Setting the Stage
In the last few years, Singapore has rapidly become a hub for tech companies and startups. Big businesses and organizations from the US and China are establishing their base in the so-called Silicon Valley of Asia.
If you’re looking to join the tech industry or take up a software engineer or coder role, the timing couldn’t have been better. The industry is booming, and there’s a high demand for professionals in data science, product management, software engineering, and many other IT fields.
However, before entering the industry, you will have to face several questions.
"What field within IT should I choose? What companies offer jobs in that field? Is there a scope of growth in that field or company? Will it be a high-paying job?"
You’ll have all these questions and more. But lucky for you, we’ve got answers to them. We’ll take you through everything you need to know about the IT industry in Singapore, myths around the industry, the most popular jobs, the skills they require, and more!
And with this, you can make an informed decision about picking a career option. So let’s dive in!
- Since 2018, 80 of the top 100 tech firms in the world have established a presence in Singapore. These include IBM, Google, Microsoft, and several others.
- Companies with immense growth rates, such as Zoom, Twitter, Paypal, ByteDance, etc., have also established offices in Singapore.
- 7000 people were placed in the tech sector between April and November in 2020.
- There are over 12000 job openings present in the tech sector, offering good salaries.
- 30% of these are for roles that do not require core tech knowledge, such as programming, coding, software development, etc.
All these facts point to the simple fact that a tech career has boundless scope. You can grow both professionally and financially while being at the center of innovation and development.
However, there are two primary things to note here. First, there are non-tech jobs in the tech industry that balance out the tech-savvy roles such as data scientist, AI specialist, software developer, etc. Second, you might have perceptions that you need a degree to get into a tech role and several others. But that’s not true in most cases.
This brings us to the myths around the Singapore IT industry. So let us help you by listing down some of the most common misconceptions about the tech industry.
Myths About The Industry
Myth #1: You need to have a tech background to enter the IT industry
There are jobs such as product management, business analyst, etc. that require relatively less knowledge about coding than tech-first roles in many companies.
Furthermore, even if you are looking for entry-level tech roles or even mid-career switches, you can still get a job. This is because degree, in most cases, is not the criteria. Instead, the companies focus on your skill sets and passion.
You can leverage your transferable skills, such as analytical thinking, problem-solving, etc., to get a job. In contrast, you can learn technical skills such as coding and development via online coding courses and boot camps.
Myth #2: Mature employees cannot enter the IT industry
As mentioned earlier, you can switch careers and get into the IT industry in both tech and non-tech roles. All you need are the relevant skills to bag you that job you are looking for.
It's never too late to learn a new skill. Currently, 100% of our graduates (> 40 years old) who come from a variety of non-IT backgrounds have successfully secured jobs in the IT industry.
Myth #3: You need to be good at math
This is a surprising one, but no, it isn’t true. In fact, many of the tech/non-tech roles do not even involve mathematics, let alone requiring you to be good at it.
Myth #4: You’ll only have a promising career if you join a FAANG company
The FAANG companies are Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google. People believe that you need to get into big companies such as those listed above to have an impeccable career. However, that’s far from true. These are merely two extremes. In between them, there are various big companies offering you a great career, and there are numerous rapidly growing startups offering good salaries and incredible learning experiences.
Myth #5: Getting a degree is enough to guarantee you a job
IT as an industry is ever-evolving. What you learn when you get a degree are the mere basics. When you enter the industry and work in real-time, you need to keep learning as you go forward. If your question is how, then the answer is simple. Subscribe to online courses or join coding bootcamps that are present on the internet. These can keep you updated with the latest trends, and you can apply your learnings from here in your job. So far, our coding bootcamp graduates have managed to secure a perfect 100% job placement rate!
Now that we’ve debunked the myths, let’s hop on to what kind of job roles are in demand!
Popular Job Roles In Singapore’s IT Sector
Tech Oriented Jobs
You can either be a front-end engineer, back-end engineer or full stack developer. Full-stack development involves building websites and softwares working on both front-end and back-end. The front-end is what you see before you, i.e., the user interface, while the back-end is programming the website’s functionalities.
To bag a job in this role, you need to be well-versed with languages such as Python, Ruby on Rails, C++, etc. In addition, knowledge about operating systems such as Linux, Mac OS, Solaris, etc., will also be helpful.
Based on different projects, you’ll work with different languages and OS. So as we mentioned earlier, keep learning more and updating yourself. Take up online courses in your time and build your expertise around the subject.
As a cloud engineer, you’ll be working on developing and managing cloud applications for businesses and migrating current on-premises applications to the cloud. This is yet another important job role that is getting more popular due to the remote working scenario.
You need to possess technical skills such as database management, programming, and a deep understanding of cloud service providers, web services & APIs. You also need to equip yourselves with project management and problem-solving skills.
