100offer took off at the end of August to find the best professionals for the top IT jobs in Singapore. Since then we have been working hard to learn about local talent. In a series of friendly but frank interviews we've been asking some questions lots of people asked us.
What is graduates' employment status five years after?
How have their careers progressed?
What are the biggest challenges?
Why did we do this?
2016 has been a tricky year for Singapore's IT job market. Global growth patterns have remained maddeningly uncertain and Singapore's own growth prospects have been reduced accordingly.
However, it's not all been bad news. Singapore's government has continued to invest heavily in tech, hoping to cement the city state's hub status.
With market leader Google announcing a new Singapore engineering center, other Silicon Valley titans also want to make the country their regional base.
At the recruitment level local firms say that hiring has become more competitive, even as the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) add about a thousand new software engineering graduates to the talent pool every year.
Where do these graduates go?
According to survey evidence from the Ministry of Education, there is a split between those who go into tech roles and those who take positions where their qualifications are less relevant; such as banking or consulting. A few opt for further study.
And where are they 5-7 years after they graduate?
Here are the results of two of 100offer's interviews, with NUS alumni:
Choo Ming's story.
Choo Ming graduated in Computer Science from NUS in 2010.
Choo Ming got a job in the industry straight away. He joined an enterprise firm as a data analyst after his graduation but quickly found himself a very small gear in a very large corporation.
He was frustrated by the number of reporting lines within the company and the volume of documentation he had to file, which left him unable to propose new ideas or take more responsibility.
Not content to be an analyst, Choo Ming wanted to innovate and be part of the developing data engineering arc. After two years in his first job he went back to NUS, to study for his master's degree in data engineering.
Things changed for him in 2013, when e-commerce, cloud computing and other breakthroughs became more widely known. Choo Ming joined local startup as the first hire in a data engineering team. Soon he had a leadership role and is now the company's Data Architect.
"The local market needs more experts in the data domain," he told us.
"I am frequently contacted by headhunters with new IT jobs in Singapore."
However, Choo Ming feels that his options are limited by the relatively small scale of the startup. The largest project he has worked on was valued at a million Singapore dollars, and his company's size means that he can only work on small parts of any large enterprise project.
So, what advice would Choo Ming offer peers and juniors in the same sphere?
He was pretty confident about the future for data experts in Singapore, but would encourage local talent to join more established internet companies if they get the chance.
Alex Graduated in Computer Engineering from NUS, also in 2010.
Alex's path after graduation has left him with a different perspective to Choo Ming.
After NUS he joined a statutory board, as a product manager.
"It was smooth for me," said Alex, "from a statutory board product position to a local market leader data role. "
However, technology is in constant flux. This means that what graduates are doing now may have much bearing on what they find themselves doing even a few months later.
That is why Alex felt a product role might suit him better than a purely technical position.
"A good product manager may benefit from his past experience, and these experiences and skills are transferrable, " he said.
After working for a local unicorn, Alex left in favor of taking a Master of Business Administration in the United States.
We wondered why Alex decided to study overseas. His answer was that the United States still leads in innovation, and of course is home to Silicon Valley and its clutch of world-leading tech giants.
However, Alex also feels that local unicorns offer great opportunities to talents aiming to master new technologies who could then lead change in Southeast Asia.
How Does the Local Market Look?
Both Choo Ming and Alex were confident when it came to the current employment situation.
"Things are much better now compared to the point when I left Singapore," said Alex.
Both interviewees found the positive, knock-on effects of tech giants launching in Singapore quite clear. The nation has added to its status as a regional financial hub by becoming an engineering center, offering more and more top IT jobs in Singapore.
And with the emerging South East Asian markets' opportunities for growth, the whole region attracts broad international attention.