From building his first personal computer at 12 years old, Mr Kenneth Ham went on to achieve greater accomplishments — becoming the chief technology officer of a tech company, founding multiple start-ups and being recognised as one of the 4,000 Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals in the world.
His childhood passion for information technology (IT) meant that he often spent his spare time troubleshooting, coding and improving his programming skills. By the time he went to secondary school, the tech whiz had already written several software applications. But the possibility of gaining admission to the diploma course of his choice was diminished when he scored 39 points for his O-level preliminary examinations.
All hope was not lost though. When Mr Ham learnt that his interest and skills in IT could serve as possible leverage via the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) to enrol in the Diploma in Information Technology course at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), he decided to give it a shot.
The EAE, formerly known as the Direct Polytechnic Admissions (DPA) exercise, is an aptitude-based admissions exercise that allows students to apply for and receive conditional placement offers to polytechnics prior to receiving their final grades. Because of the flexibility in selection, applicants can leverage their non-academic skills to earn a placement in the course of their choice.
To succeed in his attempt, he needed to ace his EAE interview and score under 26 points for the O-level examinations, even if he did not meet the regular — albeit more competitive — criteria for admission.
Recalls the 29-year-old: “I walked out of the interview feeling motivated. My interviewer, who was the course manager then, was thoroughly impressed with my IT skills but wanted me to prove that I would be able to do adequately for my academics as well. Knowing that I stood a chance, I worked very hard on my studies after the interview.”
His hard work paid off. He fared far better than expected with a score of 14 points for his O-level examinations and was offered a spot in the IT course at TP in 2008.
Learning beyond the classroom
At TP, Mr Ham thrived. From overseas exchange programmes to industry-led interest groups and national competitions, there were plenty of extra-curricular activities that encouraged him to further pursue his interest in IT with like-minded individuals.
During his overseas internship at Hitachi Asia Research in Japan, Mr Ham researched and worked alongside the experienced software engineers on injecting applications onto Hitachi’s cloud. As a member of the Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) programme for promising IT students in Singapore, he got to network with fellow IT enthusiasts, and teach at and organise Microsoft workshops and events. These activities further fuelled his passion for IT.
The valuable experiences and IT knowledge Mr Ham gained at TP were important in developing and shaping his career. Since his graduation in 2011, he has worked at Hitachi and Microsoft, as well as founded JungleElement, a company that develops artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, and a platform-based food waste company treatsure.
Today, he continues to contribute his expertise as the chief technology officer of software-as-a-service platform DC Frontiers.
Says Dr Eng Pin Kwang, director of TP’s School of Informatics & IT: “When students pursue courses they are passionate about, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
“You can see this from Kenneth’s experience. I have also witnessed many like him among students in our school. Those who are genuinely passionate about what they are learning will find opportunities to go deeper and sharpen their skills.”
Holistic education at Temasek Polytechnic
TP students are offered an abundance of opportunities to hone their skills in information and communication technology through participation in extra-curricular activities. These include industry projects, hackathons, national competitions and sponsored professional certification courses. These activities help students to develop communication, innovation and critical thinking skills which are vital in succeeding in today’s dynamic working landscape.
TP’s School of Informatics & IT offers a range of courses in the areas of big data and analytics, cyber security and digital forensics, game design and development, financial business informatics as well as IT. To meet manpower needs in emerging sectors, the school recently introduced its newest course — the Diploma in Applied Artificial Intelligence.
Whether it’s building houses, creating autonomous vehicles, finding new vaccines or enhancing manufacturing capabilities, AI is revolutionising the way we do things. Students in the Diploma in Applied Artificial Intelligence course will learn to develop virtual assistants and chatbots, and incorporate natural language processing and object-recognition technologies into solutions they develop by applying machine learning and deep learning skills. Those who are passionate about being at the forefront of technology would appreciate the opportunity to take up this exciting new course.
Says Mr Ham: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the exposure and experiences TP offered, and the nurturing lecturers and teachers there. Applying to TP via the EAE gave me a head start in the subject that I love and I have been unstoppable since.
“To those who are thinking of applying to TP via the EAE, go for it.”
The caption of the photo showing Mr Kenneth Ham teaching AI to students has been edited for clarity.