Thursday, 29 October 2015

Colin

Trust Colin Tan’s responses to break the eight-question mould. He says he’s extremely free spirited and can sometimes fire off wildly inappropriate things, but he doesn’t mean any harm. One of his pet peeves, however, might result in someone being harmed one day, because he finds it very hard not to punch people in the back of the head when they walk around with their heads down looking at their mobile phones – but he says that ‘as civilised individuals, we must try our best not to’. If there were only three things he could eat for the rest of his life, it would be cold fish ball noodles (explained later), durians and satay. He reckons that Singapore’s best kept secret is the satay shop across the road from his house.

Colin, as commander of the Achaemenid guards.


Where did you grow up?
I was born in a cow-shed (Kandang Kerbau) in a small sunny grungy seaport island called Singapore, which, according to legend, comes from the phrase “Singh Kapo!”, which means “Mr. Singh confiscated my stuff!”. True story. I spent a little bit of time in the Arabian deserts fulfilling my own dreams of being Lawrence of Arabia (minus the discomforts of riding camels all day long, and add in the creature comforts of the biggest most ornate malls you’ve ever seen). Think of it as Lawrence of Arabia with drinks by the beach.
But yeah most of my 25 years of existence was in Singh Kapo.

Describe your work and its significance.
I’m a typical boy, so I love anything that has flashing lights and beeps. Major brownie points if it flies, so naturally I found my love in drones. They’re big, loud, have flashing lights and they fly! How much cooler can you get than that?
Right…many drones! So I’m working on a cheap way to coordinate large clusters of big, loud, flashy, flying machines.

What effect do you think your field will have on the world in the next decade?
Lots. Surveillance, making money, transport, making money, making the world a better place, making money, world peace, making money. And making money.

Describe your SoC experience. 
As a student, [I enjoyed having] uber-cool profs like A/P Leong Hon Wai, who taught me (via his infamous Cattywampus lecture) that I should never trust anyone. Least of all professors. I carry on that tradition with my students, who have learnt that professors can “convince” you of anything.
As a staff member, in all seriousness, I love SoC! It’s the awesomest workplace in the world with colleagues who care about what they do and about giving their best to the students. It’s no wonder we’re #1. :D
Colleagues aside, management is extremely supportive, especially when it comes to coolest ways to teach our students. Watch out for a drone class coming in January 2017!

What do you find most challenging/interesting?
Definitely starting up a new class all on your own, with absolutely no idea where to begin. It’s fun but stressful because there’s no reference point, and students will hate you if you screw it up! Also teaching is like marriage; no one notices when you’re doing a great job, but mess up and there’s going to be tons of complaints in your feedback.
But I take all that in my stride. Ultimately if we care about our students, karma will take care of us. :)

Who made impressions on you?
Students: My awesome CS3216 teaching team! They’re brilliant, extremely dedicated people who endure no end of abuse from me but yet deliver all my marks accurately and on time! In particular Tay Yang Shun, who is helping me pro-bono this semester. Seriously how much awesome-r can you get than that?
Staff: Where do I begin? Damith, Gary, Yuen Jien, Steven, Ben, Lifeng, Sun Teck, Aaron and a ton of other colleagues who are extremely dedicated to ensuring that their students get the best in their education. And of course Prof. Leong Hon WaiCattywampus.

What was the craziest thing that you did during your time here? 
So many stories! Giving first aid to an unconscious girl in the toilet (there were other staff present around me), catching and detaining a mentally unstable individual until campus security and the police arrived, getting sliced by a drone propeller, having a drone crash while delivering a project to a customer, getting stalked by a student for a bit, having another student refuse to leave my office until I agreed to pass him for something (despite the fact he had absolutely no clue about the subject matter),  suicidal students, another student whose father was shouting at her so much that I was trying to calm him down..
Many other stories... being a prof is kinda exciting.
  
Is there anything you would have done differently during your time as a student?
Taken mathematics much more seriously. I am very math challenged. Also taking design concepts more seriously. I’m a pretty good back-end coder, but, while I have decent design and colour matching skills, I can’t code front-ends to save my life. 

What is the one thing you would change about NUS?
Have more schools be as awesome as SoC. No, seriously. Students tell me how they love the friendly, informal atmosphere here, where profs are often more like senior friends.

What do you think makes your experience here different than anyone else’s?
I’m blessed with the ability to convince people of just about anything. Especially about knowing something I really don’t know anything about. That makes life much easier.

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date?
I’m extremely proud of my CS3216 Software Development for Digital Markets class. :) Every year I get the best students in the school, put them through the wringer, and make them even better than when they started. 
Actually [before running CS3216] I was pursuing something else, and I asked Ben Leong for advice, and he said “Hey why don’t you take over CS3216?” And I was like “Oh ok”.
I never got that something else done, but I inherited what is probably the most legendary class in the whole of NUS. :)
Running this class takes very thick skin, which fortunately I have. The bulk of the lectures are delivered by guest speakers, covering topics from project management, to communication, to sales and marketing. It’s not your typical technical class.
This also means I constantly have to approach people I don’t know but who have interesting backgrounds, and convince them to give up 2-3 hours of their time on a Monday night (and sometimes other nights as well) to come give a talk to my students.
The thing I’ve learnt though is that people are amazingly helpful. I’ve never been rejected before. :)
[I am lucky I have an] awesome Teaching Assistant, Chin Su Yuen, who also runs her own company called Momocentral, specialising in outsourcing coding and designing jobs. 

What did you want to be when you were younger? 
I wanted to be a pilot! In fact after my PhD I applied to SIA to become a cadet pilot. After hearing nothing except for the sound of crickets, I applied for a teaching appointment here in SoC, and here I am!

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
Hmm that’s a tough one. I sometimes spend my free time coding up my own iOS apps, or writing software for my drones.. but the beauty of my job is that I can count that as work!
Aside from being a geek… I love a good single malt and a great Cuban or Nicaraguan cigar. Hakushu + Cohiba Corona Especial. You can’t get better than that.

Quick-Fire: What’s your signature dish?
I make a pretty good ayam buah keluak! Also pork rib curry, beer pork ribs, and quite a few other things. I can cook almost any cuisine except Chinese. Chinese food is _hard_ with its elaborate ingredients and seasonings.
I mean.. take the famous sweet-sour pork. The sauce is made up of tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, pineapples, onions and peppers.. and because Chinese flavours are relatively delicate, you have to balance everything well. With Indian or Peranakan/Malay cuisine, you can just spice everything to death. But not with Chinese cuisine.
Vietnamese cuisine is very simple, but so delicious!

