Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The MetroDBITan student series : Issue #015 - Angie Ong

Dear MetroDBITan readers,

I hope you keep your eyes glued on this week’s issue because we have a special treat for you.

For the past few issues, we mostly featured our current students or alumni who have only recently started their university studies.  There is a reason for this – it is much tougher to contact our graduates who have joined the workforce due to their busy schedule.

But by a stroke of luck, a couple of months ago,  we managed to run into one of our DBIT graduates,  pretty Angie Ong who is now in the working force after finishing her studies at NTU.

The best part is, when we asked Angie if she was willing to be interviewed by us, she readily agreed!  ☺

A stroke of luck and coincidence!

We happened to come across Angie because we had approached Angie’s current company to check if they were interested to engage our Year 2 students on a Business Analytics project.   We were really fortunate that her boss agreed to work with us, and to make things even better, he suggested that Angie should be the mentor of our students assigned on this project! ☺

She wants to "give back" to SP
When I first talked to Angie, she kept telling me how grateful she is to Singapore Polytechnic and her lecturers there for helping her to where she is today.  She shared how she feels indebted to the polytechnic, and felt that it was time she gave something back to her alma mater.

Though I have not taught Angie myself,  I was impressed by Angie’s sense of gratitude and the way she was so friendly and so helpful to our students who were working on the project.   The students who are currently working with her: Dewei, Alivia, Lorena and Chester often tell me, “Angie is really very friendly and so pretty!” ;)

Angie with two of the students, Chester and Dewei
who are working with her on
a Business Analytics project

Well, without further ado, let’s find out more about Angie, and what she has been doing since she graduated from DBIT!

Angie, can you tell us more about what you are currently doing in your work please?

I work at Elixir Technology ( as a Business Development Executive.

Elixir is a SME providing a very powerful software tool for Dashboards, Reporting, Data ETL and Scheduling. My main scope is to help develop new ventures for Elixir. The projects I’m involved in are longer in terms of duration, scale and returns, and they involve a lot of meetings, discussions, synergy of collaboration and partners from different industries or backgrounds. That’s how I differentiate my work from our Sales Manager.

Angie's office is a fun and vibrant workplace
as you can see from this photo.
The staff are playing a "basketball match" together with their boss!

Did you work in other jobs before this? Or applied for other jobs? Please share your experience and tips on this process.

Apart from term break ad-hoc jobs and internships, Elixir is my first job after I graduated from NTU, NBS.  Many of my uni mates started applying for jobs in their last year of study which could be as early as Aug 2011. I only started to apply  for jobs after my last paper in late April 2012 and finally accepted Elixir’s offer in September 2012.

Photo from canstockphoto
In between this period while I was waiting for the replies for the upcoming interviews, I took some time off to travel. At the same time, I sent out plenty of resumes and cover letters, almost like spamming every company which job positions are of my interest. Some prominent names I can get off my head right now are DHL, DBS, Bank of China, AsiaPac, Terrapin, CPIB and MINDEF.

The waiting process for the replies could kill. Why do I say so? When most of your friends have already gotten a job and you are still going for interviews and mass sending your resumes, you instantly feel the panic button in you being activated. The next moment, you find yourself camping in front of your laptop and screening every job offer on job portals and your school’s career services portal with blood-shot eyes.

I panicked when I realized only a few friends can make it to go shopping or eat buffet with me BECAUSE most of them are already working! Some friends even helped to refer me into their company. You get the “Tai Tai” feel but definitely not awesome at all. Panic it is but who doesn’t want to get a dream job. Patience is a virtue; I knew I started my job hunt later than most of my uni mates so I decided to take more time to slowly find a job that I like and fits my expected salary.

"Salary" graphic taken from recruitblog
Talking about expected salary, be pragmatic.  If your results is only worth that much in the working world, that is it! You can negotiate with your employer but don’t expect dream jobs comes with dream pay too. Furthermore, when you start off as a fresh grad, what’s more important is gaining experience and building your network. Pay is not everything!  There are other factors to consider too, the career prospects, working environment, company culture and so on. Take your time to plan your career path and goals, and take opportunities. Don’t rush into accepting a job just because you are stressed by your family or friends.

 Notes to take away:
  • Only apply for those jobs that you are interested in. Avoid applying for a job that you dislike and then end up forgoing the interview. It looks bad on you and you will never know when and where you will meet the same HR person in the future.
  • When you see a job position you like, just click “Apply” and send in your resume. Don’t be affected by the long list of job description, the low paying salary, the working hours, the location and such. Cause you will never know what you may get out of it unless you take the chance.
  • Take every interview as an experience. Even if you did not do your due diligence of the company or you knew you screw up during the interview, take it as an experience and learn from it.
  • Never, never, bitch about your previous employers. In my opinion, it looks bad on you rather than your previous employers. You should portray to the interviewer positive gains that you have acquired from your previous job even though sometimes certain jobs brings back only the bad memories. But I’m sure there will be some skills or lessons learnt. Bad experience or not, you have been through it so try to develop from the negatives and turn it into something you gain out of it. So sit down and think about how you can turn a bad work experience into something positive so that you can “counter-attack” this problem during an interview.
  • Follow up after every interview. Take your time to compare if you receive more than one job offer. Only accept a job offer if you are sure that you are happy and would commit to it. Even if you do not wish to accept a job offer, remember to send an email to thank the company/ interviewer after each interview.

