AFTER almost two decades in the information technology (IT) industry, veteran systems engineer Chia Yew Lee decided to go back to school to pursue a postgraduate degree.
The 42-year-old director of distributed systems engineering at Visa Worldwide took up a Master of Technology in IT Leadership (MTech ITL) at the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Systems Science (NUS-ISS).
Mr Chia recalls: “I had been picking up management skills through experience, observation and learning from seniors and my managers.
“It got to a point where I felt I needed further professional guidance to take me to the next level.”
Mr Chia, who holds a Bachelor of Science (Computer and Information Sciences) degree from NUS, currently leads a team of Unix, Windows and virtualisation systems engineers who design computer solutions and infrastructure to meet his company’s business and security needs.
For him, the extra time, effort and sacrifices associated with part-time graduate study will pay off if it empowers him to better utilise technology that is relevant to his work and helps drive business transformation.
Structured to help today’s IT managers ride the new digital wave, the MTech ITL’s interactive curriculum helps students to develop critical-thinking abilities.
It encourages students to actively engage in case-based workshops, discussions and constructive dialogues.
“The classroom discussion style encourages learning through the sharing of experiences. It is something that cannot be achieved through reading textbooks and management articles,” says Mr Chia.
He adds that his course mates work in different areas of IT, including networks, computing, applications, systems or software architecture and project management.
“The different perspectives shared during discussions are of ten my biggest takeaway,” he says.
The MTech ITL course has several key study areas.
These include digital business transformation — where students learn to plan, deploy and measure digitisation initiatives to create business value; and IT leadership — where students are equipped with skills for strategic and systems thinking, communication, as well as team-building.
One module Mr Chia has particularly enjoyed is on the strategic alignment of business and IT.
“Being on the infrastructure side of IT, application and business demand is an area which I seldom get in touch with.
“This module reinforces the importance of IT in meeting business demands.
“It also emphasises important concepts such as enterprise architecture, and formulating strategies to meet business demand in a changing landscape,” he says.
Equipped for the future
The MTech ITL programme, which was developed in 2015, focuses on grooming strategic and forward-thinking IT and digital leaders.
It is designed for experienced managers with IT portfolio management responsibilities who wish to build an academic foundation to effectively innovate, lead and execute IT and digital transformation.
Mr Khoong Chan Meng, director and chief executive officer of NUS-ISS, notes that the role of IT leaders has changed in an increasingly complex world.
“IT leaders no longer just run technology operations. They are now expected to play important roles in managing technology risks and charting sustainable business growth,” he says.
In the fast-changing technological landscape, a new breed of IT professionals will be required to take Singapore forward.
“There needs to be a new generation of future-ready digital leaders who are able to steer their businesses to ride the wave of digital disruption and harvest opportunities available in the new digital economy,” says Ms Lim Hooi Ling, who heads the MTech ITL programme.
She adds that the course goes beyond equipping students with knowledge and skills.
“We want to develop students to have the mindset and thinking agility required of digital leaders, enhancing their self-awareness to think and act differently to lead digital transformation and create business value in their organisations,” she says.
The new intake for the MTech ITL programme at NUS-ISS commences in July. Applications close on March 31. Visit www.iss.nus.edu.sg/graduate-programmes/graduate-programmes for more information.