Software developers 'need passion to excel'

Good engineers are those who have the interest and drive to improve their skills, says Mr Lee, who leads a team of iOS coders at gaming and media platform Garena.
Good engineers are those who have the interest and drive to improve their skills, says Mr Lee, who leads a team of iOS coders at gaming and media platform Garena.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

When he was in Primary 6, Mr Lee Sing Jie, 29, was a huge fan of Japanese monster anime Digimon, like many of his friends. He was also into computers, and so married his two passions when he created his first website dedicated to Digimon when he was 12.

While his Digimon site may have vanished from the Internet - "I tried looking for it over the weekend but it's gone," he said - the passion for coding has remained.

Mr Lee is now a programmer with gaming and media platform Garena. The computer engineering graduate from the National University of Singapore joined Garena four years ago as its first mobile developer. He now leads a team of nine other iOS coders to develop, maintain and update all things iOS-related for the company.

Singapore firm Garena has about 150 software developers across its mobile, Web and desktop platforms in its research and development hub, located at Fusionopolis.

But even though Mr Lee has managerial responsibilities, the bulk of his job is still coding-focused - which is how he wants it to be.

"I'm still pretty young, so I have a lot more to learn and would want to be involved in coding for a few more years before moving on," he said.

There has been a push here for coding to be taught at the primary and secondary school levels.

While such programmes are aimed at preparing children for a technological future, Mr Lee said that passion will be the vital ingredient for aspiring software developers to excel.

"Knowing how to code doesn't mean you will have guaranteed success or a bright future. The truth is, there are a lot of engineers out there. The good ones are those who have the passion, interest and drive to improve their skills and knowledge," he pointed out.

But coding does help people to think logically, which can be a useful mindset to teach children when they are young, he added.

"In programming, you have to break bigger problems into smaller problems, and solve them logically from there," he said.

"Coding courses can train them to think in this way, but whether it interests them and (leads them into software engineering) is another thing altogether."

Aspiring coders and software engineers should expect to do plenty of coding during their first few years on the job.

"There's a saying that you need to do something 10,000 times before you get good at it," said Mr Lee. "In software engineering terms, that means you have to write 10,000 lines of code before you become an expert."

He added: "For engineers who have just joined the industry, I'd suggest that they focus on writing code before moving on to other things. You have to code before you move into managerial roles because you need to be very good at it before you can lead somebody."

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Software developers 'need passion to excel''. Print Edition | Subscribe