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Combining Old School Business Acumen With a Digital DNA: How This Singaporean Learnt Her Way to the Top

Quinny Lei is the head of business infotech solutions at Grab’s tech division. She shares how her learning and career journeys are intertwined, and how she started from ground zero in the tech field.

If you’re looking for ways to stand out in the job market, then it’s time to be a career and skillset hybrid.

Employers now are looking for multifaceted talents with hard skills in information technology (IT) and soft skills in the business sphere.

From the employer’s view, it makes perfect sense for employees to know how to produce a traditional marketing plan and code a simple program to support it.

In addition, hybrid workers can bridge that gap between the business and IT worlds. They can pick up cues on what commercial opportunities can be seized and know what is technically possible.

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Straddling both arenas has helped Quinny Lei. In 2021, the 46-year-old was in a rut looking for career progression as a senior PME (Professionals, Managers and Executives).

With the help of a WSG career coach, she sharpened her resume and worked on her personal branding and interview preparation. These, and a direct job referral, led to her seizing the opportunity to take on her role as head of Business IT solutions at Grabber Technology (Grab’s tech division).

Learn about Quinny’s ethos and how it’s taken her through her career over two decades.

Was your academic and education background in tech? What made you interested in the industry?

I started in the financial sector, before taking a leap of faith to explore the technology space more than two decades ago when an opportunity presented itself to join the IT team (at the company I was working for then).

I’ve never looked back since. I’m still passionate about the beauty of how IT started with simple binary code and has now evolved to provide so many necessities to our daily lives.

In terms of my education, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and, over time, further refined my portfolio to strategic roles. Some years ago, I also obtained a Master’s in Business Administration to balance my digital DNA with business acumen.

What are your experiences working in what’s perceived to be a male-dominated tech industry?

Admittedly, it was male-dominated back in the early days of my career. However, with globalisation, social media, and the hot topics of diversity and inclusion, the demarcation of women being left out of the technology space has started to dilute.

Over the past 10 years, we see more women in the field, holding strategic roles and steering the digital industry. From my personal experience, being a woman has never stopped me from achieving anything in life.

Of course, there is still inequality in ranking and compensation for women compared to their male counterparts. That’s where it’s essential to put leaders who will ensure such practices continue to recede.

If you could speak to yourself as a fresh graduate, what career advice would you give?

Appreciate the ups and learn from the downs in your career life.

I started from ground zero, mounting servers, imaging and deploying assets, and moving on to business partnership and leadership roles.

There is not one day that I did not learn a thing. Always set yourself to begin the day by just learning one new thing a day, and that will add up.

Celebrate achievements, understand your shortcomings and learn from every single journey. Find a good mentor where possible. They matter.

Read More: Don’t Fight Digitalisation – Here’s How to Remain Attractive to Employers

What skills do you think are necessary for those looking to work or remain in the tech industry?

Regardless of industry, we need to constantly stay updated and informed to raise living standards and expectations.

Perhaps in tech, the arena is more exciting and challenging with constant evolution. I have seen processor chips evolve from Pentium to Core i7 processors, and now we’re starting to work totally on cloud-based platforms.

To stay relevant, we need to exchange notes with peers, continue to be trained, learn on the job, and never be afraid to ask and be curious.

Ultimately, the future of IT may be in bridging gaps where there is a scarcity of resources and exploring opportunities for future sustainability.

This could come to fruition with robotic healthcare, automated learning, and virtual and augmented reality, bringing remote or long-distance collaborations closer to the real and physical world!

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