Tech sector hiring people from varied backgrounds

Firms value diversity and hire those without technical skills too

Ms Ivy Wong, a senior director at a cyber security start-up, encourages job seekers to join the growing technology sector. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Ms Ivy Wong, a senior director at a cyber security start-up, encourages job seekers to join the growing technology sector. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

As a senior director at a cyber security start-up, Ms Ivy Wong leads a team to develop strategy and sales plans for services related to everything from malware analysis to cyber forensics.

It is a role that the 39-year-old would never have thought she would have been able to do just a decade ago, given all the jargon and technical know-how that comes with the job.

"I was not technically trained during my school days - I have a building and real estate management diploma. But I was interested in the tech industry because it's so dynamic. I wanted to be a part of it somehow," she said.

After dabbling in various administrative jobs upon graduation, she managed to secure a sales role at a Japanese technology firm specialising in cloud and system integration solutions in 2012.

That led to her signing up for a number of tech skills courses and passing the Certified Information Security Manager exam, which covers cyber security and information.

"When you want to sell something, you have to really understand it, right? I decided I had to learn more, and it turned out for the best, even though it was a steep learning curve," added Ms Wong, who believes the training helped her to land her current position, which she has held for two years.

"It can be intimidating to join the tech sector because of all the lingo and complexities, but it's not impossible if you just try."

Ms Wong encouraged job seekers to apply to join the growing tech sector - never mind that they may not have formally trained in the field during their undergraduate studies. Constantly upskilling and keeping an open mind works wonders, she said in a telephone interview.

This is a sentiment shared by many tech companies in Singapore, which said that they welcome all types of applicants as they value diversity.

Mr Henry Low, country manager of Amazon Singapore, told The Straits Times: "We have many employees who joined us from non-tech and a variety of backgrounds. We appreciate the different insights and perspectives that diversity can bring to us, and we continually look for ways to strengthen our culture of inclusion and diversity in the workforce."

The tech giant is looking to fill more than 250 positions ranging from solutions architect roles to sales and advertising positions.

Telco Singtel, which is hiring more than 2,000 people this year, said it has vacancies for both deep tech and "tech lite" roles, such as that of an associate network consultant, which may be suitable for those without infocomm experience.

Ms Aileen Tan, the company's group chief human resources officer, said: "We believe that with the right learning attitude and adequate training, even people without tech experience can transition into such 'tech lite' roles... Be positive, willing to learn, and have a growth mindset."

Even though the overall job market has taken a big hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, tech companies are thriving and continuing to hire.

Besides the need to accelerate innovation to tackle challenges in healthcare and communications because of the pandemic - which deep tech firms are trying to address - other tech companies also have a pressing need for more talent as people adjust to working, playing and shopping online.

Job seekers such as Ms Tarah Sun, 22, a fresh graduate with a university degree in English literature, said, however, that joining the tech sector seemed "too far-fetched" for someone of her background.

But human resource experts said that it is all about developing the right specific skills.

Ms Linda Teo, country manager at ManpowerGroup Singapore, said: "Individuals who want to switch to an IT job but lack the technical background should acquire the right technical skills first. Job seekers can also look at the transferable skills they have and link how they can be applied in their desired role."

A spokesman for e-commerce company Lazada, which is looking to fill more than 100 positions, said that the firm has an emphasis on hiring individuals who are just starting out in their careers, regardless of their backgrounds, given how quickly things change in the retail landscape.

"We look at the long-term needs of the company and seek candidates who are highly adaptable and embrace change. While we do hire those with relevant skills and experience, we also want to train fresh graduates to prepare them for a growing e-commerce sector that is constantly evolving," said the spokesman.

Over at Shopee, the e-commerce firm has listed more than 280 positions on its careers website. The company is looking to fill roles such as business development analysts and software engineers.

Mr Lim Teck Yong, head of regional operations and people team at the firm, said: "Depending on a candidate's passion and interest, there is something available for everyone. In fact, some of our employees come from non-technical backgrounds including maths, physics, and even architecture.

"Beyond technical skills, we look out for candidates with an open mind, positive attitude and a passion for e-commerce."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2020, with the headline Tech sector hiring people from varied backgrounds. Subscribe