Chew Boon Fong, Developer, Government Digital Services, Singapore
Women in GovTech Special Report 2015.
Tell us about your background. How did you get to where you are now?
I graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a Bachelor Degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I started my career in software development as a research engineer at Institute for Infocomm Research, A*Star where I was responsible for prototyping techniques and algorithms for applications such as objects and events detection. After 5 years of research and development, I moved on to the industry as a software developer building proprietary video analytics software.
In 2013, my current team lead who used to be a working partner, invited me to join him in the then newly set-up team, with the vision of making a difference to citizens’ lives. So here I am in Government Digital Service, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, taking up the role of a Product Manager and leading a team of 6 software developers and designers in building user-centric applications for the citizens and government agencies.
Why did you decide to join the public sector?
Having the opportunity to make a real impact in the community is really appealing and rewarding to me. It fulfils my desire to do something meaningful and impactful for the public.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
One thing I enjoy very much at work is having the opportunity to create innovative and meaningful solutions together with like-minded people. One of the things we built in collaboration with Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is the mobile application myResponder. The objective of this application is to alert registered users who are volunteers and trained in cardiac arrest to nearby cardiac arrest cases to help render critical aid to save lives.
Whenever we receive news that a cardiac arrest victim has been successfully resuscitated at scene by a member of public, or volunteer notified by the application myResponder, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. This is one of my many motivations at work.
What is the toughest challenge that you have had to face and overcome in your career?
In today’s world, technology is advancing continuously. Especially when we are in the field of creating innovations through technology, we have to constantly keep ourselves up-to-date with the trends. It is both challenging and exciting.
What is the most inspiring example that you have seen in your working life?
I’d be hard-pressed to give just one example. From the organisation culture, relationships with my co-workers to the projects we take on and the creative new ideas that come forth, the list is endless.
My belief is that one can derive inspiration anywhere if your focus is on the positives. One of which is the leaders’ constant encouragement to challenge our abilities, to learn new skills and adopt an inclusive and empathetic mindset. I am proud that GDS embodies this trait.
What I hold close to heart is how our director encourages us to experiment and work on ideas to improve citizens’ lives. When the going got tough while I was building the myResponder mobile app, he never failed to impress upon us that it is alright to fail but fail early and safe (according to the agile methodolgy we practice) in order to arrive at the most appropriate solutions to benefit our citizens. Not one to conform to the norm or to give up in the face of the odds, his attitude has definitely rubbed off on me and I aspire to be able to inspire my fellow colleagues in the same manner.
What advice do you have for other women looking to succeed in GovTech?
Goal-setting is very important in helping you decide what you want to achieve in life. Without goals, there will be a lack of focus and direction.
There may be times when one will be faced with setbacks and failures. However, with the right attitude, it is possible to overcome them and achieve greater success. There are no mistakes to be made, only lessons to be learnt. Thus, press on with a “never give up” attitude and you will eventually achieve your goals.
And finally, how do you like to unwind after a long week at the office?
I love being outdoors. Together with my family, we enjoy activities like going on a hike or bringing our dog to the park.