Carolyn Foo’s job is to “break down problems” and “create solutions” – technologically. And she loves it.
After working on several projects and interning at a software firm, Carolyn, who graduated with a double degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2014, immediately recognised the potential and impact of technology in today’s digital world.
Today, she’s an iOS app developer at Garena, an Internet and mobile platform company, where she works on their mobile app including bug-fixing and implementing new features.
She said, “Technology is a powerful force that shapes our lifestyles and the world we live in, so I want to part of that force in a positive way.”
The 27-year-old believes that anyone can excel in a tech job – regardless of gender. Here, Carolyn shares why she loves working in a field that has traditionally been known to be male-dominated, and what makes a good software engineer.
What do you find exciting in your current role?
My role is challenging as the Internet and technology space move very fast. It is exciting to break down problems and create solutions at the tip of your fingers. In addition to that, I find it personally rewarding to be able to improve user experience and to create something that everybody finds helpful and can enjoy. At Garena, I also get to discover the latest trends and innovations in technology, which is exciting and enriching.
Did you make a conscious choice to become a software engineer?
Of course - I am passionate about coding. Solving problems excites me. It challenges me to push boundaries to find creative solutions and solve pain points for others. I love what I’m doing at Garena because it is intellectually stimulating and the product we develop creates a real impact in the lives of our users.
What makes a good software engineer – in terms of skills and qualities?
Other than a solid understanding of computer fundamentals like algorithms, abstraction and data structure, I think a good software engineer needs to possess logical and critical thinking skills, such as identifying and understanding a problem; solving it in the simplest, most efficient way; and [a desire] to learn and stay updated with industry trends and innovations. Soft skills are important too. We work in teams so communicating ideas and requirement constraints in a clear way is very important. So is flexible thinking and tenacity towards problem-solving.
The tech industry is widely known to be a male-dominated one. What can be done to attract more women to tech?
There should be a focus to encourage young female students to pursue an education in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM). We can look into integrating computer science [as a subject] into the education system earlier, enabling students to explore their STEM interests in more depth before university. Events or courses to increase public awareness and address gender stereotypes will be helpful too.
What are some of the challenges that women, who want to venture into the tech world, face today?
There might be false notions that women are not good with technology or cannot code well. In my opinion, everyone has the capacity to do well in [the] technology industry. All you need to get started is your diligence, creativity, and a computer. So it is important not to pay attention to those critiques or stereotypes, and simply focus on one’s work and goals. Fortunately there are many companies with strong engineering culture that do not have this problem. I have not experienced gender discrimination myself, at Garena or in school previously.
What advice would you give to these women?
Don't be afraid to pursue what you enjoy doing. Keep learning and keep innovating. Trust in the quality of your work to speak for itself and don't be afraid to ask questions or learn from your peers.
What are your thoughts on the next transformation in the tech industry?
Technology is integrating into our lives at an increasing speed. Soon, our every waking moment and the way we interact and go about life will involve technology. This can be in the form of artificial intelligence (AI), mixed reality, medical procedures, our financial transactions or smart homes. Every industry will be transformed by technology. With the rise of AI, it’s not necessarily the case of man vs. machine. Technology can assist what humans do, helping to improve our quality of life. It’s not a zero-sum game, and that’s also why I’m excited to be working on the ‘front line’ of tech.
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