Best movie you’ve seen this year?
Don’t remember any good movies this year, but the best movie I’ve _ever_ watched in my life is Cloud Atlas. It’s a huge story spanning 500 years showing how one’s actions today can affect the fates and destinies of thousands of people, hundreds of years down the road.
“Death, life, birth. Future, present, past. Everything is connected"

Worst fear?
Hair in the bathroom drain grating. >.<

Guilty pleasures?
I absolutely love cold noodles. No, not soba, but normal fish ball noodles or wanton noodles. I’d buy a packet early in the morning, leave it until it’s nice and cold (which, in my office, is about 23 degrees C), and guzzle it down! When I tell anyone that they’d go “Ewww that’s disgusting!”
But it’s seriously good.
I also have an unhealthy obsession with African cuisine, though I’ve never tried it. But ugali with peanut stew? How can that not be good?

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
i) Adolf Hitler (no seriously… what the hell was he thinking?)
ii) Jesus (He’s God. How much cooler can you get?)
iii)  Elon Musk (Charming brilliant man!)

What would be your ‘dream’ Halloween costume?
I'd go with happy clown in full clown getup and huge shoes wielding a honker in one hand and a huge axe in the other. The idea is to hack someone to a couple of pieces, honk a few times and run away gleefully laughing. That would be legen...wait for it...dary. Legendary!


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Friday, 28 August 2015

Girisha

Girisha Durrel De Silva is in his fifth year of our Computer Science PhD programme. He loves model railroading but has not been able to indulge in his hobby here in Singapore. He also watches cheesy reality shows even though he knows that most of them are scripted. Being from a cricket obsessed nation, like all the other kids, he wanted to be national cricket player, but then he grew up and realized it wasn’t his forte. Like other cyclists we’ve interviewed here, he hopes that our campus could be made more cycle-friendly. Girisha’s ultimate dinner guests would be former Top Gear UK presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. He’s currently planning on a career in the teaching track of academia. 


Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Kandy is considered a sacred city and is well known around the world as it is home to the temple of the Tooth Relic which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Kandy is also a popular tourist destination among the foreigners and the locals living in other parts of the island because of the cool climate, thickly forested hills and many historic landmarks. 
During my childhood, my city used to be more laid back in nature. For example, most of the shops would close by 6 pm and most bus services would stop by 7 pm :). So people used to spend more time with their families and enjoy the finer things in life :) I did all my schooling in Kandy and moved to the capital to pursue my degree at the University of Colombo.


Why are you doing a PhD?
I have played around with computers since I was very young and I have always been fascinated about all things related to computing. My eagerness to learn about computing made me pursue a degree in computing. Midway through my degree I got to work on a small scale research project in my university and that experience really made me think that research is what I want to do in future and here I am pursuing a PhD at NUS.

Describe your research and its significance.
Mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous and people are moving from the traditional desktops to mobile devices to carry out their day to day computing tasks. For better performance, limited bandwidth and battery capacity of mobile devices need to be addressed by better power and bandwidth management techniques. 
State-of-the-art mobile devices in the market are equipped with multiple communication interfaces such as cellular, WiFi and bluetooth radio. Each interface has different power, radio and data rate characteristics. In brief, my research concentrates on exploring the diversities provided by these interfaces to improve the performance of a mobile device in terms of power consumption and data rates. 
In few years, almost everything in the world will be connected to the Internet and as a result, networking in general is going to impact our lives even more than today. Therefore, solutions to most of the interesting problems being researched by the networking community today, will be applied by people on a day to day basis in the next decade.

Describe your SoC experience.
[I enjoy] doing research work with professors who are world class in their research fields. The suggestions, criticisms and the guidance they provide help us to improve our work and follow the right direction. [The most challenging part is] coming up with a research problem which is both interesting and practical.
I work closely with two professors, namely: Prof. Chan Mun Choon who is my adviser and also Prof. Wei Tsang Ooi who is my co-adviser. Both professors are very kind and are always willing to help me in my research work through effective guidance. If someone wants a definition for hard work then they should see how my professors work :). Out of the courses I attended I really enjoyed attending Prof. Chang Ee-Chien’s course as he kept us entertained throughout the class with his witty jokes while delivering the lecture content. During my first semester at NUS I attended a course conducted by Prof. Tulika Mitra. I needed to make up for my low scores during mid-term and had to clear a lot of queries related to the first half of the course content. In spite of her busy schedule, she was kind enough to give me an appointment in which she patiently answered all my queries. 
I also used to be a tutor for an introductory networking module for Undergraduate students at SoC. It was a great experience to work with a bunch of very talented students.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
My grandfather is from Hubei, China. That makes me part Chinese :)


Worst design?
Internet Explorer. LoL.

Favourite sports team?
The Sri Lankan cricket team and the English Rugby Team

Pet peeve?
Seeing unread emails, messages etc. At least take time to mark all of them read :D


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Mobashir

If there was one thing from an NUS canteen stall that Mohammad Mobashir could eat for the rest of his life, it would be the peanut butter waffles with an extra scoop of peanut butter (from The Terrace’s drink stall). He must have a thing for peanuts because he also thinks that the best hawker food in Singapore is the satay with peanut sauce that he gets from a stall at Lau Pa Sat. Fake English accents peeve him, but just give him some bubble wrap to pop (guiltily gleefully) and he’ll be all right. Mobashir also enjoys the satisfaction of being able to ‘tick off’ all the countries he’s travelled to and would like travel around the world in the future.

In his lab. (Photo credit: Nimantha Baranasuriya)

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kolkata (Calcutta) which is referred to as the “City of Joy" in India. It is one of those cities which would embrace you and leave you with a bit of it in your heart. I’ve read somewhere and totally agree that if you want a clean city go to Delhi, if you want a city full of rich and famous people go to Mumbai, if you want a tech-savvy city go to Bangalore but if you want a city with a soul you can’t look beyond any other city other than Kolkata.

In Kerala (Photo credit: Nimantha Baranasuriya)

What are you studying at SoC?
I’m in the third year of my PhD in Computer Science. My research interest lies in the confluence of Wireless Sensor Networks and the Internet of Things (IoT). I aim to build communication protocols which would perform well in an environment consisting of numerous devices generating a lot of interference for each other. Hopefully when the IoT hype meets the Tech Reality, people might find my work useful. 
I can classify myself as a Full Stack Developer, a person who looks into the research and development of the different layers of the networking protocol suite for Internet of Things. With more and more technologies coming into existence ranging from ZigBee to Bluetooth to WiFi, a common communication paradigm would be necessary. I hope I would be able to fill this void. 

