Making the leap: how one GovTechie switched careers to product design
In this year’s National Day Rally, PM Lee spoke about Atiqah Abdul Khalim, a political science graduate who decided to pursue studies in a completely different field – UX design! (Check it out at the 5:27 mark.)
Since doing so, Atiqah has gone on to work for some major tech companies – Razer, Shopee, and most recently, Rakuten.
At GovTech, we too have quite a few folks who made the leap from a non-tech to tech career.
GovTech’s very own Mehul Shah, formerly a manager in the Communications and Marketing Group, proved it is certainly possible by embarking on a career transformation journey to become a user experience (UX) designer with the Government Digital Services Division, where he primarily focuses on UX copywriting, research, and strategy today.
We spoke to Mehul to find out more about his journey.
The job role changes, but Mehul’s goals remain the same.
Immersing in Tech
Mehul’s previous role in public relations, writing, events, marketing, and stakeholder engagement allowed him to see tech work up close and be part of tech culture. “I saw the value that GovTech brings to our community through our products,” he says. “A transition to a tech role felt like a good opportunity to directly work and learn from the people who developed these solutions as well as contribute towards them”.
The notion of a tech career was sparked by his interest in UX, which he pursued by attending a 10-week course at tech training provider General Assembly in the evenings twice a week. He also carved out time to go for other courses and workshops. “There were times when it got in the way of family time, but my family was understanding and saw my interest in improving myself,” he shares.
Making the Switch
More than a year after completing the course Mehul took the plunge and requested a transfer. Thankfully, his bosses were supportive, even as Singapore was at the peak of the COVID pandemic. “Since I showed interest and had some of the related skills, they encouraged me to go for it,” he says.
Once in his new role, Mehul had to adapt to the tech-focused culture and embrace a higher degree of independence in navigating tasks and challenges. “If you wanted to do something that you thought was beneficial to your team, you can moot it and go for it,” he says, highlighting the autonomy and initiative expected.
Nevertheless, Mehul emphasises that support and help is always available when needed. “My leads have been encouraging and patient, allowing me the space and time to get acquainted while also being open to ideas that I might have. It has also been a pleasure working with inspiring colleagues who are always questioning the status quo so that we can do something better,” he adds.
And even as he hones his tech skills, his experience as a media and communications professional has proven useful in his new role. In particular, he has been able to use his communication skills in his UX copywriting, user interviews, and in thinking of ways to publicise the products he is working on.
Fruits of Labour
The career transition has been rewarding as Mehul sees the difference his work is making in the lives of Singaporeans. “We are able to contribute towards the wave of positive change through small ripples,” he says.
For instance, a visitor to the GovTech office with a limited vision shared how Notαrise – a product he worked on – was “a very seamless experience” when getting his Vaccination HealthCert for travel as he could successfully make use of Apple’s VoiceOver feature to navigate the portal.
“It gave us a warm fuzzy feeling because his anecdote affirmed that we were helping as many people as possible, and we were even more motivated to continue making improvements to the accessibility of the portal,” he recalls.
Words of advice
For those contemplating a similar non-tech-to-tech career transition journey, Mehul says that some self-doubt is par for the course. “It’s probably normal to be a little hesitant or concerned when transitioning from a non-tech role to a tech role, questioning yourself if you’d be good at your new role” he notes. To overcome this, we must choose something that intrigues or excites us, so that the interest in the new domain can be sustained. “Focus on areas or aspects that you are most comfortable with or can contribute to first, before looking to bolster other skills to build that confidence,” he advises, reflecting on his own journey.
Tech talent still sought after
The tech layoffs in 2022 and this year may have generated many headlines, but job posting data has shown that demand for tech roles actually grew by 70 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023.
Mehul’s story exemplifies how passion, learning, adaptability, and a supportive work environment can lead to remarkable transformation and meaningful contributions to the tech industry.
So, if you’ve been mulling over a mid-career switch to tech, why not seize the opportunities available today and make a serious attempt at gaining a foothold in the tech sector today?
Your future self will thank you for making your dream a reality! Click here to find out more about working at GovTech!https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/making-the-leap