NUS fresh graduates seize job opportunities amid challenging times

For NUS Computer Engineering graduates Deepak Buddha and Dalson Tan, neither of them could have predicted the maelstrom of challenges that 2020 had in store for them. Full of hope and optimism for what lay ahead, the two fresh graduates began looking for jobs long before their graduation. In a most memorable year, they nevertheless managed to secure jobs in their field of study, thanks to robust foundations built during their time at NUS.

Applying for jobs early

Deepak began applying for jobs in late December 2019, more than half a year before graduation. He did get some early offers but had to turn them down as he needed more time to explore the job market.

During the virtual NUS Career Fest in March 2020, career advisers provided tips on how to make himself more visible to employers and how to showcase his skills in interviews. They also shared plenty of data on which companies were hiring, and introduced him to an online tool to improve his resume. As a result, the number of callbacks from prospective hirers increased dramatically.

Like Deepak, Dalson also started his job search early. Towards the end of his stint at the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme in Peking University, Beijing, in mid-2019, Dalson felt it was the right time to speak to a career advisor on his next move after university.

He started applying for jobs as early as June 2019, as his career advisor told him that companies hired very early on. He looked for a job to challenge him and give him purpose. To get on top of things, he regularly went for one-to-one career coaching talks which were arranged for NUS students, which he found very insightful. At the same time, he also wanted to position himself differently from other candidates, to show employers that he was willing to take on more responsibility.

Securing jobs during the pandemic

Deepak eventually accepted an offer from PayPal Singapore and soon after graduation, he began working there in August 2020. Due to the pandemic, he has not set foot in his office even as early as February this year.

As a full-stack software engineer, his job is to ensure every part of the PayPal system – from the underlying databases to the front-end customer experience – runs smoothly. He also fixes software problems and implements new algorithms. It is a lot to ask of someone new, but Deepak felt it was not only a chance to prove himself but also a valuable learning opportunity.

Meanwhile, Dalson managed to clinch a spot in the highly-coveted Technology Associate Programme in the Government Technology Agency (GovTech). He started in the job in May 2020 during Singapore’s circuit breaker period, once he had completed his final-year project.

His start in the workforce was both interesting and challenging. For the first few months, he couldn’t physically interact with colleagues due to remote working measures. But being resourceful, he engaged them and got to know them well.

At GovTech, one of his first roles was being part of a COVID task force designing distribution platform SupplyAlly, a multipurpose platform which helps users keep track of whether a person receiving an item has received it before. The platform helped to distribute masks, TraceTogether tokens, and more recently, the SingapoRediscovers vouchers.

The value of a future-ready NUS education

Dalson quickly discovered that the software and hardware used at work was different from what he had learned on in school. But with the mental agility that his fast-paced classes cultivated, he soon adapted and overcame the challenges.

“I feel my courses at NUS helped build mental resilience as students had to think on their feet – especially during project work – and bring to bear on the problem all that had been taught. Crucially, that required a great of mental acuity, resourcefulness and agility, qualities which I credit the classes at NUS for instilling,” Dalson shared.

For Deepak, one of his modules at NUS required him and his teammates to develop a useful software product, and they created an app that helps busy parents schedule appointments while coordinating them with their children’s calendars.

In 2019, in his third year at NUS, he spent a semester as an internship with PayPal – who would eventually become his future employer – where his colleagues treated him like a full-fledged employee.

Through these projects, he was exposed to the rigours of an actual working environment, and given opportunities to prove himself that would help him land his future job with the firm.

Looking ahead with hope and optimism

Despite their varied beginnings, and the turbulence of the job market, Deepak and Dalson both expressed hope and optimism for the future.

“I hope to be at the forefront of innovation in my field and to also give back to society by volunteering my software engineering skills with non-profit organisations, so as to enable digital technology to be put to good use,” Deepak shared.

Meanwhile, Dalson continues to relish the challenges that his job puts forth to him, and he wants to continue being an active contributor to his company.

According to the Joint Autonomous Universities Graduate Employment Survey 2020, close to 94% of NUS graduates secured jobs within six months of their final exams, an increase of three percentage points over the previous year. Fresh graduates from Computer Engineering and 18 other courses achieved higher starting salaries. Read the press release here.