Describe your SoC experience.
SoC has given me a platform to play multiple roles during my stay here from being a student to an independent researcher to a tutor. I have been gifted with a blend of a motivating supervisor, helpful colleagues and curious students. 
The most challenging thing [I’ve faced here] was to adapt my eating habits. No, it is not that I have started eating particularly healthy meals like McDonalds (pun intended). Instead the change has been in my eating timings where the dinner ends around 6 in the evening. Surprisingly that was the time I used to finish eating my evening snacks back in India :P.
One improvisation to the campus according to me should be adding a lot of foosball tables. I seem to have acquired an addiction for it during my internship at Microsoft Research and somehow I'm finding it hard to overcome it :(. 
Besides doing research I manage to take some time out to travel to different countries. I love travelling and wished that my career had been oriented towards a profession which demanded travelling :(. Luckily as a graduate student we get to travel for conferences and I'm trying my best to make the most out of it! 

In Dubai

What did you want to be when you were younger? 
I wanted to become a cartoonist. I'm still interested in it but as a hobbyist instead of a profession. I enjoy sketching cartoon characters whenever I take time out of PhD and perhaps that's the reason why I enjoy movies like "Madagascar" instead of "My Fair Lady".



What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
Something that surprises a lot of my friends is that I have not watched even a single episode of Friends or Big Bang Theory or the many other television series which are rated above 9 in IMDB and is bread and butter to all my friends. Trust me that I had to look into IMDB right now to get the list of popular TV series to answer this question :P.

What advice would you give a prospective PG student?
Keep calm and research hard. More importantly, stay away from discussion leading to "When are you graduating?" and profiles of fellow PhD candidates publishing like a machine. One thing that I have learnt from PhD is to accept "rejects" sportingly. Be it from a prospective girlfriend or a top rank conference. If we work hard enough we are definitely going to get what we dream for.

In Abu Dhabi

Quick-Fire. Worst fear?
Locked in a room with a dog. Even the tiniest Chihuahua scares the @#$@ out of me :-/

Three items you'd want if you were stranded on a deserted island for eternity?
1. Some bubble wrap
2. My Timberlands shoes
3. And of course decent supply of water 


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Khyathi, literally.

Class of 2014 Information Systems alumna Khyathi Nirmal Kumar hails from Chennai, a city in the South-Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Most people would be surprised to learn that she’s an introvert, and only 22 years old. If there was one thing from an NUS canteen stall that she could eat for the rest of her life, it would be The Terrace’s Western stall’s eggless brownies. She hates piercings of any kind and the incorrect usage of the word ‘literally’ [Ed: I hate to break it to ya Khyathi but they’ve accepted that ‘incorrect’ usage so technically it’s no longer wrong – I know, I know it’s the end of civilisation]. If there was one thing she would change about SoC, it would be to have modules with more emphasis on practical, real-life projects and experiences, especially for less technical courses like IS. When she’s not working and broke, she enjoys sleeping and binge watching TV shows. When she’s not working and flush, she loves travelling. Khyathi’s three ultimate dinner party guests would be Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and one of her own bosses, Prantik Mazumdar

Khyathi about to do some adventure parasailing on one of her travels abroad

What do you do now? 
I currently work as a Senior Consultant, Search and Social Media, at a Singapore-based digital agency called Happy Marketer. I handle clients from the Education and Technology verticals. My main responsibilities include client management, strategy and project management. I've always been fascinated with creativity and marketing requires creativity to be used to solve business challenges. I find this mix very interesting and this made me apply to agencies to do internships when I was studying.
Happy Marketer is a digital agency founded by NUS SoC alumni Rachit Dayal, who is also an NOC alumni. We help businesses innovate and grow their business through Digital. Some of our services include Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Paid Advertising and Web Analytics. The company turns seven this June and has grown at an amazing pace since its inception in 2009. It is now one of the leading independent agencies in the region. 
I am currently in the process of transitioning to a new role at Happy Marketer. This role involves managing branding, PR, internal marketing, award submissions, industry research for Happy Marketer as well as charting out the strategy for all our existing clients, pitch planning for new clients and lastly defining processes and benchmarks which we as a company should live up to in-order to stay ahead of competition.
I have loved working at HM since I started interning here 3 years ago. I've been in the company since we were just 4-5 people in a tiny office, and I am here now when we are 30+ people strong. I've been through the entire journey with the team and even though I did not start the company, it feels like my baby!


So, I am really excited and thrilled about this role because it is my one big chance to shape the brand, to shape the work that we deliver and to assist on a strategic level, and really give something back to the company.
Marketing has always been crucial [in business], it’s just the way it's delivered or executed that changes every decade. As boundaries and limitations keep reducing, the amount of clutter around us increases every day. Hence, as marketers, we hope to be able to help brands connect with their customers and stand out of the clutter by being "future ready". 

Describe your SoC experience.
I loved 2 things the most - the diverse classes and the CCAs. I met some of my closest friends in SoC who I still stay in touch with. I loved hanging out with them on campus, camping at SoC, working late nights or even just slacking to take a break. As for the CCAs, I was the Vice Chair of the NUS Student Chapter of the ACM. I've always been passionate about organizing events and running this club for over 2 years was one of the most memorable things for me as a SoC-ian. My team organized multiple events that were useful for techies. One of my favourite events was Developer Weekend which was the largest student-run hackathon at the time. Being a part of this club taught me a lot about leadership, expanded my network as I used to reach out to companies for corporate sponsorships and gave me a lot of experience with marketing. It was like my own little project. Another very interesting initiative by NUS ACM was Code for Cause (CFC). CFC was set-up to help social enterprises or NGOs that need technical help, be it building a website or an app or even something trivial. My team worked with 2-3 enterprises and built products that helped these companies. Sadly, the club is not very functional at the moment from what I hear, but those 2 years got us a lot of recognition in NUS.

