On the surface, Lee Qi Lin’s job appears to be worlds apart from the subject he majored in – after all, what does software development have to do with chemical processes? However, the NUS Chemical Engineering alumnus, who currently works as a software engineer at ST Electronics, begs to differ.
“Although I did not have a computer science background, I think the company was more interested in our traits and attributes, like showing a willingness to learn, and being adaptable, which is needed in any field. Technical skills can always be picked up as you go along,” he said. Qi Lin obtained his job with ST Electronics in May 2019, even before he graduated, and today his days are busy developing user-centric tools like chatbots.
Qi Lin shares that he enjoys the multiple opportunities available at his company for personal development and growth, even if that process can be daunting at times. One of his greater challenges, he says, lies in quickly adapting to and mastering new programming languages and frameworks. What has helped, however, is the criticality and adaptability imbued in him during his time at NUS. He recalls a particularly memorable module in which he was given the chance to meet with experts from the chemical processes industry, and work with his course mates to propose creative solutions to actual problems in the industry, thereby learning how to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations.
Besides this, software coding was also part of Qi Lin’s course requirements, and was the role he opted for in his final year design project, where he worked in a team of seven to come up with a chemical plant simulation. As coding was a personal interest, Qi Lin had in fact already begun experimenting and learning about it in his own time – he recalls with a laugh that he would approach his Computer Science friends for tips and tricks, and in response, some even shared their lecture notes with him.
The opportunity and freedom that NUS students have in picking up a diverse range of modules and skills was something that Qi Lin relished, as he feels that this is in line with the realities of the fast-evolving, varied workplace of the future. “I had friends in Chemical Engineering who took part in various modules and programmes, such as NUS Overseas Colleges, and today they’re working in diverse fields as well, from being data analysts to starting up businesses.” Qi Lin and his friends hail from a cohort that has displayed a high employment rate to date: according to the 2019 Joint Autonomous Universities Graduate Employment Survey, nine out of ten graduates from NUS last year secured employment within six months after their final exams, and at median salaries that are higher than the year before.
In a manner that’s true to his own experience, Qi Lin advises incoming students to keep an open mind: “It’s important to keep exploring your interests, seeing what’s out there, and trying it for yourself. Don’t shoehorn yourself.”