creates a platform for individuals to break through," he said.

The other recipients of the IT Leader Awards include Microsoft Singapore managing director and East Coast GRC MP Jessica Tan, who was named IT Leader of the Year, and IBM distinguished engineer Foong Sew Bun, who was named Professional of the Year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'IT proves to be a 'great leveller' for youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe