Girls in Tech Singapore X Amazon Web Services: The ABC of Digital Talent

By Huifen Zheng and Geraldine Ho

Girls In Tech Singapore (GITSG) kicked off 2018 with a bang last week. Our first event of the year The ABC of Digital Talent, focused on the current trends in digital skills and the importance of cloud literacy.

It was a full house – more than 50 attendees engaged in a lively discussion with our panelists, who hail from industry-leading tech giants such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), LinkedIn, and Telstra, as well as Singapore’s very own Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Guests were greeted with a lovely spread for dinner at venue sponsor AWS’ offices; a welcome recharge after a long day, as we looked forward to an exciting evening. The guests were already abuzz – mingling and discussing the ABCs: artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud literacy.

Girls in Tech Singapore Advisory Board Member Robyn Lee launched the session, announcing that this event marked the beginning of GITSG’s collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS Education Programme Director Ng Puay San then gave us an introduction to AWS Educate, a global initiative that champions cloud literacy and provides resources to accelerate cloud-related learning.

This initiative came about as a result of the growing demand for cloud-literate digital talent, with a program based on career pathways; users first choose a pathway before embarking on projects to pick up relevant skills. This is indeed a practical learning approach, especially when digital talent have to navigate a complex web of subjects in the ever-changing digital space. AWS Educate also prides itself as a holistic solution, with a job portal for digital talent.

As part of the collaboration, GITSG guests were treated to a sweet surprise – $100 worth of learning credit on AWS Educate – an excellent virtual goody bag to kickstart the year!

LinkedIn’s Ara Cho kept the momentum going by presenting fresh and dynamic insights on how the professional network’s data can be used to capture what’s happening in the digital space. She identified three high-level trends:

1) There is a growing demand for digital talent in hybrid roles
2) The top three industries for digital are Agriculture, Transportation & Logistics
3) Skills and knowledge in the domain of ABC – artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud literacy – are now highly sought after in the job market.

After a short break, a panel discussion followed with Ara (Insights Analyst, LinkedIn), Adrian Lim (Director – Innovation and Digital Readiness, Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) ), Elizabeth Chua (Senior Manager – Human Resources, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Dave Enright (Lead Cloud Consultant, Telstra). The panel discussed what it means to be Digital Talent, and what employers are looking for.

Dave started by sharing that Telstra – originally a telecommunications service provider – has gone through disruption in its industry, and is now progressively moving towards being a technology company. This means that Telstra and companies like them recognise the need to be innovative and embrace new trends – and therefore need people skilled in artificial intelligence, big data and cloud services to boost their service portfolios.

Ara also shared an encouraging personal experience: she was formerly a journalist before taking up her data analytics role at LinkedIn. The last time that she had taken any mathematics classes was in high school – however, she was able to pick up big data skills along the way: “If I can do it, you can do it!”

Adrian described his role at IMDA – to encourage and develop Singapore’s people with technology and digital skills. Adrian noted that the speed of technological development is usually faster than adoption by the general population: “Tech is revolutionary, humans are evolutionary.”

Our panel moderator Chandini Manoharan (International Graduate – Telstra) then asked the group what employers can do to retain their existing ABC talent. Both Ara and AWS HR leader Elizabeth noted the importance of providing employees with opportunities to grow. Elizabeth shared that a good career development strategy for employees allows AWS to maintain an employee churn rate of single digit percentage.

The panel were then asked to highlight character traits of people who would make good digital talent: Adrian thought that the exposure to digital skills should start young – in schools, where teachers and parents need to focus on children acquiring skills and not merely getting straight As. He shared an anecdote that Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba) told his children that it is not necessary to have the best grades; it is good enough to be in the middle of the class so long as the students learn various skills.

Dave noted that, as a hiring manager, it is important to develop the right attitude and mindset. Once candidates qualify with a basic set of skills, he looks for those with a growth mindset – ready to challenge the status quo and keep up with a fast- growing industry.

Elizabeth and Ara concluded the panel by encouraging women to step up and apply for roles which they may not feel fully qualified for. Ara referenced a Harvard Business Review (HBR) report with a powerful statistic: women tend to apply only for roles when they were fully sure that they met all the criteria, while men were comfortable applying to roles even where they met only some of the criteria.

Dave shared his thoughts post-event: “The skills and perspectives women bring to the industry will be critical in driving the next technological leap forward. I’m encouraged by the great turnout, and having diverse teams is very important to delivering better products and services – especially as AI and big data become more humanist. I’m even more committed to making tech less intimidating for anyone looking to make this their career.”

“It was a truly inspiring session – the panelists gave us a glimpse into the digital world and how we can prepare ourselves for it,” our moderator Chandini commented. “One thing’s for sure: we are heading towards a very exciting future with digital at the forefront of business. So let’s prepare ourselves and embrace the change!”

Look out for our next newsletter – we’ll share a step-by-step guide on how to use your promo code for AWS Educate credit when you sign up with Girls in Tech Singapore. Join our community and get our newsletter plus latest event updates here.

About our community writers

Huifen is a technology lawyer who has worked in financial services, telecommunications and R&D. She is deeply interested in the intersection of law and technology, and wrote her masters’ thesis on the topic of data privacy and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Geraldine is an assistant brand manager at the Gryphon Tea Company, and has built her career in lean marketing for SMEs. Her passion is in learning how people tick, and telling their stories to inspire readers.

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