Data Science is one of the very few exceptions to the myths around math we mentioned earlier. It requires you to possess knowledge about statistics, probabilities, creating charts to understand trends, derive results, give predictions, and creating actionable plans.
Data science is yet another field whose scope spans across various industries such as healthcare, advertising, FMCG, supply chain, etc. You need to have a stronghold of mathematical concepts and technical concepts such as Big Data, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Data Manipulation, and Visualization.
As an AI Specialist, your job would be to build programs that can think on their own. In addition, you’ll be building AI models using machine learning algorithms and emulate neural networks to derive business insights for companies.
However, depending on where you work, you’re not restricted to this. You can work on products that perform facial or speech recognition. If you’re in a naval research lab, then you could work on automating processes in that field. For instance, a bot has been developed that can be boarded on an unmanned submarine to repair damaged vessels.
In medicine, AI is currently being used to diagnose diseases, and research is underway for building AI chatbots that can provide cognitive therapy.
A common thread that links all of these is building smart systems that can perceive information, understand it, derive insights, and even solve problems. As you can see, the applications of AI are vast, so you’ll be able to work on projects across sectors such as healthcare, automobile, etc.,
Here once again, you require knowledge on various coding languages such as Python and R. Besides these, there are many math and science topics such as statistics, probability, cognitive-behavioral theory, language processing, etc., that you need to know about. Finally, the soft skills required are curiosity, first principles, and critical thinking.
With companies undergoing digital transformation and remote working becoming the new norm, cybersecurity is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed and solved. As a result, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is at an all-time high.
As a cybersecurity analyst, you will understand the company’s IT infrastructure, keep it updated with the latest security measures. You will also protect the data and hardware by evaluating the risks and threats of the network.
The crucial technical skills required are reverse engineering, application design, and firewall administration. You also need to know tools such as penetration testing and anti-virus software. Besides these, you should be adept at making critical decisions and crisis management.
Non-Tech Oriented Jobs
As a product manager, you’ll oversee the development of applications and products. You don’t need to indulge in coding or know it, but you need to understand the application structure and the nuances of UI and UX.
Having communication skills, strategic thinking, problem-solving skills, research skills, and an understanding of consumer psychology would be helpful.
Customer Relationship Manager:
Yet another job that doesn’t need a super strong tech background. You’ll be involved in providing the customers the best experience and constantly work with the team to improve the experience.
The job will require high interpersonal and communication skills, people management skills, and a comprehensive understanding of consumer psychology.
Strategic Partnership Manager:
This involves creating strategies to develop the business by finding and onboarding new partners. In addition, you’ll get to tailor client outreach campaigns for different partners and clients, ensuring a healthy relationship is maintained. The job requires interpersonal skills, communication skills, people management skills, and an aptitude for analytical thinking.
This is a modern role that is still in its nascent stages. Organizations are aware of the cut-throat competition in the ecosystem and hence realize the value of customer loyalty.
Here, the role of a community specialist would be to build a community via online and offline forums to engage the customers and other stakeholders and provide a space where everyone can interact and connect with each other.
In essence, these are a few jobs that you can apply to and break into the tech industry, but don’t limit yourself to these because there are many more such as business analyst, project manager, etc. Overall, the tech industry has enough room for you all to thrive in. So pick a field that you’re passionate about, build your knowledge in it and kickstart your career!
- Some of the most popular jobs are in software engineering, data science, and product management.
- Software engineering is the most common by far. There are roughly 10x more software engineering jobs than data science or product management jobs in Singapore and internationally. This is because companies need a product before they can analyse data and manage the product, and software engineers build the product.
- Data science helps businesses provide additional value through using machine learning algorithms to improve user experience. Examples include optimising real-time matching of riders and drivers for ride sharing, recommending similar products to users when shopping online, or flagging potential fraudulent transactions in a banking application. This is not to be confused with data analytics, which typically involves creating more traditional business reports through more manual queries.
- Product management is being responsible for all aspects of delivery and outcome of a product. Product managers work with users, colleagues, and any other stakeholders to define product specifications, oversee building of a product, and manage delivery, measurement, and iteration on that product.
- At most mature tech companies there is some form of each of these 3 roles, but software engineers are most common because companies need more software engineers than the other roles. The best data scientists and product managers tend to be former software engineers because they understand how to build software, enhancing their ability to derive value from data and manage software products.
Why the Singapore tech scene needs latecomers
Singapore is poised to become Asia’s Silicon Valley, as a global financial center that houses the regional headquarters of tech giants like Alibaba, Google, Stripe and Grab. But its reach doesn’t stop there—tech is becoming increasingly present in our daily lives, touching all of us in one way or another: how food is delivered to us, how we shop, travel, work and communicate.
As the tech sector continues to grow, an increasing number of Singaporeans are thinking of a mid-career switch. Disgruntled with the status quo, disrupted by the pandemic or technology, or just looking for a fresh start, many are considering a career change.