Khyathi receiving the Student Achievement Award for Code for Cause

The most challenging thing for me was to balance work and school. I used to intern or work part-time pretty much every semester and it was good fun balancing school, work and my personal life. Even while studying, I was working with Happy Marketer which kept my passion for marketing alive. Studying IS and working in Marketing kinda go well together. I applied things that I learnt at school at work. And work helped me discover my interests, which helped me structure my curriculum in school and not just take modules blindly. 
Of course, this was possible only because of the flexibility that SoC and HM provided me with. And that's another thing I love about SoC. The school not only gives students enough space to discover or pursue their passion, but also supports them whenever possible.
Prof. Anand Ramchand was one of my favourite profs in year 1. I loved his style of teaching, it’s very practical and interesting. There are 2 other profs that I really admire, Prof. Tan Wee Kek and Prof. Tuan Phan. I studied the toughest modules in my curriculum with them and it’s awesome how they support their students. For Prof. Tan's module, he used to stay around on campus, overnight, to help students with their projects. His students were his first priority and he just goes the extra mile to help them. Prof. Tuan was my FYP supervisor. Everyone told me FYP would be tough and it was. But it just became so much more enjoyable with a great supervisor like Prof. Phan. He's always open to suggestions and he doesn't micromanage. He gives students the liberty and support to experiment, fail and re-try. 
[On top of all that,] we did have a lot of fun while we worked overnight on group projects. We'd play card games, share silly stories, take funny/embarrassing pictures of friends while they dozed off, draw on their face etc :P [If there was one thing I would have done differently,] I think I would have liked to try more cross-university or global programmes. Learning and travelling at the same time :)

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date?
Being recognised as the "Most Promising Newcomer" in Asia in the marketing industry (at the 2015 Mumbrella Asia Awards in May). It was my first "big" achievement. I just made sure I continuously add value to the company (Happy Marketer) and its clients, and keep learning every single day - and it paid off! Both my bosses and my clients were kind enough to recommend me and nominate me for this award. My bosses, Rachit & Prantik who've always been my mentors, my friends & family, my clients & colleagues. I just made sure I have fun doing my work :)

Khyathi with her bosses and colleagues at the 2015 Mumbrella Asia Awards

What did you want to be when you were younger? 
I wanted to be an astronaut! Haha! I am still very fascinated with space and stars and extra-terrestrial activities and would definitely like to visit another planet someday (doesn't seem so unreal given all the advancements!).

What are your future plans?
No big plans yet. But 3 things that I want to do, backpack around the world, start a business at some point, help social causes through marketing (as in take up pro-bono marketing projects that can make a difference).


Quick-Fire! Worst fear?
Getting tickled :P. 
On a serious note: losing my freedom

Worst experience with public transportation?
Hate traveling by buses specially double deckers. The constant feeling that you might just be thrown out of the window while moving on the upper deck is scary! :P

Most interesting development in technology this year?
I am very curious about the interesting applications of IoT in store for us!


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Francis

Francis Yeoh is, in his words, ‘a true blue Singaporean, born and raised here, served NS, likes durian, kway chap, yong tau foo and chili crab’. He did, however, spend seven years in England and one in Boston ‘collecting a few pieces of paper’. His guilty pleasure is having beef jerky with beer at the end of a hot day. He thinks that the most interesting recent development in technology is the drone because there are just so many application possibilities. Francis chairs the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Committee at SoC.

Francis and his wife Karol at Machu Picchu, Peru

What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?
My work in the last 30 years or so has always revolved around research, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, whether as a research scientist, research institute director, start-up CEO, venture investor, government policy maker, or university professor.  
I have lived through Singapore’s incredible transformation from third world to first and saw how the country cleverly transitioned from a labour intensive economy in the 60s to the sophisticated knowledge-based metropolis that it is today, thanks to the hard work, foresight and resilience of our founding leaders and pioneer generation. Moving ahead in an increasingly complex and inter-connected world, I believe Singapore has to develop a thriving entrepreneurial wing to the economy, to complement the FDI (foreign direct investment) led strategy that had served us well in the 70s and 80s but is no longer adequate for the future. A robust economy should have both large corporations for stability and resilience as well as numerous fast-growing startups, for agility, dynamism and renewal. This is why in my past work in government, whether in the National Science and Technology Board (now A*STAR) or the National Research Foundation, I had pushed for the development of an eco-system that will support the entrepreneurial community of startups, venture capital, angel investors and supporting services. The universities have an important role to play in supplying innovative technologies and the entrepreneurs that are the central players in such an eco-system.  
SoC, as a top-ranked computer science school can and should certainly play a key role. SoC could produce graduates who are not just technically competent but also possess drive and resourcefulness, and a desire to experience the intensity and pace of the startup world rather than take up a safe job with a large corporation or government agency.  
What a few SoC colleagues and I hope to do here is to educate and equip SoC students with the entrepreneurial skills needed to work in a tech start-up and to encourage and guide them in the first steps of their entrepreneurial journey and help connect them to the local startup eco-system.  

Describe your SoC experience. 
What I find enriching is the opportunity to interact with bright, driven young people, both in my class (IS3251: Principles of Technology Entrepreneurship) and in the SoC incubator for start-up companies. Contrary to popular perceptions that millennials are slackers, easily distracted multi-taskers, self-serving day-dreamers, etc., I have come across many who are sensible, determined, idealistic and yet very down to earth. It is a delight to be able to encourage and guide intelligent self-driven young people to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.    
I would advise students to build strong technical skills – great software skills are very valuable and in high demand, especially in the start-up community. It is far easier to pick up business skills than technical skills later in life.  
I would also advise students to join a tech start-up early in their working life, rather than go the tried and tested (and boring) route of working for an MNC or government. There isn’t a better time than now to be part of the exciting entrepreneurial community in Singapore – the environment is very conducive, funding is quite abundant, and, there’s a thriving multi-national community of entrepreneurs operating in Singapore. For the young graduate, there are rich intense and valuable learning experiences and opportunities galore! Even if the start-up eventually fails (as many will), the value remains. Many entrepreneurs describe their start-up experiences as transformational in developing independence, perseverance and character.     

What is the one thing you would change about SoC?
As professorial fellow, I spend about half time at SoC so I would not know the School enough to suggest changes. One thing I do notice, however, is the way faculty offices are configured – long corridors with offices on either side, mostly closed. I imagine a professor could spend days, even weeks, within his closed office without interacting with anyone unless he consciously seeks to do so. For creative ideas to be seeded and nurtured, and for innovation to flourish, human interaction is key. Much has been written about the value of water cooler conversations and other serendipitous encounters that give birth to great ideas in research labs. Having offices sited in square clusters, with (open) doors facing inwards would immediately raise the interaction level manifold and increase the likelihood of developing breakthrough ideas. Of course, there are constraints imposed by the existing building architecture but I believe more emphasis could be given to build greater interaction among the faculty into the daily routine.     

