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He’s guiding young talents to success with his background in psychology

Desmond Teo’s James Cook University Bachelor of Psychology prepared him well for his early career and provided a strong foundation for his endeavours in career development

Over the past 12 years, Mr Teo has immersed himself in the field of career development, exploring ways to better guide and support young talent. PHOTO: TED CHEN
Over the past 12 years, Mr Teo has immersed himself in the field of career development, exploring ways to better guide and support young talent. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Spurred by his interest in uncovering how human perceptions are formed and to equip himself with the knowledge to help others, Mr Desmond Teo decided to enrol in a psychology degree programme after he graduated from polytechnic. 

He chose James Cook University (JCU) in 2004 as he was impressed by the many positive online reviews about the acclaimed university’s academic rigour in the field. 

“JCU’s resounding credibility gave me the confidence that my qualifications would be recognised by the industry both locally and internationally,” the now 41-year-old says.

Primed for the job

Mr Teo has worked in many industries; from healthcare, to education and public service. He was tasked with implementing career development platforms and developing approaches on how to attract and retain young talent. He helps individuals explore their career interests and how they can contribute their skills and knowledge meaningfully to the companies they work for, as well as the society.

Mr Teo, who is now married with two children, adds that the psychology knowledge he gleaned at JCU has been useful to his current role as a human resource professional. 

More importantly, his studies in psychology has changed the way he sees the world. “Now, I appreciate the people around me better after knowing there are underlying reasons for behaviours, whether these were shaped by our upbringing or other social factors, moulding us to become who we are today,” he says.

In August last year, he joined the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), and is now a senior manager in the agency’s People & Organisation Division.

In his role, he helps to recruit and develop young tech talent for GovTech by collaborating with tech leaders, engineers and colleagues across divisions to come up with talent development strategies and activities. He and his team members also partner students, professors and administrators to engage young talents at campuses. 

Mr Teo finds the Smart Nation vision and open culture at GovTech very motivating; these have been vital to helping him overcome the myriad of challenges in his role, chief of which is talent attraction.

He notes: “With the global push for digitalisation, employers in both the public and private sectors face very stiff competition for young tech talent. 

“However, I believe that as long as we are clear about our mission and continue to provide a conducive environment for engineers to thrive and do good for the public, we will see talented individuals joining us on our Smart Nation journey. The positive impact that technology brings is what rallies us at GovTech.”


The positive impact that technology brings is what rallies Mr Desmond Teo and his colleagues at GovTech. PHOTO: TED CHEN

An education with a difference

Despite graduating from JCU more than a decade ago, Mr Teo fondly remembers his time at the university. 

He thoroughly enjoyed the lively class engagement with professors and lecturers. His classes were small in size, so students felt encouraged to ask questions during lessons. Mr Teo adds that it felt great knowing they were part of a larger JCU community as they shared the same learning system with students located at JCU’s Cairns campus in Queensland, Australia. 

He was particularly inspired by Professor Kerry McBain, head of JCU’s Psychology College of Healthcare Sciences. She was very patient in listening to the students’ learning needs. Her passion for teaching inspired them to delve deeper into the topics she taught.

“Above all, my greatest learning at JCU was that there are no stupid questions; we should be inquisitive and adventurous in figuring out the unknown,” he says.

As for his future career plans, Mr Teo, who also holds a Master of Human Capital Management, wants to continue his work of guiding young talent on the path to success. 

“I want to spend more time figuring out best practices in this space of developing young talent. On a personal level, I am also on the constant lookout for learning opportunities. Learning keeps my mind agile and open to keep up with the ever-changing world that we live in,” he adds.

Find out more about JCU's psychology programmes at their course preview. Register at http://bit.ly/3abn0aj