To me, to be successful in my career means to have a meaningful and exciting work life that I look forward to being a part of everyday. Success is working in synergy and achieving goals together with my colleagues. Success doesn’t have to be flamboyant, it can simply be the little wins we achieve every day at work.
I did not expect to be working in Tech until I was in university. My major was Geography and the turning point for me was when they exposed us to the use of geospatial tools in our research. That was when I first got to know about the applications of Geographic Information Systems in various fields of work. It’s amazing how visualising layers of data can give us interesting insights into the environment, socio-economic trends, and even patterns that would have economic impact. I knew I wanted to do something where there’s a good mix of technical knowledge and hands-on application.
I also love tinkering with new apps and online tools, and I enjoy watching science-fiction movies where technology is incorporated seamlessly into the characters’ daily lives. So when I got the opportunity to work on creating high definition maps with an autonomous technology company, I grabbed that chance and I’ve been riding that wave ever since.
True to the saying ‘You are your own worst enemy’, I’ve had many moments of self-doubt and second-guessing myself but the support from my family and close friends has been invaluable. Over the years, I’ve learnt to put myself out of my comfort zone, to give things a try before having any opinion about it and to not be shy if I am unsure about anything. I’m fortunate that the people I’m surrounded by at work and in my personal life are generally willing and happy to share their knowledge and resources. Also, it’s not true that introverts can’t thrive in the workplace! You just have to look for the right environment and colleagues and everything will feel natural. The recent hybrid work arrangements also work in favour of introverts and shy individuals.
I came from a humanities background, so the initial period was a steep learning curve for me. I learnt more about the Linux system, using the command line, using git and docker. There were terminologies used in meetings which I was unfamiliar with and I found myself reading up about it. It was rather rewarding once I covered the basics as it put me in a unique position where I can help those from a non-technical background to understand these things better.
Even if you work in a large MNC, it is not uncommon to be the only woman or minority in your team or department. There are many articles online about the lack of female representation at the executive level and how this could impact other women at lower levels. When I first joined the workforce, I found it valuable to have at least one close female colleague to just share my thoughts and struggles with. It also helps to be comfortable with other women who are more established in their careers so we can have role models or advisors to look up to and seek advice when needed.
As a visible Muslim in my workplace, I am also aware that there could be prevailing stereotypes and prejudices from other colleagues who have bad perceptions of Muslims and this could distort their view of me. I strive to be kind, respectful and genuine in my interactions with everyone because I am aware that my speech and actions could alter their perception of Muslim/Malay/minority women. Hopefully for the better.
Thankfully, there is increasing awareness and allyship in diversity initiatives within many companies.
Work on the things you can control – your skills, qualifications, connections.
Apply for as many job attachments or internships as possible to find out where your interests lie; the connections you make at those jobs will also be helpful when you join the workforce.
Talk to the full-timers about their career experiences. It may feel daunting as an intern to approach someone more senior to you but they’re usually more than willing to share their stories.
In whatever you do, do it with heart and sincerity. A good work ethic will go a long way.
My career goals are still fluid at this point. I don’t want to limit myself to a goal that could be obsolete in 5 years’ time especially at the rate technology is advancing now. Hopefully, autonomous vehicles would be a viable mode of transport in many major cities by then, maybe even being integrated into our public transport system. I would very much like to be in a position that puts me at the intersection of the business and technical side of the operation. There’s an increasing need to optimise spaces in land-scarce Singapore, so urban and transport planning is an area that interests me as well.