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am pretty bad in recognizing faces, at least some faces. There were embarrassing occasions when I failed to acknowledge someone I saw in the street whom I’d met several times before, in the same week.  My image processing algorithm just couldn’t handle certain data sets! While usually efficient and well organized (I think!), I do have periods of unbelievable absent-minded lapses. One day returning from an overseas trip, I tried in vain to open my suitcase when I reached home. It took a while for me to realize that the key didn’t fit and yes, it wasn’t my bag – the luggage was not even same the brand and model! Thankfully, after driving back to the airport, I was able to retrieve the correct luggage and hand over the piece I took home by mistake to an anxious lady at the baggage claim. Everyone had a good laugh and my wife had a great story to entertain her friends with.  

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I enjoy working with and mentoring start-ups. When not doing that, I read a lot (non-fiction mainly), tinker with the piano and travel. My wife and I have a long bucket list of travel destinations. We want to see as many places as we can while our legs are still strong and we can endure 30-hour flights, extremes of weather and days of trekking.  

Quick-Fire! The one trait an entrepreneur must have?
Undying optimism.

The most common problem you see start-ups facing?
Not focusing narrowly enough, trying to build something to please too many different customer groups and ending up pleasing nobody.

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
Warren Buffet (but I can’t afford the going rate for lunch!)
Peter Drucker – great, insightful, down-to-earth teacher
Philip Yancey – modern day Christian philosopher with deep honest views about the world


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Ervin

Ervin Kwan will be beginning his final semester studying Information Systems in August. He thinks that he probably has a lot in common with most people because he’s interested in most things and is always learning something new. He wishes that students here would be less competitive and just be friends. When he’s not busy, his favourite pastime is watching TED videos.



Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hougang. I was from the neighbourhood Holy Innocents’ High School, from a normal technical stream, then was upgraded to the normal academic in later years. The thought of being in NUS one day never occurred to me at all. I had a thug’s life back then. 

Describe your SoC experience.
SoC has quite a few remarkable professors! In no particular order, I would like to shout out to Prof. Hahn Jungpil, Dr. Soo Yuen Jien and Mr. Aaron Tan. They taught the lectures that I seriously enjoyed. 
Apart from awesome professors, SoC gave me many peers, activities, air-conditioned study space, stress, bell-curve and free buffet (leeching from events). I do a lot of crazy things to my friends in SoC. Some of which are, giving flowers to the first 3 girls I meet in SoC during Valentine’s Day, telling my friends that assignment deadline was extended on April’s fool and performing magic tricks to random people. I have favourite buddies and we try to take every module together and we suffer and enjoy a lot. Beeyi, Terence and Myo! What would I do without you? 
In SoC, I enjoy sharing – I love to teach or help people who are in need. Being a CS1020 TA under Mr Aaron Tan for a semester was intriguing. I really hope I can inspire and motivate people to love computing one day. 
Apart from those who I have mentioned above, Ms. Toh and Ms. Quek (recently left) helped me so much in SoC admin matters. I demand that SoC increase their pay! How would SoC function without Ms. Toh man!? 

What did you want to be when you were younger? 
I wanna be everything! For every movie I watched, I became inspired. I feel like dancing after watching Step-Up the movie and I always have the urge to fight after watching Ip Man. 

I’m told that you’re one of the founders of NUS Magic. Tell me about this.
I started magic 7 years ago while reading books and finding resources from the Internet. Somewhere along the way, without knowing it, I became real good at it. The first external gig I performed at was introduced by my friend who had a carnival organized at a community club. While performing, people asked me for name cards and contact details because they were interested in “employing” me. I guess if the “product” is of high quality, it markets itself through word of mouth. 
NUS Magic was founded after I got a gig at an NUS event that staff and research assistants attended. It turned out that I was not the only magician there and realized that the others were also from NUS. We then discussed our passion and became determined to setup a club through OSA, despite the hassle of the process (just kidding). 
Performance itself now is like an exercise to me. The organization of content, speech, presentation and theatrics are all often thought about when I have the time. It helped me in my school’s presentation as well in teaching CS1020 as a TA. Therefore, if anyone is interested, come join us here at the NUS Magic club =D. 

What are your future plans?
As I am about to graduate soon, most of my thoughts are about my career. Have been doing internships to get a feel for what I may be interested in. Last summer, I was in IDA and this summer I am at Accenture. I guess there are so many things happening in my life all the time that I can’t plan extensively. It probably will be futile as life is so dynamic to me. 

Quick-Fire. Worst fear?
Water and betrayal

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
Iron-man, Sherlock Holmes and another Narcissist (Formula for a good comedy)

Singapore’s best kept secret?
******* **** *******


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Weng-Fai

Weng-Fai is third generation born and bred, self-professed ‘product of our system’, Singaporean. It annoys him when people don’t clean and clear up after themselves in hawker centres and when they repeatedly say ‘actually’. Hokkaido is the best place he’s been to and he’s keen about no longer needing ‘a wallet and all those cards’ with the advent of technology like Apple Pay. He can’t think of anything he would change about SoC, not because it’s perfect, but because he ‘can live with the warts’. If he could only eat three things for the rest of his life, it would be laksa, mee rebus and wanton mee. Incidentally, Weng-Fai also volunteers his photography skills, equipment and time to capture images of you quirky SoC-ians for our school brochures and publicity materials.



Describe your research and its significance. 
Research wise, I work in the area of parallel processing, computer architecture and systems. I am currently working on approximate computing. While the computer is extremely precise, there is a cost to pay for the precision. One example that everyone is concerned with is the energy consumption of computing devices. I have worked on different techniques for improving energy consumption in the past, and recently have focused on approximate computing – how to “cheat” by being imprecise when it doesn’t matter that much. Our group has just started but results are encouraging. Why am I interested? The idea of “cheating” just intrigues me :). I hope it will contribute a small drop to the way that we use the computer, especially in a green way.

Describe your SoC experience.
SoC has been my life. Almost all of my adult years have been spent here in the company of great friends, teachers, and students. The people and the quality of thought processes that I am privileged to witness and learn from [are what I enjoy the most]. [The challenge is that] the system can be very frustrating and counter-productive at times. [But I feel that my most significant achievement is] to have helped students in trouble or achieve their dreams. It feels great to have helped – [there are always students who need help] and it comes with the job. 

Which faculty members made impressions on you? 
When I was young, I had no idea what to do with my life – until I met Professor Yuen Chung Kwong, the most important teacher in my life. He used to be the Head of Department. It was under his guidance that I embarked on the journey of a university professor. 

What is the craziest thing that you have done during your time here? 
I climbed to the rooftop of AS6 and COM1 to photograph birds and the surround. That was before they locked up the access doors.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? 
Photography. Especially going “birding” – shooting (photographing) birds – with my buddies.

