The driving force of IT Talent
There will always be a technology flavour of the month driving innovation: artificial intelligence, neural networks and blockchain today — and who knows what else that’s new and exciting tomorrow.
But even as technology advances at breakneck speed, it is the people who drive ICT research, innovation and industry that remain consistently important.
In recognition of this, the Singapore Computer Society (SCS) on 10 March 2017 announced the winners of its 2017 IT Leader Awards. The awards, now in their 21st year, honour the contributions of industry veterans as well as of up-and-comers.
The five winners received their awards at SCS’s 50th Gala Dinner, where Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam was guest of honour.
Going Global, Developing Skills
In his speech, Mr Tharman highlighted that local ICT firms should aim beyond our shores, citing the example of CashShield, founded by National University of Singapore finance graduate Justin Lie.
The company developed a fraud-detection solution that is based on machine learning technology.
He noted that CashShield “decided to go global from day one. In fact, CashShield’s first customer was in Holland. They scaled up in Europe. Returned to market their solutions in Singapore. And now (they) have a global network of clients spanning 20 countries.”
Another issue Mr Tharman stressed was the importance of training and developing skills in the sector.
He said: “Building both quantity and quality of talent — that’s our biggest challenge, and we must tackle it as our biggest priority.”
“We must encourage more Singaporeans to come on board: whether it is to develop deep specialist skills and be at the cutting edge of global innovation, or to be catalysts for transforming existing industries, or to help every segment of our society make the most of the digital age.”
SCS president Howie Lau spoke about the pervasive impact of ICT in Singapore, saying: “Technology, innovation and digitisation are no longer just professional buzzwords for the ICT industry, but are transforming every aspect of how Singaporeans live, from shopping to food delivery to healthcare and transportation.”
Mr Lau added: “With the SCS IT Leader Awards, we are celebrating the Singapore talent that is shaping the future of our Smart Nation.”
ICT ecosystem Builder
Mr Bill Chang, Group Enterprise CEO and country chief officer at Singtel, was named IT Leader of the Year. The award recognises individuals who have not only displayed exemplary leadership and an outstanding professional track record, but who have also made significant personal contributions to Singapore’s ICT scene.
Since taking on his Group Enterprise position in 2012, Mr Chang has built new businesses in cybersecurity, cloud services and smart city development, transforming Singtel’s enterprise arm into one of the largest and most innovative enterprise service providers in the region.
Mr Chang also has a keen interest in helping people pursue their interest in ICT. He has worked with institutes of higher learning to develop internship programmes in cybersecurity, networking and smart nation digital applications, and with the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) to train mid-career ICT professionals in cybersecurity.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and I think we’re at the cusp of a major digital revolution. There’s so much that digitisation and ICT can bring to businesses, consumers and economies,” said Mr Chang.
“There’s an abundance of opportunities that lie ahead, and it’s really about how we can help our people take advantage of them. Even if they’ve been in the industry for many years, can they transition to new areas of technology to partake of these opportunities?”
A passion for Cybersecurity
While Mr Chang is an industry veteran, Mr Yeo Quan Yang, who picked up the IT Youth Award, has yet to officially embark on his professional career.
A computer science undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, he is expected to complete his honours degree in 2017.
As a freshman at NUS, Mr Yeo founded the NUS Greyhats, an interest group that aims to promote interest and foster collaborations in cybersecurity. Now in its third year, the group organises events such as cybersecurity challenges and workshops, which allow interested students to hone their skills.
“I started the group to try and help people discover and cultivate a passion in this area,” said Mr Yeo, who has himself participated in and won many competitions, including the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore’s 2016 Cyber Conquest.
“Many young people are naturally inclined to the computing industry at the moment — I have people approaching me wanting to learn how to program, script and hack. We should try and help them maintain this passion.”
Going places, going global
Three other IT leaders were also honoured with awards: Mr Alex Lau, founder and CEO of Anacle Systems Limited, a Singapore-based property and energy management systems startup, was named Entrepreneur of the Year; Dr Lim Woo Lip, vice-president of SmartHub and cybersecurity at Starhub, picked up the Professional of the Year award; and Mr Saw Ken Wye, CEO at CrimsonLogic, won the Hall of Fame award.
The winners had some advice for how Singapore companies could aspire to go global. Mr Chang said that Singtel made a conscious effort to break out of traditional telecommunications and pivot to new areas of technology, such as analytics and cybersecurity.
“We don’t ask ourselves how we can lead in Singapore anymore, but how we can lead globally,” he said.
“If Singtel can do this, I believe a lot of companies that are smaller and more focused can also make that leap.”
Mr Saw said that CrimsonLogic, which provides digital government services, has branches in regions where many Singapore companies would not think of expanding to — Africa and the Caribbean, for example.
“I go to places where nobody wants to go. That’s where the markets are and where the interest is. Sometimes you can’t wait, you have to create your own luck!”
- Top Photo courtesy of SCS. From left to right: Mr Howie Lau (President of SCS), Mr Yeo Quan Yang (IT Youth), Dr Lim Woo Lip (Professional of the Year), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Mr Bill Chang (IT Leader of the Year), Mr Saw Ken Wye (Hall of Fame), Mr Alex Lau (Entrepreneur of the Year), and Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.