COVID-19 has accelerated digitalisation and automation at an unprecedented pace. Overnight, existing industries found themselves having to adopt new technologies and innovate, or risk being left behind.
What this means is that many of the business operations will be redesigned for a heavier emphasis on tech.
“Consequently, tech skills will be required in every industry sector; even within the tech sector where new tech skills need to be acquired,” said Dr Chong Yoke Sin, President of Singapore Computer Society (SCS).
The SCS is the leading infocomm and digital media society for industry professionals, leaders, students, and tech enthusiasts.
That said, if you have been honing your skills in a different career for years but would like to switch to a tech career now, how can you make that transition?
After all, it is natural to be reluctant to switch to a completely different industry due to a fear of change or lack of confidence.
Moreover, having to attain new skill sets to adjust to a new industry can be perceived as difficult.
With these concerns on mid-career switching, we asked some companies in Singapore what they look out for in workers switching to tech, and how you can help yourself transition to a new career.
How Mature PMETs Bring Value To Organisations
According to May Wee, Chief HR Officer of Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), a mature worker can be an asset to the company as they possess a wealth of experience that can enable them to mentor younger workers.
Mature PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) are able to bring with them good experience gained while working with other organisations or industries to further enhance the processes and practices within IHiS.
– May Wee, Chief HR Officer of Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS)
On the same note, Lim Peck Hui, Managing Director of Tunity Technologies, said that mature PMETs are also able to “appreciate the reality of work issues than the newer members who are more idealistic.”
In fact, 13 out of 14 tech companies that SGTech — the trade association for the tech industry — checked in with are open to hiring mid-career switchers even if they do not have relevant experience.
May also pointed out that there is indeed a high demand for IT-skilled mature PMETs, especially with “intense competition coming from both the public and private sectors, a limited Singapore core pool and some skills-gap mismatch”.
Boosting Their Chances Of Switching To Tech
Sharon Teo, CEO of technology firm Inspire-Tech, said that she doesn’t mind if career switchers do not have the relevant experience.
Instead, what’s important to her is that they have a “positive attitude, are willing to learn and have good soft skills.”
Peck Hui agreed, and said that it’s fine as long as career switchers have an “open mind to unlearn and relearn.”
They cannot be too fixated about how things should be done and bring along their previous work rules or processes and force-fit them into the new organisation.
– Lim Peck Hui, Managing Director of Tunity Technologies
Other than technical skills, employers are often concerned about soft skills and company cultural fit issues when hiring mature PMETs.
Cultural fit issues such as intergenerational differences, new management styles and organisation structures in the tech sector can be disorientating for mature PMETs.
However, recruiters tend to look out for soft skills such as agility, adaptability, problem-solving, communication, leadership as well as the willingness to learn and take risks.
That said, new hires without relevant tech experience must be prepared for a steep learning curve and adopt a growth mindset for continuous learning and reskilling or upskilling.
How These Individuals Made Successful Career Switches
May shared that they have had several successful career switchers to tech in IHiS.
“One of our recent hires, Daniel, was an English Literature major and a copywriter who could not write a [single] line of code.”
However, he has a keen interest in HealthTech and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
With that, he participated in the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s Tech Immersion and Placement Programme and started work in IHiS in March 2020 as a front-end developer.
While the learning curve was steep, Daniel was optimistic and displayed a growth mindset.
Coupled with the strong support and close guidance from his hiring manager and the IHiS team, he contributed to two projects that significantly helped to enhance productivity and the patient experience during COVID-19.
For Inspire-Tech, Sharon also shared a successful story of a mature PMET who had worked more than 30 years in the financial sector, with most of the time spent overseas.
Upon returning to Singapore, he found it challenging to gain opportunities in the same sector. That was why he decided to expand his options and consider the tech sector.
Through a Career Support Group piloted by SGTech in partnership with Growthbeans, the PMET got acquainted with Inspire-Tech which helped create a three-month induction programme for him.
The forged connection was an opportunity for both parties to assess one another and determine if there was a good fit and if a mid-career switch to tech was possible.
In the three months, he picked up domain and product knowledge through the technical training provided. He was also able to offer valuable transferable business, operational and life experience to Inspire-Tech.
Given his positive attitude, a curious mindset, agility, willingness to learn and good communication skills, the PMET was converted to a full-time hire and has been with the company for over a year now.
So far, the Career Support Group has already seen the placement of 13 out of 19 participants in jobs and traineeships within two months from completion.
Managing One’s Expectations
These individuals have shown that making a career switch is not a fast ride — it requires hard work, willingness to learn and mental resilience.
Besides adopting a mindset of investing in oneself, mature PMETs should also temper their financial expectations.
For a non-tech person switching to a tech role without the strong tech foundation, there will likely be a difference in the remuneration as compared to their last non-tech position, explained May.
However, if the employee performs well in his or her job role, the salary could eventually “catch up”.
Potential job seekers looking to switch to a tech career should be prepared to invest the time and effort required to strengthen their tech foundation.
After all, we live in a digitalised world where technology is constantly evolving — from artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, automation to cybersecurity.
Mature PMETs should continue to have an insatiable appetite to upgrade themselves through the various initiatives or programmes organised by various governmental institutions such as Employment and Employability Institute, IMDA and the Workforce Singapore.
How TMCA Benefits Mature PMETs And Companies
“Mature PMETs are encouraged to make a mid-career switch to tech for better assurance of long-term employability,” said Dr Chong.
With their strong operations experience and an open mindset to learn new skills, they will find themselves not switching away from their former skills and experience, but complementing them with new tech skills that will carry them further in employability.
– Dr Chong Yoke Sin, President of Singapore Computer Society (SCS)
There is support for mature PMETs and companies which are willing to train them under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative driven by IMDA.
Under the TeSA initiative, TeSA Mid-Career Advance (TMCA) programme further helps this by providing mature workers with a tech-related job while they upskill or reskill.
The programme is open to Singapore citizens who are at least 40 years old.
Mature PMETs will be assured with a paid job while being upskilled or reskilled through structured, on-the-job training on in-demand ICT skills.
Some of the benefits include monthly salaries, mentorship on projects, and acquiring specialist level competencies.
Potential tech employers should come onboard the programme as this is a good way for them to help mid-career employees equip themselves with the necessary tech skills to successfully transition to tech.
Mid-career employees are armed with years of experience that will make them suitable mentors for the younger employees.
Besides that, a combination of mature PMETs and newer workers will encourage a diversity of ideas in a company.
As the saying goes, old is gold. There is no doubt that these mature PMETs bring with them a wealth of experience and can be an asset to any company.
To learn more about the resources that can help mature workers make mid-career switches to tech roles, you can visit IMDA’s website.
This article was written in collaboration with IMDA.
Featured Image Credit: iStock