Quick-Fire. Best movie you’ve seen this year?
Interstellar. I like the twist in the plot.

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
I rather dine with family and close friends than any “great” persons.

Singapore’s best kept secret?
Its forests. They are full of life.


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Monday, 18 May 2015

Multifarious Thiru

Thiru Kumaran oscillates from being Jester to Thinker to Hard-Worker, and back. His huge, cheeky, goofy grin, jokes and laid back mien belie his discipline, determination and ability to keep his nose to the grindstone. He has just completed his first year in the Business Analytics programme but he still feels like a freshie. If there was an award for procrastination, Thiru thinks he’d probably be the one collecting it…later. He enjoys watching Last Week Tonight by John Oliver, cuddling his dog, hanging out with close friends, indulging his gym obsession at least thrice a week and speeding through empty trails on his bicycle. You may be surprised to know that he likes poetry, used to write often, loves to cook, and was a scrawny 38kgs in Secondary 3, unable to do more than two chin-ups. He can now do 15 chin-ups, with 15kgs of extra weight on him, and considers this one of his most significant achievements. When in need of a conversational ice-break, Thiru finds it useful to bring up the fact that he lives close to the Institute for Mental Health.




Describe your SoC experience.
To put it aptly, nothing short of a rollercoaster. Before school started, I was quite apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect. I nearly didn’t join FSC and only joined ‘cause my friend KP persuaded me to join, and I’m glad he did. The camps were really fun and I’m thankful to the previous FOP Comm who made such an experience possible! RAG was another event I didn’t expect joining but I’m glad I did. Most of the friends I made were through rag and the experience of performing for SoC is one I’ll hold dear for years to come. Frankly, I didn’t really care about the award that we got for rag as personally, I feel SoC’s Rag is more about the bonding and fun rather than mindlessly gearing for a coloured trinket, and that’s what matters the most for me. Proud to have represented SoC! [Now], I’m an OGL for the upcoming [SoC] Freshman Social camp, and was an ambassador for SoC during Open Day and the Information Session, where I shared the benefits of joining the SoC Family. I’m also currently the vice president of BreakiNUS, The NUS Bboy club. 
Studies wise. Oh man. I found it hard to catch up initially as I had forgotten nearly all of my JC stuff and was also new to programming! Gym-ing thrice a week and dancing twice a week wasn’t helping either HAHA! It was a struggle, but I (somehow) managed to pull through with the help of some great seniors and professors and scored decently for the exams in the end! 
Personally, I find that (no matter how many times it’s been said) SoC is unique in the sense of its homeliness. Everyone knows each other, and it’s more of a tightly knit family than a faculty.  That, to me, makes the experience all the more worthwhile.
[Some of the people who have made impressions on me are:]
Prof Ben Leong – the personification of the quote “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. Being rusty from NS and not familiar with programming at all, 1010S was a nightmare at the beginning with me being clueless at the end of every lecture, and the persistently looming deadlines brought immense pressure. I wasn’t doing very well and barely passed my midterms, but was still intent on getting an A for this mod. When I told him (about my intent), he laughed and challenged me to do it. However, the effort I put in didn’t translate to results and I was constantly underperforming especially during the practical exams. After much pain, one random day everything clicked, and I managed to hold up my end of the challenge in the end. Hopefully I made him proud, as I couldn’t have done it without his spurring!
Andrew KZK – One of the nicest people I’ve met who goes out of his way to help others! #kzkfanclub
Andre – My incredibly smart pseudo-Indian friend who inspires me to be better!
Too many people to mention, the awesome people from RAG, FSC, etc., who made the SOC experience awesome and made me proud to be from computing!

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date? 
Breaking out from a downward spiral in school, and getting into university with a scholarship in an area that I was interested in. 
[It required] a lot of stubbornness and sacrifice. Being from a Normal Academic background and having only combined science and no A-maths background, the JC syllabus was a really difficult challenge. Having a weak math and science background, it felt like running a race, except that I had weights on my ankles. Things that came naturally to others, took me twice as long as I had to understand the concepts that we were assumed to have known before starting that chapter (e.g. differentiation). 
This difficulty was compounded by financial and family problems which I had at that time as well. It took a lot of teeth-clenching to ignore the negatives, and to focus on the A-levels. I knew university was expensive, and I didn’t want to give my parents an additional financial burden. Thankfully in the end, I managed to do decently well. I applied for the NEWater scholarship, as the preservation of the environment and sustainable development were some of my key interest areas. I chose to do an internship first, instead of the normal interview process. 
The internship was one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done! Normally interns did not have to carry out the assigned project, but my director had high expectations on me and wanted me to make it as well, and I was not one to let him down. Since nearly everything was banking on it, I was even working at home and through the weekends to complete the project by the deadlines. It was an insightful experience into working life and it felt immensely satisfying to see your project actually being used and benefiting the lives of people. It was quite unreal when I actually received the offer for the scholarship, after years of toiling for it. It was quite an irreplaceable feeling of elation, and the beginning of a new journey, which only gets tougher.
My Secondary 3 math teacher, Mr Tan, was the one who showed me that I could do it, that the past does not determine the future, and that the only limits (queue calculus joke) were the ones in your mind. If not for him, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. Also, my 2 best friends who stuck by me during my most trying of times, and prevented me from choosing the easy option of giving up. 



I hear you’re a good break-dancer. Tell me about how you got into this.
Ah no I have a long way left to go to be called a good bboy, but I’m working towards it! I’ve always loved dance and wanted to learn popping / breaking since young! I was fascinated by the power moves (windmills, flares) that bboys did,  but I never got the opportunity to try as my house lacked space (once broke my fan trying a windmill in my house!) and I was lazy + shy to go to places like OSchool to learn. My first real exposure was during RAG when I joined the Bboy/Bgirl section of the dance. Shoutout to Leo, the choreographer of the bboy section who was a great teacher and taught us the moves patiently! After rag, I joined BreakiNUS, the NUS Bboy club which sessions every Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday and met a lot of really good people there who are willing to impart their skills, and inspire me to become a better dancer. I performed for CAC+US last year as part of the BreakiNUS Item and although the practices were intense and draining, (especially when combined with my normal exercise routines) in the end, it was really a rewarding experience that bonded me with the group!

