The future economy is a term that has appeared in public speeches, entered dialogues among employers and peppered everyday conversations. Although people are generally aware that the economy is undergoing rapid transformation and the nature of work is evolving, few have details about what is really going on in the job market and how you should prepare for it.

We recently had the privilege of speaking with four SUTD alumni to learn more about the exciting roles they are playing in shaping the future economy and how the SUTD experience has prepared them for their roles.

Andrew Sng graduated from SUTD in 2017. He studied Engineering Product Development and majored in Electrical Engineering. He was part of Team PERI, the SUTD team that won the James Dyson Award 2017 in Singapore. Today, he works in the sensors and Internet of Things (IOT) team at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech). He was recruited into GovTech’s Technology Associate Program.

What does the future economy mean to you?

From my vantage point at GovTech, I am confident that the Smart Nation Initiative will provide more jobs not just in fast growing startups and SMEs but also MNCs and the public sector. There will be a strong demand for highly-skilled talent and amazing opportunities to make a difference.

In the future economy, coding will be important for many people, not just the engineers or programmers. I think the SkillsFuture programme is a crucial step in the right direction to equip Singaporeans with the skills needed for this future.

What sort of careers have your friends from SUTD ended up in?

Over the years, quite a few SUTD graduates have gone into GovTech. As for my other friends, they mostly joined the technology industry in companies such as Rolls Royce and Schneider Electric; working in exciting areas like automation, biomedical, energy management, and of course, research.

How do graduates from SUTD differ from other schools’ graduates?

In SUTD, there is a lot of emphasis on using design thinking which provides a very useful framework to approach problems. In the real world, there are often multiple solutions, each with their own tradeoffs and so taking a design thinking approach has proven invaluable.

This approach also helps us to come up with hypotheses which we test using the rapid prototyping techniques we’ve honed during our time at SUTD. By testing these assumptions, we make better decisions and course corrections based on insights from data rather than pure intuition.

What advice do you have for someone thinking of a career in your field?

Learning never stops. You start in school and continue through to the workplace and that is how we make sense of the world and value adds to it.

Delphine Ang graduated from SUTD in 2015. She studied Engineering Systems and Design (ESD), and is currently working on Changi Airport Terminal 5 Planning with Changi Airport Group (CAG).

How did you land up in this role?

I’ve wanted to work for the airport for quite a while, although I wasn’t sure which role I wanted. I indicated my interest to the SUTD career development team, who were extremely helpful – they advised me on career path planning, resume writing and even had interview training. They were also able to connect me with the CAG HR team.

The awesome thing was that there happened to be an opportunity for a role in Terminal 5 Planning and as they say, the rest is history. I still feel fortunate for this turn of events.

What about your friends from SUTD?

Many of my ESD friends have gone into technical consulting, finance and the telecommunications industry. The course gave us quite a bit of breadth so the industries that we can go into are quite varied.

Tell us more about your experience in SUTD and how that prepared you for your role.

In ESD I learnt about systems; analysing performance, working with  probabilities and statistics, and running simulations. These are skills that have been useful in my role so far.

Beyond that, SUTD also gave us industry exposure through real-life projects that we worked on. For example, in my first year I worked on a project with CAG on enhancing the taxi boarding efficiency.  This gave us a good opportunity to apply what we were learning during that term on a real life problem.

Another experience that was useful in preparing  me for the working world was my capstone project where we worked in a multidisciplinary team on a project for a pharmaceutical company. Focusing on our areas of strength, we did an analysis of their syringes to make them more cost effective, which is crucial for developing markets.

Given our different areas of expertise, each of us looked at different aspects; from the design of the syringe, the manufacturing process and the supply chain aspects which informed our overall proposal.

Leon Jared Cher graduated with Masters of Architecture from Architecture and Sustainable Design in 2016. Today, he works as an Architectural Associate with DP Architects.

Tell us more about what you do.

As an Architectural Associate with DP Architects, I work on a few things such as concept work and renovation works for clients. Architecture is a constantly changing industry. Previously it was about how to be more efficient with materials. Now, there’s much more emphasis on green buildings and the concept of sustainability has made great strides in recent years.

Architects today look at systems and not just products. Some of my friends, for example, are working at optimizing the design process itself using technology.

What were the most memorable experiences that you had in SUTD?

I was part of the first batch of ASD students at SUTD, so we had the opportunity to come up with a lot of new things, but we also had to be resourceful. A group of us designed the hostels and club rooms at the Dover Campus. It was really a cool experience to see our works turn into reality.

I really enjoyed the multidisciplinary nature of SUTD. And it’s not just about the courses. To me, even the physical design of the campus facilities fosters a collaborative environment.

The labs and classrooms are designed in such a way that you are constantly running into people. And you can see what others are working on, especially when work is exhibited at the Campus Centre.

When you mix in the fact that you know people from all the other pillars from freshmore year, your curiosity is constantly sparked and you’re not just concerned about your own discipline.

Pavithren Pakianathan (Viren) graduated from SUTD in 2017. On top of being a Singapore-Industry Scholar, Viren was also part of Team PERI that competed for the James Dyson Award 2017 along with Andrew Sng. He studied Information Systems and Technology Design and focused on and Human-Computer Interaction. He is now a Technical Consultant with Hitachi.

How did you get started at Hitachi?

I had a Singapore-Industry Scholarship by MOE and EDB, and amongst the options on the table, Hitachi was the most appealing as I already had previous experience with the brand as a consumer. I was also attracted by Hitachi’s Social Innovation business which aims to tackle societal problems through the use of technology.

Has SUTD set you up well to work in the Future Economy?

Design thinking, and rapid prototyping and interdisciplinary projects were deeply embedded in SUTD’s curriculum, so we’re not afraid to take risks or work in multidisciplinary teams.

Apart from that, I had the opportunity to do some research work at the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (as part of SUTD Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme). Together with Andrew, our research explored ways to convey information about sound using lights for the deaf and presented our preliminary findings at a Conference in Australia. PERI, our project that came from this research won the James Dyson Award 2017 in Singapore.

Last but not least, the Humanities, Arts and Social Science subjects gave me a better understanding of many social issues. This in turn has allowed me to critically think about how emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things will impact society.

What advice do you have for someone thinking of a career in your field?

Be a keen learner and stay curious. Come up with ways to combine your passion and skillsets to improve society. Don’t let salary be the first factor when looking for a job.

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