Building a robust talent pool in a competitive IT industry

Through continuous learning, Optimum Solutions is keeping its staff ahead of the curve while also helping Singapore's tech sector grow

Optimum Solutions' Graduate Training programme in progress. PHOTO: OPTIMUM SOLUTIONS
Optimum Solutions' Graduate Training programme in progress. PHOTO: OPTIMUM SOLUTIONS

When home-grown IT consultancy and services company Optimum Solutions realised there was a scarcity of trained Singaporean software engineers, it started conducting such training programmes for its employees to meet the growing demand.

This is just one of the initiatives rolled out by this progressive company – a trusted partner of more than 50 Fortune 500 companies across Asia. It  engages in projects in areas such as digital transformation, analytics, robotics and cloud enablement, and hires 3,400 employees located in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and India.

“Maintaining a robust talent pool is essential to the success of our business,” says its founder and chief executive officer Balwant Jain. “By focusing on learning opportunities and incentivisation, we are upskilling staff while keeping ahead of the competition.”

Here are some ways Optimum, ranked 14th in the IT, Internet, Software & Services category of the Singapore’s Best Employers 2021 list, has championed staff development and growth:

#1 Creating supply to meet demand

Foreseeing a demand for skilled software engineers, especially with a shortage of local talent in the field, Optimum adopted an “end-to-end” approach to training that exposes trainees to various parts of the business, from handling a project to writing the code for an app.

“Staff are put through customer-centric challenges, such as budgetary or technical constraints that allow them to “fail fast” and learn faster, so they pick up technical skills more quickly while looking at issues from the customer’s perspective,” says chief operating officer Vinod Martin. Ultimately, this enables the company to grow and retain its talent pool for long-term sustainability.

Chief executive officer and founder Balwant Jain believes maintaining a robust talent pool is essential to success, and that focusing on learning opportunities and incentivisation leads to upskilling staff while keeping ahead of the competition. PHOTO: OPTIMUM SOLUTIONS

#2 Structured training for every staff member

Sharing the Government’s vision of developing and promoting a Singapore core for IT talent, Optimum runs a Graduate Training programme for university and polytechnic students to develop expertise and provide hands-on experience in cutting-edge technologies.

In the last three years, over 150 staff have been hired and have undergone training. Delivered in a blend of e-learning, virtual classes and classroom learning over six months, the programme accelerates professional development for both fresh and mid-career professionals in emerging technologies in the software engineering and data analytics domain.

Depending on performance, skill level, aptitude and interest, each staff member is assigned to one of four specialisation tracks: agile full-stack software engineer, agile DevOps, agile business or technology analyst, and agile project management.

Overall, staff feedback has been positive, with employees saying they “loved working on projects” and enjoyed the opportunity to “learn from experts around the world”.  

Adds business analyst Gina Ng: “The combination of classroom training, live projects and real-time mentoring made it easy and interesting for me to learn coding. I picked up technical skills and tips on improving my presentation skills. 

“I have become more confident when making presentations, and my new technical skills help me complete my tasks more quickly. I have transitioned from a software developer to a business analyst working on a Capital Markets Platform project for a large bank.”

Meanwhile, her colleague Boonne Ng says the company has been instrumental in shaping and nurturing his career as a software engineer. He says: “I joined the company straight after university, and underwent six months of training on software engineering best practices, and programming languages Java, J2EE, Maven and Linux. 

“I was also given an opportunity to work on projects for global and local banks while being mentored all the way. Today, I develop and maintain software systems as part of projects for several governmental agencies.” 

Chief operating officer Vinod Martin (left) says staff are put through customer-centric challenges that allow them to learn faster, while managing director Sumit Malik adds that the company's focus on training and recruiting experienced, mid-career talent has led to the creation of business analysts and support analysts for front-line systems. PHOTO: OPTIMUM SOLUTIONS

#3 Widening the net for talent

Besides fresh graduates, Optimum also looks to hire mid-career candidates. It is a regular participant at career fairs held by government agencies such as Infocomm Media Development Authority, National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute, and Workforce Singapore.

Says managing director Sumit Malik: “At the peak of the circuit breaker, we started focusing on experienced, mid-career talent who want to make a switch to IT. For example, a person with a background in marketing, who could receive the necessary training to transition into a business analyst. Or a digital marketing professional trained and re-skilled to succeed and be part of the digital ecosystem.

“Through the career fairs and active sourcing, we have hired a team of such professionals over the age of 40 and provided training in IT systems and support. Currently, these professionals are working as business analysts and support analysts for front-line systems on critical projects.”