What’s it Like to Dive into the Tech Industry as a Mid-Careerist?
As a mid-careerist, exploring different industries can provide valuable exposure, build your industry knowledge and widen your skill sets. Let’s hear from Magdalene and Samuel from our Government Talent Attachment Programme, where public officers embark on a one-year stint with Shopee, on how pivoting to the tech industry can boost your career growth.
Hey Mag and Sam, could you tell us about your background, and your current role at Shopee?
Magdalene (M): Hi, I’m Mag and I came from a background in Grant and Account Management for the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). I worked with companies in the entertainment industry who are keen on producing content that reflects our national values, and we would arrange to support them.
For my stint with Shopee under the Government Talent Attachment Programme, I’m currently with the Regional Marketing team, looking after Partnerships. We engage potential partners who can drive traffic and user acquisition for us. We also support local markets with insights and ideas observed across teams.
Samuel (S): Hi, I’m Sam and I’m from IMDA as well. My role in the public service required me to work closely with a wide variety of technology companies. I had to understand their business models, the challenges they faced, and explore areas where the government could make a meaningful, positive impact.
As part of my Government Talent Attachment Programme with Shopee, I’m currently a Data Analyst in the Regional Business Intelligence Team. I analyse business models across various local markets, identify opportunities and develop solutions.
Given how different your backgrounds are, why did you choose to gain exposure in the tech industry at Shopee?
M: I’ve been with the public sector for 10 years now, and wanted exposure to something different. I chose Shopee because e-commerce has blossomed into a huge space and Shopee is such a major player. I knew I would learn so much from the experience, and I also wanted a behind-the-scenes perspective of how things worked.
S: I saw this opportunity with Shopee as an ideal progression from my role at IMDA as it would give me first-hand experience within a tech company itself. I felt that it would allow me to gain a deeper understanding of the problems that the tech industry is trying to solve, and how they approached these challenges. I also looked forward to picking up new skill sets and gaining new insights related to the e-commerce industry to bring back and share with the public service.
What surprised you most about Shopee when you first joined, and how has your experience been?
M: The working culture here at Shopee is considerably different. Things move very fast in the tech industry. I admire the pioneering spirit here very much.
I was also pleasantly surprised to have time and space to explore up-and-coming issues. For example, I was part of a project team who came up with thought starters for what Shopee can do in the emerging tech space. No fixed targets, just several like-minded colleagues coming together to have a “think and think bigger” sort of assignment. It was cool to have the chance to work on things besides my day-to-day role. I cherish the camaraderie very much and thought to myself, ah this is the Shopee spirit: folks can come together easily from different teams, and run a passion project together. It’s a lovely, courageous energy to embody, and I’ll try to pass this forward when I return to the public service.
S: What surprised me the most about working in Shopee through the Government Talent Attachment Programme was the flat working culture. It helps to foster a sense of collaboration as we generally view other colleagues as peers instead of focusing on hierarchy.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to do a deep dive analysis of data projections across the markets in the region. This project allowed me to gain insight into key revenue and cost drivers of the business, identify specific areas that each country should focus on, and propose initiatives to improve profitability for the next quarter. I appreciated the opportunity to work on data-driven projects, and the tangible impact that I could make here, even within a short period of time. When I return to the public service, I hope to implement the data-driven approach that Shopee has in problem-solving to better design impactful initiatives for technology companies.
Was starting out in a new role in the tech industry easier or more challenging than you had initially anticipated?
M: To be honest, I did find adjusting to this industry challenging at times! I was unfamiliar with basic e-commerce functions and in fact, I’m still learning them today. Understanding the behind-the-scenes of how the Shopee app works or how partnerships are made here has been an interesting process too. In these moments, I lean heavily on my very gracious colleagues to show me the way. The folks here are stellar. They are positive, quick-witted and helpful, and I am thankful to IMDA for giving me the opportunity to walk the journey with warm-hearted colleagues.
S: Shopee is a very data-centric organization, and my role naturally required me to pick up technical skills quickly. This was a completely new area for me, as my skills gained in the public sector largely focused on people and stakeholder management. Through the support of my colleagues who provided me with guidance and Shopee’s training sessions, I was able to adopt a data-driven approach toward problem-solving that I hope to also bring back to the public service. On the whole, this experience really helped me to realise that you can pick up new skills at any stage of your career, even when you’ve been in the workforce for over 10 years.
What tips would you offer for those interested to experience the tech industry?
S: Go in with an open mind to learn new things, and adapt to a new way of working. It may be challenging in the beginning, but this experience will put you outside of your comfort zone and enable you to grow as a professional.
M: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to try to lose the fear of being judged for not knowing enough or being behind when exploring a different industry. Try to draw strength from who you are and what you can bring to the table, and give it your best shot!
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Photos were taken in compliance with local COVID-19 safety measures or before the COVID-19 pandemic.