Angie, can you tell us more about the degree programme you took in NTU? What modules did you take and which were your favourite / least favourite ones?

I took Business from Nanyang Business School and majored in Information Technology in my 2nd and 3rd year. It was a 3 years straight to honors course.

First year modules were the “foundation modules” if I may call them. My least favourite were Statistics, Economics and Marketing. They are boring and difficult in my opinion because the professors taught them at an incredulous speed as if on the assumption that every student has prior knowledge on binomials and come what may. I often wonder will we actually ever use any of those complicated math equations we learnt in school in the work field. But I quite like the Business Law and Accounting modules.

Exemptions wise, IT-related students from poly are only exempted from 1 module which is Information Technology which requires students to create a system with nice front end user interface for a company using Excel and VB.

Second year and third year modules are more to my likings as they are all IT-related. I took modules similar to SP’s Database Management Systems, System Development Life Cycle and Enterprise Resource Planning. Other fun electives that I personally like was going for Astronomy, Japanese Language and Korean Language classes.

In my third year, I was able to match 3 NBS’s undergraduate Business IT modules to National Cheng Kung University's (NCKU) Master of Business IT modules in Taiwan, Tainan. I completed 7 modules during my exchange in Tainan and was still able to tour Taiwan and had fun. When I returned for my last semester in NBS, I only had to complete my FYP and 1 elective to graduate so I took Korean Language and I passed!

Angie @ Kending, Taiwan

Xmas 2012 @ NCKU Tainan

Xmas 2012 @ NCKU Tainan

What is the difference between poly life and university life?  Please share your own experience on how you transited from poly to uni life and give some tips to your junior on how they can cope with this transition when they enter uni in future!

I would say there is not much difference between poly and uni life. Instead, the JC students would feel much difference. The blackboard system, lecture-tutorial-lab system, attendance taking system, electives registration system (known as GEMS in SP) in uni is similar to poly just that you have to be much more independent and resourceful.

How to cope with this transition is simple. You need friends yet learn to be independent. Helping one another is more resourceful than you finding out what you need and what needs to be done alone. Yet you have to be independent as professors in uni will not be spoon feeding you everything like poly lecturers. Some things, you just have to take the initiative yourself.

Tips: How to get to know friends? Simple! Don’t be shy, join camps that you are interested in and you bound to get to know some of your classmates already. If you do not understand what your professor is teaching, ask questions immediately, make mistakes early better than risking a poor GPA. The first semester GPA is very important. If you are getting a culture shock, find poly friends and try to gather your strength and learn how they cope in uni.

The main difference of my transition from poly to uni is probably the additional of hostel life. Staying in hostel has more complications than one had in mind. First you have to attend camps, then you have to participate in many hostel activities in order to accumulate credits for being able to stay hall the following semester and you have to “entertain” your hostel friends for late night supper and mugging before exams as hostel friends are very united. All these time spent could have been put to better use on studying and tutorials. I had more time in poly to accomplish more tasks and homework than I had in uni.

Hostel life

Hostel life

Did you consider other degree programs besides the one you picked?  Why did you pick this one eventually?

Initially I was offered Psychology by NUS and Business by NTU. I was thinking or going to James Cook University for their Psychology course or SIM’s Double Degree in Business & Psychology as I really have an interest for Psychology. But money was a concern in my family, my mother wanted me to be able to complete a degree course and graduate as soon as possible and NTU 3 years straight to honors course sound pretty tempting to her, furthermore, I was from SP Business IT so it looks like a very safe path. In the end, to be safe, I accepted NTU’s offer to do Business.

Share us some memories of yourselves / your friends / your life in SP when you were in DBIT
That’s us back in poly days. Looking back now, I missed those days where we hang out in SP and code the whole day with my group of really close girlfriends. There was once we were trying to code a shopping cart system using NetBeans 6.0 in JSP and I didn’t sleep for 3 days and 3 nights. We were coding on trains as we travelled to SP and back home until our batteries were flat.  On the day of submission for this JSP project, there was also an E-commerce presentation on 3 supermarkets overseas with the same group members. Right after submitting the JSP project and the E-commerce presentation, I blacked out and fell from the arm chair in one of the practical labs.

