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With more and more tech companies and start-ups making their bases in Singapore, the demand for software engineers and developers has seen – and will continue to see – a surge over the next few years. But for many of us who do not have a computing background, what exactly is it like to be a software engineer in Singapore? Do software engineers really type code furiously in the dark?

We reached out to our software engineers in the TechLadies team – three amazing ladies from very different backgrounds – and asked them some questions about their work and what led them to their current careers!

Please introduce yourself!

Hui Qian (LinkedIn/ Github): My name is Hui Qian. I’m currently a Software Engineer (React) with a consultancy, and I handle front end tasks at my company. I’m also part of the Community team at TechLadies helping to revamp our new website.

Vanessa (LinkedIn): I’m Vanessa and I’m working as a backend software engineer at Zendesk. I’m in the TechLadies Events team in charge for the TechLadies Brunch livestream series together with Giselle. 

Shelvia (LinkedIn): Hello! I am Shelvia. I’m volunteering for the first time with TechLadies and I was part of the organizing committee for the TechLadies Mentorship Program 2020. Currently, I’m involved in the organization and launch of our inaugural TechLadies (virtual) Career Fair that will kick off in November (we’re super excited!). During the day, I mostly code as a Software Engineer at ThoughtWorks. Hit me up for coffee, or just chat about technology or any interesting things under the sun really! 🙂 You can find me on Linkedin.

From left to right: Hui Qian, Shelvia, Vanessa.

What is it like to be a software engineer, and what do you find most satisfying in your work?

Hui Qian: Every day can present a new challenge, or you could be working on tasks that challenge the depth of your knowledge over a span of time. Being able to see your code come to life on the screen is definitely rewarding in itself. 

Vanessa: My job is fun and challenging every day. The actual coding takes up a rather small part of the day – the rest of the time is spent communicating with different people and stakeholders, from clarifying product requirements with designers and product managers, finding solutions and reviewing code with fellow or senior developers, to engaging in discussions and negotiations with the clients… and googling, lots of googling.

The most satisfying parts of my work are being able to see my customers use the API that I have built, as well as firefighting with my colleagues to fix real world problems.

Vanessa, Backend Software Engineer at Zendesk and TechLadies Events Lead

Shelvia: Being a software engineer is definitely super fun for me! I get to work on problems that are different almost all the time. And with the ultra-fast changes and improvements in our technology and tools, there are plenty of things to learn as I dive deeper into different technologies. Being challenged constantly every single day has been the most satisfying aspect of being a software engineer for me.

What was your path to becoming a software engineer/ developer like?

Hui Qian: I initially joined a startup for my second job, doing marketing and then social media analytics for them. Over the course of 1+ years I got to see how the tech team worked on the platform the company was building, and was super intrigued at the whole notion of just typing things onto a screen could enable a business using software! Soon after that I decided to join a coding bootcamp, and thus got my start in the tech industry with technical roles instead of business roles.

Being a non-CS-graduate presented its own challenges as I had to constantly learn in my own time things that others had picked up in school. To improve my skills, I set up a study group of sorts where we can get together and code or just work on fun things, or discuss the latest trends and their impact on our industry.

Hui Qian, Software Engineer (React) and TechLadies Community Lead

Vanessa: I worked as a testing engineer for a few years doing mainly manual testing in the beginning, then gradually automation testing. I then switched to become a developer. I prefer to solve problems with code, and to be frank, there are more jobs for developers than testers in the market.

The job scope and focus has changed quite a bit, but in some ways, there are similarities too. So while it was challenging, it wasn’t extremely difficult to transition to my new role. I get to learn new things from my job every day and my colleagues are all very encouraging and talented people, which makes me want to become a better ally to them too. 

Shelvia: I started my software engineering career when I realized I enjoyed coding a lot when I learnt programming in university. I was actually an Industrial and Systems Engineering graduate who was “forced” to take programming classes because they were degree requirements. After taking the classes, I realized I enjoyed programming a lot and took a leap of faith to intern as a Software Engineer in the Bank of America for 6 months.

That was no doubt one of the toughest periods of my software engineering career because I was lacking in software engineering knowledge beyond basic programming, data structures and algorithms. I often feel that I’m still missing some fundamental knowledge that you would normally learn in a Computer Science degree. However, with the guidance of amazing mentors along with the willingness and the patience to make mistakes and learn, I have been able to grow my career in the right direction.

What industry trends are you currently excited about and why?

Hui Qian: I think the state of frontend frameworks is becoming more and more mature with better accessibility for beginners, meaning that more people can learn and do more with what’s available out there! There are also interesting things like WASM and ML in the browser that will enable for very cool applications within the browser itself so it will be very exciting to see what other people can come up with!

Vanessa: I think searching via video content is very interesting. There are a lot of videos available on various platforms and everyone is learning something through videos these days. But it’s very time consuming to watch a full video in order to get to know a piece of information. It’s very exciting that one day we can search video content with text. 

Shelvia: This may not be a new thing, but I feel that Cloud Technology is going to have a huge impact in shaping our technology in the near future. With more cloud providers in the market as well as the push towards digital transformation due to COVID-19, I’m definitely expecting more innovation and adoption of Cloud Technology at large.

Finally, any advice for our budding software engineers and developers in TechLadies?

Hui Qian: Join a community and make friends, and from there gather a support system and maybe some study buddies! Always be willing to learn and keep abreast of tech trends by following well known Twitter accounts. Dev.to is a good starting point for finding articles to read and people to connect to. If you’re not sure how to use a particular tech stack, try making something with it to understand it more. Lastly, working in tech is the same as working a job – it’s good to be excited about it, but don’t overdo it and burn out, remember to take breaks and come back refreshed!

Vanessa: I think that keeping an open mind, especially for learning, and having the confidence that you can learn everything are very important. The latter can be gained from the fundamental courses you completed and from the projects you build. I’m also still building it up too.  And don’t worry, we’ll get there as long as we keep going!

Shelvia: With the fast changes in our technology. from programming languages to frameworks to tools to best practices, one thing a software engineer must do is to build the habit of continuous learning and keep an open mind.

The day we software engineers stop learning, is the day we become obsolete.

Shelvia, Software Engineer at ThoughtWorks and TechLadies Mentorship and Career Fair Lead

Want to learn more about becoming a software engineer? We explored this topic in our TechLadies Brunch with speakers Linlin (Senior Software Engineer at Zendesk) and Wei (Software Engineer at Shopee), watch the recording on our Facebook group.