Cognizant Technology Solutions is a multinational IT consulting firm helping clients push their businesses forward with digital transformation. I have been working as a Appian software developer for four years since graduating from Temasek Poly with a Diploma in Information Technology. Currently I am posted to GovTech where I help government projects automate business portals. On a day to day basis, I do loads of programming and have group discussions to come up with feasible solutions to my client’s problems.
My journey into tech is an interesting one! I was once an Arts student who wanted to become a flight attendant. I knew I wanted to go to poly but couldn’t meet the cutoff point for an aviation course after my O Levels. After exploring other courses with my parents, they told me that tech jobs would have a demand in the future and the knowledge from this IT course would be good for me.
Even in poly, it was obvious that IT is a male dominated industry. There were only five to six females in my class of 30 students, and I wasn’t surprised. But I went in with an open mind and followed through the entire process, learned what technology is and realised that I love problem solving and building things from scratch!
On a regular day, I head to Govtech’s office which is a 15-minute walk from my home. Usually I would reach the office at 9:45 am and start preparing for the day!
In Covid times, we practice alternate working weeks. The team is pretty huge and our office can’t fit everyone, so some of us choose to work from home until further notice. I would say the current working arrangement is very flexible.
At 10:00 am we have something called a standup, where everyone gives a brief introduction of what they did yesterday and what they plan to do today. We also address any blockers so everyone on the team is well aware of any challenges.
My Govtech colleagues are pretty chill! They have their expectations but don’t force requirements on you. They expect good work quality, but if you fall back and ask for help, they willingly teach you. There is a lot of peer programming and communication in GovTech, and I feel very ngam (in sync) with them!
Although I’m a female developer, I am given equal opportunities. In fact, the challenge was not that people discriminated against me, but rather, I was reserved in sharing my ideas because I was not confident back then as a fresh grad. It may sound stereotypical, but it is true that males think very analytically! Coming from an Arts background, I struggled to think strategically ‘like a guy’. But after being in the industry for a while, I adopted this logical style of thinking and am now able to ask deeper questions, such as “what is the best option?” instead of just “what are the different solutions?”. Now I am much more confident in myself.
After the standup, I would get some tea and start coding! My love for tea is ever growing and drinking tea has been a habit of mine since young! I would also go through my assigned tasks, known as ‘stories’. These stories are assigned ‘story points’ which is a difficulty rating of the task. If I get a task that has a high story point such as 8, I will spend the morning to better understand the story, write the algorithm and discuss with teammates on how to optimise the solution.
Lunch time is usually at 2:00 pm, and I would walk home to eat as this helps refresh my mind. I often join in on team bonding lunches with my GovTech colleagues as well. Basically we would play games together, joke around and just forget about work! My teammates and I always look out for one another, be it my project team in GovTech or colleagues at Cognizant.
The above shows a picture of my Cognizant colleagues and I at a TIBCO conference. When I first got posted out, I had a mentor from Cognizant who guided me, encouraged me and made sure I learned as much as I could. I’m also thankful for my fellow trainees during our early days at Cognizant. We helped each other on tasks and had drink sessions until midnight on Fridays. It felt so nice just being a youth again!
In the afternoon the business users and developers meet to estimate story points and discuss business requirements, such as whether we need to develop a new button for the portal, or whether a drop down list needs more options. Meetings like these can sometimes take hours!
This job requires lots of problem solving and can be challenging. Although I’m specialised in software, I have less knowledge in technical architecture and hardware components. But through these discussions, I have the opportunity to learn from others and develop a range of other skills. As the company culture is one that values upskilling and lifelong learning, I am motivated to keep improving myself through reading books and acquiring as much as I can on the job to become a more all-rounded developer.
After the meeting I would continue coding. One interesting project I’m working on is the Government Paid Leave System, which is a portal where Singaporeans apply for schemes to get grants from the government. There is already an existing system, and my job is to automate the process and make application processing faster. With Singapore heading towards being a smart nation, this project allows me to be part of the process towards automation. I’m proud to be able to contribute my efforts and knowledge to positively impact Singapore.
I’ve had many meaningful experiences thanks to my work! The picture above shows me attending an outreach event on behalf of Cognizant at the residence of Maliki Osman, the South East District (SED) Mayor and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Defence. I spoke to members of the SED community and they were truly thankful for the efforts Cognizant put in for our outreach programs, such as those helping underprivileged students.
My company also organized outreach programmes promoting STEM culture to female students. We spoke to students at Raffles Girls’ School and CHIJ to enlighten them on their queries and share our experience with them. Hopefully with the increased effort to pull females into the industry, there will be more women in tech one day!
Although work ends at 6:00 pm, my day does not end here. I am pursuing a part-time Degree at the National University of Singapore in Business Analytics, so I would commute to NUS after work to attend my 6:30 pm classes. I love researching and interpreting data to help business grow, and this is why I aspire to become a Data Analytics Consultant some day. As the modules in NUS are tuned towards data analytics, I am confident that this can help me achieve my ambition.
For aspiring female software developers, my advice is to start off from scratch if you have no IT experience. Learning to code in easier languages like C and C++, and thinking systematically like a computer is a very good start. Also, math can really help you think logically! While we definitely need more female representation, be careful not to dive in just because of the hype, so be sure to build your foundation in problem solving first.
And that is what my day looks like as a Software Developer at Cognizant!
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