Thinking back, it was pretty stressful but I hate the fact that time had passed so quickly and we have all grown up so fast. So what I want to say is, yes homework and projects are painful but do cherish the times you spend in school with your friends and lecturers because I personally experience the peak of my life during my poly days and I really do miss everything and everyone. Although everyone is a teacher and I am grateful to all my teachers but I feel that the lecturers in SP has more “personal touch” in caring for students than my uni professors.

Do you remember your DBIT FYP? If you do, please share a little about the FYP, what was it about? What did you like about FYP, what you did not.  Some screenshots of your FYP project or your FYP team-mates etc.  Pls share some tips for your juniors who are doing FYP now ☺

I took Entrepreneurship Concentration Option in my year 3 in SP and it replaced my FYP. So instead of FYP, we had to set up a business and manage it. I like being an entrepreneur so everything about my “FYP” is fun. Except maybe the part where I have to do financial reports as I’m not really a math person.

My business, My Bao Bao (我的包包), is more like a social enterprise. We target Home Economic and Art & Craft modules in Secondary schools, and housewives who want to make extra income to help make month ends. Basically we taught our customers how to sew many different kind of bags from scratch and we sell the materials and tools to sew a bag. From scratch, meaning, using a sewing machine and raw fabric, learn how to sew into a tote bag, pouch, side sling bag and a lot more.

起步难! Setting up a business meaning we had to register the business, create company letterheads like logos, namecards and website etc, setting up prices, learning sewing skills, getting customers’ information, create brochures and events, recording sewing video clips of every bag we offer, liaising with partners and so on. For instance, we partnered with Brothers Singapore to be their exclusive distributor for their sewing machines.

Whatever FYP you are working on, be active, be involved, be very involved. One day, all these hardwork would pay off. FYPs are the upper edge poly students have over JC students. When you graduate and start looking for jobs, you can confidently tell your employers that you are capable of producing such quality work/ research as shown in your FYP and that puts you in a very competitive advantage.

What were your favourite modules in SP? Least favourite? Why?

My favourite subjects in SP were Database Management Systems, JAVA, ITOS (IT Office Skills), Data Mining, Web Design, ELIT (Ethics and Law for IT) and Entrepreneurship Concentration. I personally like SQL, SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) and Law.  Being an entrepreneur, coding and learning new programming languages as sometimes it might be tough but as you go along, you’ll find that the logic behind the languages are quite similar. You just have to trial and error nth times before you get the code working sometimes but luckily I’m curious and patient enough.

My least favourite were Flash and Enterprise Resource Planning. I thought ERP was a little dry so I didn’t place much importance to it until I got to uni and went on to attained the ERP cert, then I realized the importance to it.

What do you like about the DBIT course? What do you think should be improved in the DBIT course?

I like that DBIT has 2 options to choose from, namely EBT and EBM. And to top that, even if one has chosen the EBT option, it is still possible to choose Entrepreneurship Concentration in the final semester.

It would be great if the percentage of IT in EBT could be increased for example,
EBT 70% IT 30% Business
EBM 70% Business 30% IT

And would be better if DBIT is able to prepare students who wish to pursue further studies in uni to have pre-knowledge in Statistics and Economics so that they are almost on par with JC students and won’t be so lost when the uni professor are teaching.

Some encouraging words or advice for juniors who are in the DBIT course now, or aspiring secondary students who are interested to pursue a business or IT related course.

DBIT is really a very good course to take on if you are interested to pursue a Business or IT career. If you do not know which side you should take, you can take the first year to learn more about where your strength and interest lean towards then make a choice in your second year. The DBIT teachers are very helpful and sincere about our growth and academics. So as long as you have a good attendance record and do your tutorials, you should be fine.

For my fellow juniors, work smart and play harder! For, you are experiencing the peak of your life and you have the best teachers and friends around you. Enjoy life, most importantly, enjoy your student life. =)

Please give a little personal description of yourself.  E.g. which primary school / secondary school were you from.  What is your horoscope sign. What are your hobbies.  What are your plans after your university studies?

I was from Northland Primary School and Orchid Park Secondary School before I entered SP. My CCAs were mostly Gymnastics and Dance.

My horoscope is Libra. Being a Libra, I might be very stubborn at times as I work on my own set of principles only because I feel that I have a lot of 正义感,很喜欢打抱不平. It might be a strength yet a killing weakness at times.

My hobbies includes baking, golf, mahjong, basketball and travelling. I hope to travel to more countries in near future as I feel that Education and Travel are 2 things in life that we spend and buy, but we get richer.

After my university life, I have already got myself a job and repaying my tuition fee loan and study loan slow and steady, I hope to pursue MBA locally or hopefully overseas soon. And of course settle down soon, that is if I managed to find a Mr Right =P

Lots of photos of Angie below!

Xmas 2012

Angie @ Gold Coast

Graduate lo~

Angie and her Grandma

Angie and her family

New Year Wish for everyone!

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