What did you want to be when you were younger? 
HAHAH Oh man too many things! I remember when I was in primary school (I think) I wanted to be an air-con repairman! I thought they were like magicians who fixed magical boxes which spewed cold air! After that I wanted to be a garang guni man ‘cause I thought it would be fun travelling throughout Singapore and using that loud horn. Then sadly I grew older and got more ‘rational’ choices such as being a pilot or a teacher. The later part of secondary school / early JC I discovered I really liked making people laugh, and wanted to be a stand-up comedian!  I remember being quite serious about it and watched a whole host of comedians to see how they constructed their jokes, how they stood, engaged the audience, delivered their punchlines, etc. I even dreamt of having my own debut and came up with a bit of original material until… well… I guess life got in the way? Perhaps one day.

What is the funniest thing you’ve done?
Not in SoC, but one of the top entries in the list of stupid things I’ve done would acting suspicious with a group of my friends in a certain MRT station with a really, really long escalator, and when the security guard walked towards us, sprint to the escalator. You know the scene in cartoons where the chaser would be going down the escalator while the person being chased is on the opposite side and they stare at each other? We re-created that HAHA! We managed to escape, then came back a while later explaining it was just a joke. Lucky he had a sense of humour or I may not be doing this interview!



Quick-Fire: Worst fashion trend?
Crocs (by itself), jeans with slippers. Fedoras. Gais pls.

Worst fear?
Finding out one day that you wasted your life on achievements that don’t bring you happiness.

Pet peeves?
“Irregardless”, people with no sense of humour, and people who give up at their amazing dreams at the first inkling of difficulty. If it was easy, everybody would do it. If you want it, get off your sense of entitlement and work for it.


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Celeste

Celeste Ang loves soccer, is an Arsenal fan and thinks it is time NUS gets a new soccer field with artificial turf. If you want to annoy Celeste, use your phone while you talk to her, and say “whatever”, “k” or “anything”. People may not know she’s a klutz - she has dropped her sister’s iPhone into some Bak Kut Teh soup, tripped over a tanning bed while chasing a Frisbee and broke her ceiling light while making her bed. She’s currently in her first year of the Business Analytics programme.


Where did you grow up?
Singapore. I grew up in the Upper Thomson area, back when it was an ulu place with nothing much to do, shop or eat. Right now it’s quite a hip place with lots of nice food like Meng’s Kitchen, Udders, Habitat Coffee, etc. but I have since moved away. I still go there regularly for meals though! Especially after crashing my juniors’ soccer training at RJ. :)
I studied at Nanyang Primary School, followed by RGS and then RI(JC). I’d say my most memorable years were in RGS, because I got so much out of my 4 years there. It was fun because we didn’t have to face the pressure-cooker called O levels (because of the IP programme). Orchard Road was nearby so we could just walk over for meals or to hang out! And I also got the opportunity to represent the school (and Singapore) on a fun-filled trip to the US where we participated in a Community Problem-Solving competition, and participated in a home stay programme!

Describe your SoC experience.
It's been fun and challenging!
It's been awesome getting to know the SoC community during FSC, FOW, RAG (where I was a makeup artist), IFGs and during lessons too. The experiences I've had playing orientation games, bonding with my OGs, battling it out with my IFG teammates, mugging in school, scrambling to finish missions in CS1010S before deadlines, having suppers, steamboat parties .. all these are priceless to me and I'm grateful to have gained some amazing friends along the way.
Studies wise, programming mods have been challenging because I'm new to programming. But I relish a challenge and it's cool and actually quite fun, especially in CS1010S! I’m looking forward to completing CS1020 though, because that means no more programming mods :P
So far, I'm still adapting to life in uni and SoC but I've been enjoying myself! I enjoy spending time with my friends, doing things such as playing foosball, having meals together, being involved in computing activities such as camps, IFGs, ice skating, etc.
A friend recently commented that I seem to enjoy joining a lot of ‘boliao’ stuff and I think she’s probably right!
I like to do things that interest me and make my campus life more interesting, even though that may seem like a waste of time to others. The NUS Soccer team, IFGs, FSC Orientation Committee and Open Day Computing Ambassador – these are just some things I have done/ will be doing because I want to and I’m passionate about them! I feel that whether or not you have time for such stuff is all about balance and effort. If these things are important enough to you, you will put in the effort to make time for it.
[Some of the people here who have made impressions on me are:] Prof Ben Leong, because CS1010S drove me crazy! Haven’t really interacted with him much because I was under the TA Khanh (who also left an impression on me because he was really patient and always willing to help!!) but how often is it that a mod can be so painful and fun at the same time?
As for the seniors, it’s impossible to name them all, but they’ve been really helpful in helping me and the other freshies settle into life in SoC! The OGLs, camp helpers, IFG seniors, BA seniors.. etc. you know who you all are :)
Two seniors I’d like to mention in particular:
Andrew Kzk, who always goes out of his way to help others.
Michelle Tee, who’s really helpful and nice too (do not be fooled by her resting b*tch face! :P) and has helped me out so much and given me so much useful advice

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
When I was younger, my ambition was to be an actress! I watched a lot of TV then. My family bonds by watching Channel 8 dramas while eating fruits after dinner :)
Later on, I wanted to be a forensic scientist because I read a lot of crime novels (e.g. books by James Patterson, Katy Reiches, Stephen King) and watched crimes dramas like Bones, CSI, Sherlock etc.
But I never really pursued those dreams because they’re not realistic (at least in Singapore) and when I discovered my interest in Business, Analytics and Entrepreneurship, I decided that those were more realistic career options!


What do you count as your most significant achievement to date?
Winning RJ Soccer Girls’ first ever Championship title back when I was in J1.
I loved playing in the RJ team because my teammates and coaches were all so passionate and driven. We had two major goals when I first joined, to win the championship and to beat VJC! Reason being, our team had very humble roots. We started just a few years back with hardly any training space and equipment (these resources were largely taken up by the bigger CCAs like rugby and soccer boys), but with the efforts of some amazing alumni and coaches, we got more attention from the school and got more funding and resources. However for years we kept missing out on the title because the favourites VJC kept winning. We wanted the title so badly because we wanted to repay the alumni and coaches for all their efforts.
On 8th May 2012 (my entire team remembers the date by heart because it meant so much to us, haha!), we beat MJC in the finals at Jalan Besar Stadium to win the title!
We didn’t have to beat VJC (the overwhelming favourites) to get the title because MJC beat them in the semis. This meant that we were the underdogs in the finals. Undaunted, we played a tactical and defensive game, and won by a goal scored during a counterattack in injury time. It was like a dream come true!
[Besides] my teammates and coaches, [we also had] the alumni who came down for trainings to help out sometimes, and came to support us for our matches! RJ Soccer Girls is really a tight-knitted community. Even though I’ve ‘retired’ from the team, and uni life is hectic, I try to make it a point to go back for the occasional training to help out the juniors, keep in contact with the coaches and play football with my batchmates!