However, there is still much doubt and anxiety that holds them back. A lack of confidence and fear of failure are mental obstacles to overcome, on top of practical ones, such as starting from the bottom of the ladder, or even taking pay cuts. On a larger scale, although Singapore’s Economic Development Board has attracted many tech giants to set up regional headquarters here, there are relatively few Singaporeans that are ready to join these companies.
But we are now at a particularly opportunistic time for people thinking of joining the tech industry to swallow their doubts and take the leap. Different factors come together to create a near-perfect entry point into the industry. In this article, we explore these factors and answer the questions:
Singapore is still facing a tech talent crunch
As the tech giants scale up, and more sweep in to plant their headquarters in our city, the tech industry is going to need a lot more talent. When a company expands globally, they need Singapore-based talent with local knowledge and expertise across all sectors, like marketing, software engineering, business development. In fact, according to NodeFlair—which is currently helping hire for companies like Shopee—up to 500 new tech vacancies are posted each week on job sites.
Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, confirms this, revealing that the information communications sector needs another 60,000 professionals over the next three years.
The never normal
It’s been said again and again: COVID-19 has changed the game. Upending the labour force, work mindsets and personal priorities have shifted the market forces, cracking open slivers of opportunities for those looking to jump ship.
Not only has the job market been disrupted, but more than half of employers in Singapore agree that the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitisation in the workplace. This means that more tech skills are needed—from accounting to supply chain management to coding. In supply chain management, learning the coding languages SQL or Python can automate many manual, labour-intensive tasks traditionally done on Excel. For instance, one can build their own tools to do repetitive tasks, like generating reports or forecasting. Self-built programmes like these can expedite processes and help to make data-driven decisions.
For instance, to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the job market, the government rolled out aggressive job and training support schemes. Citizens were privy to wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme and, later, the Jobs Growth Incentive and the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package under which about 180,000 job openings, traineeships or attachments, and training places have been made available to job seekers.
Hybridised skills are needed in today’s world
Diving into the tech industry mid-career can feel impossible, especially coming from a completely different industry, such as marketing or hospitality. It almost feels like stepping into a foreign country and having to fend for yourself.
But skills are almost always transferable—much like how stepping into a new country doesn’t mean that you have to re-learn things like forming relationships, feeding yourself, or driving a car.
In today’s world, multi-disciplinary people with hybrid skills are needed and even coveted. For instance, tech professionals who used to major in computer science now have to apply those skills to product development, marketing or accounting.
At Rocket Academy, we see students from all industries—from horse racing to delivery riders. These people have begun to see that software tech is industry-agnostic and has permeated every aspect of the way the world works. Armed with a sense of curiosity and a desire to future-proof their skills, these students look towards schools that bridge that gap.
No longer do people sit in siloes—programmers are no longer just programmers. They are designers, leaders, writers and entrepreneurs, and each industry brings a unique and necessary skill set to the tech industry. And when all these skills are put together in a melting pot, innovation just might happen.
Singapore’s tech workforce of the future
Asia’s Silicon Valley can be more than just a plain space of STEM graduates from top-performing universities. Now that the world is one where consumers are more aware environmentally, socially, and digitally, the tech industry is in dire need of diverse, multi-faceted, and experienced people in different areas.
In tandem with the world becoming more socially aware, the future is looking to become increasingly digitised. As every company sprints towards digital transformation, the demand for tech workers will only increase exponentially. As a result, not only will successful software engineers enjoy some of the highest salaries amongst all professions, but they will secure a high level of job security for the foreseeable future.
Today, coding has become a language like any other that one learns. Primary school children learn coding alongside English, Malay, Chinese or Tamil. Tomorrow, knowing coding as a language will become common, and even imperative in most white-collared jobs. Make sure you know how to speak it.
How has COVID-19 affected the tech industry and tech hiring in SG?
- COVID-19 has hurt the economy overall, but the tech industry has been one of the industries least-affected by COVID-19 due to the increased nature of online activity during the pandemic.
- For example, while industries like tourism, hospitality, and F&B are taking big hits during the pandemic, other industries like e-commerce, home wellness, digital gaming and media, digital productivity, and digital education are seeing a boost.
- Most industries thriving during the pandemic require software engineers. In industries hurt by the pandemic, software engineers are often some of the last employees to be let go because they are harder to replace.
- Tech hiring is still happening at a healthy pace in Singapore, albeit slower overall than before COVID-19.
How does one get a job in the tech industry?
It is important to have prior experience in a related role or skill set. For "technical" roles such as software engineering, data science, and product management, this typically means an understanding of software development to the extent that you could work on the company's software without much supervision.
Show that you are open-minded and flexible in your work. Most tech companies have a culture of "do whatever it takes", requiring employees to figuratively wear many hats. This is because most tech companies are relatively new because of the young age of the Internet, and work processes many not be as developed as at traditional companies.