According to Ash, you’re a very skilled soccer player and you played soccer and basketball in the IFG 2014/2015. Tell us a bit about your passion for sports.
I wasn’t really an athlete from the start; when I was younger, I was quite fat, and was more ‘artsy’, taking art classes and representing the school in Chinese Calligraphy. But my dad forced me to join Track & Field, because he was disappointed at how his athletic genes didn't really get passed down to his first 2 daughters, haha! I represented the school in hurdles, and that’s when I grew to love sports. I fell in love with soccer after watching it on TV and playing soccer after trainings and during PE lessons, but RGS didn’t have a soccer team, so I picked the next best option – basketball. And when I came to RI(JC), the natural choice for me was, of course, soccer! I love how the game is unpredictable, fun, beautiful and requires both individual skills and teamwork.
I used to run a lot too. I got started when my sister’s friend, who was supposed to run a half marathon with her, pangsehed her. She offered her bib to me for free 2 days before the event, and I thought, why not? That was such a #YOLO moment; it was crazy trying to run a half marathon with NO training at all! But since then, I was hooked! Ran 3 more half marathons, and a participated in a few other running events. However, since my JC running buddy enlisted, I’ve been finding it tough motivating myself to run regularly again :P
IFGs were really fun last sem! It was a hectic first-half of the semester because I was training every day because of IFGs and SuniG (soccer) training, but the experiences I gained and the friends I made, made it worth it :) Wanted to get gold with the soccer girls (both IFG and SuniG), but ended up with silver for both. Well, that’s life. You win some and lose some.
I think the best thing about sports is that you forge amazing friendships with your teammates. You know you can trust and rely on someone when you get through tough training sessions together, and fight alongside one another in competitions. Sports has also built up my character, and made me a better person (I think/hope)!

Celeste and her sister at their older sister's wedding

Quick-Fire! Worst item design?
Don’t know. Sorry I don’t take note of such stuff haha. Oh, do fashion choices count? I don’t like it when people dress in clashing prints, show off way too much skin, or wear ill-fitting clothes. Too loose isn’t that bad but way too tight is just.. ugh. I still remember those days in JC where some guys altered the pants till they were WAY too tight and made their underwear very visible (because the pants were white) – such an eyesore!

Guilty pleasures?
Lying in bed and watching Ellen.
Eating all kinds of desserts and chocolates.
Indulging in good hawker food! It’s strange and funny how many of my friends ask me for food recommendations because they think I know where all the good food is! Among my favourite hawker food are hokkien mee, sambal stingray and fried oysters.

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
Thierry Henry (favourite soccer player), Steve Jobs (genius entrepreneur) and Ryan Gosling (eye candy)!


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Andrew

When Andrew Koh isn’t busy with uni work, he’s usually gaming and ‘building stuff’. If he had to eat one thing from an NUS canteen stall for the rest of his life it would be the wanton noodles from the Science canteen’s ‘popular noodle stall’. He also hates awkward silences and people finding out his worst fears. Andrew is currently in his third year of his Computer Science programme, focussing on software engineering.

at the IFG Reversi semi-finals

Describe your SoC experience. 
I like helping others (those who need help), although it is quite tiring and taxing. To always reflect and improve yourself with each happening is most challenging, for it’s always easier to stay within my comfort zone. The most interesting thing is to meet new people, for you will always learn and hear new experiences, and wonder why they know the other people you know!
[I am currently working on the] Razer Nabu Challenge! It is an interesting addition to the current market of smart ware, with capabilities to gamify our environment! Life may never be the same again!
Previously I was the Alumni Relations Director, as part of the 16th Management Committee of the Students' Computing Club. It may not be very known as it is still a relatively new position in the committee. What I attempted to do besides continue the tradition of an SoC Graduation Night, was to spark off mentorship possibilities with our very own alumni (besides having our academic mentor), as our alumni are part of the reason why SoC is Number 1 in Asia. [I got to do everything], from meeting and knowing the pioneers who paved the way for future generations, and chances to learn and develop industry skills alongside with the academic theories.
So many [faculty and students have made impressions on me]! From the start the 3 professors were Prof Khoo Siau Cheng, Prof Tan Sun Teck, and Prof Aaron Tan. And a friend Ervin Kwan Fu Sheng. They kick-started my learning journey in NUS by inspiring programming I haven’t actually learnt (you know, from polytechnic, thinking that programming is chicken feet).
Thereafter, I had some “internal crisis”, or rather the “what the hell am I here for... etc.” – I was seeking to transfer to Information Systems instead, and thankfully I had so much help from the community in SoC. From informal and casual chats with some professors (the above mentioned) and some of the seniors, Prof Anand Ramchand, to consulting my academic mentor Prof Tan Chew Lim, I made my decision to stay in CS. Mr Desmond Teo (our SoC career guide) helped a lot with my decision by sharing insights to future careers that we might have.
[If there was one thing I would change about NUS, it would be] the paper chase! As much as I cannot deny that the degree can really help with opening many doors of opportunities, I believe that what makes us computing would be our craft, or the ability to handle code (like instead of just taking modules to graduate, hack, code, and try).

What is the funniest or craziest thing that you did or that has happened during your time here? 
Craziest: I attempted to take a 5xxx module when I was year 2, and I'm pretty sure the prerequisites changed for it. Don't recommend for people not prepared for the change of pace in learning.
Funniest: Having to explain Halloween and Christmas, their interchangeability ever year. (25 Dec = 31 Oct)

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date? 
I happened to be part of a research paper (IJSER 2011 if I remember correctly) of a type of Android Application, when it android was still new. It was my final year project in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and I thought it sounded interesting! I think it still does. It was not easy, and took a few months of trial and error to create a prototype, but I had a lot of help from an Ngee Ann alumnus who acted as an industry mentor and my partner, who built the hardware for the entire system while I built the android side.

What did you want to be when you were younger and is it still an interest of yours?
In the past I kept saying I want to sail the seven seas, and be a sailor. But that was because I needed an answer to answer all the pesky what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up type of questions... and no, it is no longer an interest of mine.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I started (with friend and strangers) a tech start-up after a hackathon! 

What are your future plans?
To change the world. There's much to change, and I think I happen to be in the right place to do so (information & knowledge control).

Quick-Fire! Guilty pleasure?
Saying "chill" and "relax" to calm myself down.

Three ultimate dinner party guests?
 Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot, and any Atheist.


Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg