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Strength in (Small) Numbers
Software Engineer David Lee and Technician Nice Celine Morales share about the supportive work culture at HOPE Technik, a local engineering SME.
After stepping into the building’s black and red façade, HOPE Technik welcomes its visitors and employees with an impressive indoor wall-climbing panel, a tall slide descending down from the main office space above, and a few ping pong tables at its entrance.
Beyond the casual setup that greeted us, employees on the main floor can be found engrossed in their tasks at their work stations – suggesting that while the engineering SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) may be a fun organisation to work in, these guys mean serious business when it comes down to it.
The team at HOPE Technik develops industrial products and provides innovative solutions for clients across the globe. Under HOPE Technik is the company SESTO Robotics, where both Software Engineer David Lee and Technician Nice Celine Morales work on developing industrial-applied robotics.
Together with their teammates, they develop Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) which are typically used in logistics and manufacturing settings to transport loads from one point to another.
However, working for SESTO Robotics isn’t the only thing Lee and Morales share in common. Both of them had interned at HOPE Technik before transitioning into their full-time roles.
Proud and passionate about what they do, Lee and Morales shared their thoughts and experience on how the company’s work culture and their internship experience have helped shaped their careers thus far.
Learning through early responsibilities
For Lee, his current role as a software engineer is to develop intelligent fleet management systems for the applications of the AGVs. Lee had joined HOPE Technik as a software engineering intern before becoming a permanent member of the SESTO Robotics team.
During his internship, the NUS graduate with a degree in industrial and systems engineering was placed in a small team that only consisted of two to three people.
The size of the team did not deter Lee from learning and developing professionally during his internship. Instead, it was very much the opposite as it enabled him to carry out high-level tasks at an early stage.
“I was really privileged to be part of this team because whatever we’ve done [during the internship] was integrated into the actual product,” Lee said.
“Normally as an intern, you wouldn’t expect this kind of responsibility and exposure.”
Lee also added that interns are treated just like any other full-time engineer at the company. The early responsibility thus gives interns at HOPE Technik a lot of autonomy, allowing them to take ownership of the projects they are involved in.
For Lee, this made HOPE Technik a good training platform for him to hone his skills as a software engineer.
Echoing similar sentiments is Morales, who shared about how the early responsibilities she received as an intern have benefitted her.
Morales had interned at HOPE Technik while she was studying for a diploma in aerospace engineering at Singapore Polytechnic. She is currently a full-fledged technician who assembles AGVs from scratch.
After her internship, Morales had attended a sharing session with her fellow coursemates to talk about their internship experience.
“Compared to everyone who had done internships in other companies, ours was really different because we were engaged on specific projects,” Morales said.
“We had insights to share, instead of just doing paperwork and administrative work. There’s a lot to take away and we managed to acquire new skills and knowledge as well.”
Despite the lack of formal and structured training, both Lee and Morales were able to learn on the job and engage in high-level tasks as interns – opportunities that may not be typically afforded to interns.
Supportive work culture
Being entrusted with early responsibilities isn’t the only great thing about working at the company. Both Lee and Morales explained that the close-knitted work culture and their supportive teammates were their motivation for staying as a full-time staff after their internship.
According to Lee, the best part about his job is working with exceptional teammates who are very forthcoming in sharing their expertise and experiences.
“The senior engineers are always willing to help out and guide me along the way,” Lee said. “I felt that there was a lot that I could learn [from them].”
Working in the fast-paced engineering industry, the pressure to keep up and not fall behind can be difficult to handle – especially for young graduates. A robust support system within an organisation is pivotal in making sure that team members remain motivated and efficient.
This is certainly the case for Morales. She explained that she often has long days that require her to stay behind in order to meet project deadlines. However, she easily overcomes such hurdles with the support of teammates who rally with her.
“Our team stays together most of the time, instead of just leaving one person to stay back and finish up because that’s his or her responsibility,” Morales said.
“It makes things easier and finishing the task isn’t as tough as you would think it is, because there will always be people behind you.”
Advice to graduates
As engineering graduates who have successfully transitioned into the working world, Lee and Morales gave their two cents to fellow graduates out there.
Lee warned that a common misconception about the software engineering industry is that one can be an overnight success simply by building a multimillion-dollar application program.
“Software engineering is actually a very long and tedious process,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of learning and hard work involved.”
He also reminded graduates that they have to be consistently learning and dedicated to improving themselves in order to be exceptional in the field.
Also, some graduates may think that they will be able to apply all their lessons from school when they enter the working world. According to Morales, this is not always true.
Using herself as an example, Morales explained that what she had learned in polytechnic had merely provided a foundation for her current role, but the bulk of her skills and knowledge that she uses as a technician was learned on the job.
Additionally, formal education may not always prepare you for real-life challenges. “Not everything you learn from books will happen, because there will always be other things happening,” Morales said.
To keep up with the immensely rapid pace of the engineering industry, both Lee and Morales agreed that it is important to keep an open mind and to consistently learn about your role and the sector as a whole. Only by exposing yourself to new challenges and knowledge will you be able to grow and thrive in your career.
Quick Advice: Finding an Engineering Job or Internship
Finding graduate engineering jobs and industrial placements can be quite the journey. Here’s some basic advice to help you with your application.
Whether you’re looking for a job, internship, or industrial placement, the journey of a jobseeker can be pretty daunting, especially after going at it for some time.
But here are some basic tips to help you through your journey.
- Besides getting good grades, be sure to apply early. While most companies do adjust their application deadlines according to the graduation timeline of local universities, there are also those that offer programmes for different periods of the year, so do keep track of the companies you’re keen on.
- Do your research and get help from a careers advisor.
- Network. Get to know people and start building your network as soon as possible, especially with professionals in the sector that you want to work in. Career fairs, presentations, and conferences are good starting points.
Consider jobs or internships at small companies
- Apply to both MNCs and SMEs. Limiting your applications could mean missing out on the opportunities that SMEs can offer you – SMEs often allow its graduate employees to take charge of greater responsibilities than MNCs. Graduates thus have a chance of picking up a wider variety of skills.
- Many small and medium-sized firms can also offer a unique experience that MNCs with a defined graduate scheme can’t because of fixed syllabus/structure, such as opportunities to chart out your own career pathway or to pick up specialised skills outside of your industry that you think might benefit the company.
Finding work experience
- Work experience is highly valued in the industry as engineering firms prefer candidates with the relevant technical skills, so do apply for internships or part-time positions to improve your chances at your next job interview.
- Strategise and plan out your process. You can start with smaller companies for part-time jobs while waiting for internship programmes from major companies. MNCs typically only take in final year students, so prior experience from part-time gigs will certainly bulk up your résumé and give you the leg up in future applications.
- Be persistent! If need be, call up recruiters that you’re interested in, and apply to as many quality employers as possible. Ask for shadowing opportunities if there are absolutely no positions available, or opt for unpaid work if necessary.
Research the industry you most want to work in…
- Do your homework and research about the sectors and engineering firms that you are interested in, but don’t just stop there. Look into the positions and specific areas that you think you’d like to develop deeper knowledge/skills in. This shows initiative on your part and will give you an extra edge, especially during interviews.
- Read up on the latest industry news to help you develop commercial awareness. You’ll need to show that you are actively keeping in touch with developments in the sector.
… but don’t get obsessed with an ‘ideal job’
- Getting your ideal job is an ongoing process. Your first job is only the first step. Instead of just waiting for the “ideal” job, apply to a breadth of engineering sectors for a variety of experience and skills development.
- Be willing to go beyond your specific degree area. Sometimes, you might find engineering jobs in other industries which might be even more satisfying than initially expected.
Non-engineering experience can boost your CV
- Gaining experience in the industry can greatly boost your résumé, but don’t pigeonhole yourself. Experience in non-related fields can help you develop key transferable skills, such as problem-solving and negotiation skills, which are just as important to employers.
- Remember to participate in co-curricular activities in school even as you strive to maintain an excellent CGPA. The activities are great avenues for you to develop both transferable and technical skills (depending on the society that you join).
- Consider volunteering or charity work to help you develop people skills. It will also appeal to companies with CSR objectives.
- Learning a new language or taking part in activities out of your comfort zone can help to demonstrate your willingness to try new things and initiative to grow.
- Travelling can also help you gain experience, survival skills, and people skills that may be useful at the workplace.
Prepare properly for applications and interviews
- Be meticulous when filling in application forms and always tailor it according to the position offered.
- When interviewing, demonstrate commercial awareness: e.g. cost-performance trade off and other commercial pressures, alongside technical knowledge. Demonstrate that you know how to use both to add value to the company.
- Know your basics well, especially during a technical interview. Be honest if you don’t know the answers. Your interviewers will be able to tell if you’re lying your way through.
- Pinpoint competencies that are desired by the employer before you go for your interview and pre-arrange examples of how you’ve applied these qualities in both your work and daily life.
- Go to your interview with questions on hand – particularly about the role, company, or prospects of the position. Make use of your research about the company to help you form these questions – this will demonstrate your level of interest.
Be positive and passionate
- Target jobs that you’re passionate about, instead of jobs that you dislike but offer great pay. This will translate during your application process, such as during the interview and the assessment centre sessions.
- Work on personal projects on topics that you’re interested in. For instance, you can start a project on mini-bot building and use it as part of your portfolio.
- Never write an application when you’re down in the dumps! It shows!
Don’t limit your job search by geography
- Don’t limit yourself to jobs within your neighbourhood or Singapore. There are many employers and organisations offering foreign internships – they can help build character and expose you to unique working experiences.
Get feedback on unsuccessful applications
- Be active about seeking constructive feedback from employers, especially after the interview. Find out how you fared, and how you can improve.
- Consider calling your interviewers/recruiters for this instead of emailing as emails can be easily ignored.
Engineering Postgraduate Study: MSc, PhD, or EngD?
Doing your postgraduate studies can open up plenty of new opportunities, but what are some of the things that you must consider before making your decision?
While a postgraduate degree does not automatically lead to employment opportunities, it does greatly impact your career direction.
It is highly advisable to spend some time gaining experience in the field before pursuing a postgrad, so that you’ll know for certain which area to specialise in your course of study.
Additionally, years of dedication to an employer might also lead to some form of support from the company.
Here is a brief outline of some of the certifications that an engineering student may consider for their postgraduate studies – whether locally or overseas.
Most masters courses typically take no more than a year for a full-time student, allowing you to specialise in a specific area of interest.
If you already have a BEng degree, it may even speed up the process of achieving a chartered status.
An engineering postgrad student can select from three types of courses: The MSc (Masters of Science), MRes (Masters of Research), and MPhil (Masters of Philosophy).
Each degree provides you with in-depth knowledge of a specific subject, but has very different course structures.
MSc is course-based and may sometimes require the submission of a short dissertation, whereas MRes and MPhil are typically research-oriented.
If you plan to continue with a doctorate degree, then the latter two is better suited for you as they will help you build your foundation in research skills.
Working adults may opt for part-time courses instead, although these courses may last up to two or three years.
You may want to speak to your employer before applying for the course to gauge the level of support they can provide you with – in terms of a more flexible schedule to accommodate both work and school or any form of financial backing, for example.
There are two types of doctorate courses available for engineering students, the traditional doctorate (PhD) and the engineering doctorate (EngD), each catering to different needs.
A PhD usually takes about three years to complete, and involves ground-breaking research. This route is typically recommended for those interested in becoming an academic.
You will primarily be guided by a supervisor as you conduct your research, although there will be plenty of opportunities to work alongside other PhD students and researchers.
While some may opt to do a purely academic PhD, many others may incorporate industry-related training from an industry partner for a more practical and hands-on experience.
Depending on university requirements, you may have to commit at least three months to working on the premises of the industry partner.
Engineering doctorates can take up to four years to complete. It typically focuses on researching about and finding solutions to contemporary industrial issues in the sector.
While EngD students are required to go for taught courses on specialist technical and professional development subjects related to the area of research, onsite industrial training will take up nearly 75 percent of their time.
Graduates with an EngD typically go on to become highly-specialised experts in their own field, guiding others interested in their area of expertise.
In Singapore, there are scholarships offered by universities, government bodies, and companies to help postgraduate students. You will need to communicate with the respective departments for more information.
For instance, the NUS Graduate School offers the Commonwealth Scholarship for Integrative Sciences and Engineering for students from any of the Commonwealth countries, whereas A*STAR has the National Science Scholarship and various collaborations with international universities around the globe.
You may also want to keep an eye out for international scholarships offered by various third-party funding organisations.
Opting to study locally or at your alma mater is a good idea given that you will be familiar with the culture and staff in the university.
You may also get special waivers or access to additional sources of funds, but don’t reject the idea of doing your studies in a different institution.
Doing your postgraduate studies in a new environment gives you the chance to explore new networks, academic sources, as well as expertise.
Be sure to run a basic check on the institution’s admission requirements, facilities provided, and the resources that will be made available to you.
Pharmaceuticals: Graduate Area of Work
Engineers in the pharmaceuticals industry need strong interpersonal skills to work with people from varying backgrounds.
The pharmaceutical industry offers work in a broad range of drug manufacturing and development work, such as classic pharmaceuticals (prescribed medicines), biopharmaceuticals (such as vaccines), medical technology, and consumer business (over-the-counter medicines).
Pharmaceutical engineers are mostly involved in researching and manufacturing prescriptions and products.
They may work alongside pharmacists and chemists to develop active medicinal ingredients and then synthesise it into a consumable product, or maintain and optimise pharmaceutical production facilities.
Singapore is widely acknowledged as a top-rated clinical and biomedical R&D centre in Asia, and its pharmaceutical industry is set to grow further with the government’s investment of S$3.7 billion, spent over five years from 2011 to 2015.
Its continued growth and highly advanced status has managed to attract leading biomedical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, which have contributed to a highly innovative and competitive industry landscape.
Pharmaceutical engineers thus have an access to an ample amount of resources when working on their projects.
Trends and developments in the pharmaceuticals industry
Globally, the pharmaceutical industry is under pressure to make medication more affordable to patients in lower-income brackets and countries.
Companies are thus now investing in improving production efficiency and yields via automation to keep costs to patients low while still maintaining profit margins.
There are also efforts on improving trial tests and copyright processes to make them more efficient.
Constant regulatory updates on drug manufacturing quality are another challenge that pharmaceutical companies face. Engineers are thus needed to develop increasingly sophisticated production line monitoring and measurement systems in order to maintain higher production standards.
There is also an increased consumer demand for lifestyle- and age-related illness medication (e.g. heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s).
Heightened focus on gene research and vaccine development has led to trending growth in the production of biopharmaceutical and biological medical products worldwide.
What it’s like working in pharmaceuticals
It is common for pharmaceutical engineers to work in teams made up of different disciplines.
Those involved in R&D and manufacturing projects will need to work with scientists and other engineers, whereas engineers involved in the commercialisation of a product may need to work with sales and marketing staff from the company’s corporate division.
Teamwork, communication, and people skills are thus essential to maintain good working relationships with team members and clients.
Engineers may also be required to communicate complex engineering processes to non-engineering clients and colleagues.
Patience and excellent problem-solving skills are absolutely necessary in this field because even though R&D projects can take years to execute, only a small percentage of products under research actually make it to the market.
In spite of the slow lead time, work is still demanding and fast-paced as you’ll have to continuously explore new ways to produce a product or prescription.
The ability to evaluate your options clear-headedly, take the appropriate level of risk, and be accountable for your actions are valued skills in the industry.
Getting a graduate engineering job in pharmaceuticals
Most employers in this field hire through graduate schemes, where graduate engineers are rotated through a range of departments to experience different roles before they settle on a particular division.
Consider your background and personality before deciding on a position. A background in chemistry will help you in a role in drug research.
On the other hand, manufacturing positions require someone with good technical abilities.
The highlights of a career in pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceutical engineers are able to contribute to the betterment of people’s health and help improve quality of life.
The opportunity to work with advanced medical technology in a dynamic industry is also an exciting part of working in this field.
The pharmaceuticals industry seeks graduates in...
- Power systems
Materials and Metals: Graduate Area of Work
Covering a broad range of disciplines, engineers in the materials and metals sector have the chance to develop rare alloys or discover brand new materials.
Almost every engineering and technology industry is dependent on the materials and metals sector, where materials and components are supplied and/or developed for companies and manufacturers.
This sector covers a broad scope: from the provision of raw materials and research into new compounds, to the manufacturing and sale of completed products.
Due to the competitive nature of this industry, it is common for materials suppliers to differentiate themselves through value-added approaches.
One such approach is through specialisation – focusing on specialised products such as coated steel, rare metal alloys, or the development of materials for specific purposes.
What it's like working in the materials and metals industry
This is an exciting sector to work in as you have options at any stage of the production cycle.
Depending on your position you may be involved in back-end responsibilities, such as developing new materials, products, and processes; or front-end duties like the liaising with clients or closing supply deals.
The time needed to execute each project depends on your role and the nature of the project. General maintenance projects or production efficiency improvements don’t usually take more than a few weeks.
However, product expansion projects intended to penetrate new markets can go on for years, as you and your company will need to encourage manufacturers to adopt your materials and solutions.
For roles in materials production lines, expect to work in a fast-paced environment as you will have to handle the daily challenges of keeping facilities running.
You’ll need to be able to apply your technical knowledge and communicate proposed solutions to people at all levels of the production cycle.
Trends and developments in materials and metals
Graduate opportunities in materials and metals in Singapore can be boiled down into two broad categories.
The first is production roles with companies running local materials production facilities (e.g. NatSteel). The second category is operational or sales roles with materials and metals companies running operational/trading hubs in Singapore (e.g. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto).
One issue that continues to plague the industry is its harmful effect on the environment. Materials and metals suppliers are thus constantly working on developing efficient production and waste management systems to address problems such as industrial pollution.
The high energy and material cost involved in each production cycle is another chief industrial concern. Many materials companies are re-evaluating their product portfolio and inventory to optimise their resources for maximum profit.
A few major materials suppliers have even spun off certain items in their materials portfolio under separate subsidiary businesses in order to better focus on their core products.
New and more durable materials are also emerging, such as bio- and nano-materials, which may soon determine the growth pathway of the industry. Composites are another huge potential growth area for this sector.
Getting a graduate job in materials and metals engineering
Different positions require different degrees. Product research, for instance, needs graduates from materials-related subjects (e.g. material science and metallurgy), whereas manufacturing roles are usually filled by mechanical, control, manufacturing, and electrical engineering graduates.
Established companies generally run a graduate scheme, giving their new recruits the opportunity to experience working in different roles and departments.
On the other hand, smaller organisations will typically place you directly in a specific role before providing on-the-job training.
If you prefer a position with commercial functions, you can opt to work in divisions such as sales, trading, customer support, operations, or materials supply chain management instead.
The highlights of a career in materials and metals
Most engineers working in the materials and metals industry enjoy the opportunity to develop new products and compounds, especially considering the large-scale industrial applications of such items.
The sheer scale of materials production can be very exciting, considering the fast pace of the industry and its global reach – from mines in one continent to refineries and manufacturers in another.
This translates to a huge variety of possible job roles in this sector as well.
The materials and metals industry seeks graduates in...
Food Manufacturing: Graduate Area of Work
Engineers are the essential link in getting food to consumers’ tables. There are many job opportunities for graduate engineers, and you may even get the chance to travel!
The food manufacturing industry in Singapore extends across a huge range of products: from flavours and sauces to ready-made meals, confectionery, and beverages.
Employers in this industry include large FMCG companies like Nestlé and Suntory, fast food companies, food merchandisers, or producers of edible additives.
Plenty of major players in the global processed food industry have strong manufacturing presences in Singapore, since its position as a regional logistics hub allows for easy export to other ASEAN countries and to global markets.
As such, engineers play an important role in this industry’s supply chain – they are the ones managing the processes, equipment, supplies, and distribution channels to ensure that high-quality food products successfully reach the customer.
Trends and developments in food manufacturing
Unmanned equipment and automated processes are the watchwords in this industry, and it is up to engineers to discover solutions to optimise production while maintaining constant quality.
Increased automation, however, has made it easier for the major industry players to consolidate their operations, so make it a point to keep up with such exchanges. Know who is acquiring who, and consider the impacts that it may have on the industry – both short and long term.
Another growing trend is also the focus on organic ingredients or socially-responsible food processing, as a more health-aware and socially-conscious generation holds production practices along the food manufacturing supply chain up to deeper scrutiny.
For this industry, timely yet hygienic delivery is a perpetual pursuit – food items are highly perishable, and must be delivered with minimal risk of contamination.
Further complicating matters are the drastically varying shelf lives of individual food products. Some products may only have a shelf life of a few hours (e.g. processed ingredients for fast food outlets), while others can be stored up to a few years (e.g. dried or canned goods).
Skills graduate engineers need to get a job in food manufacturing
The food manufacturing industry is generally quite welcoming of engineers from all backgrounds, but it tends to hire mostly from the chemical, electrical, electronics, manufacturing, and mechanical engineering disciplines.
Teamwork, interpersonal, and leadership skills are particularly important in this field as you’ll be working as a team to troubleshoot issues or implement new food processing solutions. Equally important is your problem-solving ability and having an analytical mindset.
Since food manufacturing can be quite a fast-paced industry, you may also find yourself working under a lot of pressure. Good time management and the ability to perform while under duress will be crucial to your performance.
In terms of your job role, you may end up in either the production or research divisions. Production roles tend to focus more on the manufacturing aspect of the supply chain, and you’ll be working a lot with production machinery and optimising processes.
Conversely, in the research division, you’ll be more focused on discovering better ways to produce specific food products – for instance, lengthening the shelf-life of an item, or researching new chemicals to reduce processed ingredients.
Best and worst aspects of a career in the food manufacturing industry
If you’re attached to a global company, you may get to work overseas and experience new working cultures.
Japanese food companies, for instance, typically require new staff to be seconded at their production headquarters in Japan for a period of time in order to immerse new hires in the company’s in-house production standards and culture.
Occasionally, though, difficult decisions must be made in this line of work due to the many health and safety regulations that influence this industry.
For instance, should you halt an entire production line if there have been consumer complaints about contaminants in an entire batch of products? How would you weigh the costs, benefits, and risks of such a decision?
These will be calls that you’ll need to make (and justify) from time to time.
Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG): Graduate Area of Work
Graduate engineers in FMCG will develop and manage manufacturing processes to reduce costs and wastage while maximising productivity.
The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry provides consumers with essential products to fulfill their daily needs and wants, such as household cleaning goods, toiletries, cosmetics, as well as food and drink products.
Companies are commonly divided into two categories: those that manufacture a wide range of products, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever; and corporations that stick to only one category of products, like L’Oreal (cosmetics and toiletries) and Nestlé (food and beverage).
Engineers in FMCG mainly develop and manage manufacturing processes to reduce wastage and cost while maximising output.
Thousands of units of a product can come off just one production line every minute, and engineers need to continually develop new machines or processes to keep pace with consumer expectations concerning such products.
Trends and developments in fast moving consumer goods
Sustainability and reliability are two major keywords among FMCG employers.
Instead of spending on fancy packages as they once did, FMCG businesses are now more interested in maintaining consistency – investing in machinery maintenance, automation, unmanned systems, and programmable logical controllers to produce a consistent standard.
Machinery breakdowns can cause huge losses for this sector. For this reason, engineers working in this sector spend a lot of time developing, improving, and maintaining industrial manufacturing processes, machines, and systems to accommodate the bulk and speed of production.
The ultimate goal is total automation – where machines and production lines can be set running and left to operate almost full-time with no human intervention.
What it's like working in the fast moving consumer goods industry
Expect to work in a fast-paced and high-pressured environment. In spite of that, this industry is a good training ground for beginning engineers as you’ll be exposed to a lot of new challenges every day.
You’ll learn a lot about processes, equipment, industrial design, and other job roles over a relatively brief period of time.
Typically, graduate engineers will work in small teams, learning technical skills and procedural knowledge as they work alongside experienced engineers on a small section of a bigger project.
Many FMCG companies buy ready-made production lines and then customise those for their own purposes, so you may be involved in setting up and optimising a new production line, or performing regular maintenance checks.
Getting a graduate job in fast moving consumer goods
While most engineering applicants in FMCG tend to have a mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineering background, this should not stop graduates from other engineering disciplines from applying.
Most organisations have a graduate training programme that will train you in the necessary skill sets.
Aside from technical knowledge, flexibility and leadership skills are also some of the most desirable traits, alongside good decision-making and communication skills.
An eye for detail, the ability to work under pressure, and an updated and comprehensive knowledge of the industry are also well-appreciated by FMCG recruiters.
Career progression opportunities usually come after a year or two, where you can be promoted to managing a production line and its staff, or to developing and implementing more effective systems or technology.
The FMCG industry is both dynamic and exciting, due mainly to the constant introduction of new products into the marketplace, and this is usually a highlight for those who work in the industry.
The fast moving consumer goods industry seeks graduates in...
- Power systems
Engineering Design and Construction: Graduate Area of Work
Engineering design and construction careers give graduates the opportunity to work around the world on large-scale projects for multinational clients.
Every company that produces ready products from raw materials may need the services of the engineering design and construction (EDC) industry – an industry that provides the necessary infrastructure and technology for manufacturing processes.
EDC engineers are basically contractors catering to the specialised needs of clients such as petrochemical companies, chemical manufacturers, and processed food producers.
The industry is divided into two distinctive divisions: “onshore” and “offshore”. This is further split into hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon-based industries.
EDC engineers working in the hydrocarbon industries will generally work on projects related to oil and gas production, but may also be contracted by manufacturers of chemicals and polymers.
The non-hydrocarbon industry is more diverse, servicing areas of work such as pharmaceuticals, foods, minerals and metals, water treatment, industrial gases, and environmental treatment.
Typically, EDC companies are appointed by major organisations to oversee large-scale projects that can be worth billions of dollars (e.g. building a new oil refinery or refitting an old chemical plant).
Their job is to turn such requirements into commercial realities through the conceptualisation, procurement, construction, and initial operation of the project.
Trends and developments in engineering design and construction
As a sector that caters to a variety of industries, the EDC industry is often affected by many of the vagaries that affect those other sectors as well.
These may include hot-topic issues such as commodity prices, energy scarcity, development of sustainable energy sources, and reducing carbon emissions. As such, EDC engineers will need to pay special attention to such factors when working on projects.
Another important issue in this industry is health and safety. It is paramount for EDC contractors to ensure that all projects they work on adhere to international health and safety standards while still minimising costs.
What it's like working in engineering design and construction
Work in this industry is usually project-based, and depending on your role, your involvement can last from a few months to several years. A conceptual study project, for instance, may take no more than a few weeks to a month.
However, a complete project – from the awarding of the project to its completion – can go up to three to four years.
You’ll be working in multidisciplinary groups – anywhere from a few engineers to several hundred – so good teamwork and communication skills are indispensable.
As you climb the ranks, expect regular overseas travel, as many companies now choose to build their facilities closer to resources (raw materials, labour, etc.) in order to reduce costs.
Some of these places – such as deserts or the middle of the ocean – can be quite challenging, and you’ll have to adapt your projects according to climate, political, economic, and social changes.
While EDC work can sometimes be quite conservative (clients often try to reduce risk by sticking to tried-and-tested technologies and methods), companies also look for innovative graduates who will push for fresh ideas to help them stay on top of the game.
You’ll need to be extremely patient and motivated to push for more effective ways to work while still adhering to strict international standards or navigating clients’ reservations.
Getting a graduate job in engineering design and construction
Recruitment in this industry is open to graduates from all engineering backgrounds: from chemical and process to civil and environmental engineering.
You will, however, need to demonstrate sound understanding of your subject and the ability to apply your knowledge at the workplace. Fresh hires are typically put through a structured training programme, so an aptitude for learning is important.
Career progression can come in two forms. You can progress into the technical engineering division as a principal engineer or a discipline expert, or into the management division as a section manager or a salesperson.
These two divisions call for different skill sets, so you should discuss your intended career pathway with your supervisor or mentor so that they can help you match your aspirations with the type of training and experience you’ll need.
The highlights of a career in engineering design and construction
One thing that EDC engineers like best is the chance to work on a wide range of projects and to be a part of a fast-moving global industry.
The variety and pace of work is exciting, and the chance to travel and work in many different locations around the world is another highlight. The fact that the pay tends to be pretty solid helps too!
Engineering Consultancy: Graduate Area of Work
Graduates pursuing careers in engineering consultancy will use their technical expertise to advise clients on complex engineering matters.
Engineering consultants are responsible for providing sector-specific and project-specific advice for clients. They are usually hired by companies to assist in conceptualising and managing projects in circumstances where in-house expertise is lacking.
A rail company that wishes to adopt new tunneling technology, for instance, may want to enlist an engineering consultancy to assess the suitability of this new technology and the company’s capacity to use it in their future projects.
Engineering consultancies vary widely in scope and size. Bigger consultancies, such as Surbana, Arup, and Mott MacDonald have more than 40 engineering consultants working with them and cater to multiple areas of expertise – from airport crosswind monitoring to urban planning.
A smaller- or medium-sized consultancy in Singapore, in contrast, may only focus on one or two highly-specialised engineering areas instead.
Skills graduates need for a job in engineering consultancy
As with most consulting jobs, the basic requirement to finding work as an engineering consultant includes having a good academic background, relevant work experience, and strong theoretical knowledge in your area of specialisation.
Some employers may appreciate postgraduate qualifications as well, but that is not an immediate prerequisite.
Graduate schemes are not always obligatory, and some consultancies do not offer them. In fact, upon joining, you may be assigned as an apprentice to an experienced “mentor” consultant instead.
Graduates typically start off as analysts, working on an assortment of small areas within bigger projects. This will help give you an overall understanding of the roles and responsibilities involved in projects as a whole.
The highlights of a career in engineering consultancy
A big part of working as an engineering consultant is about maintaining your credibility and the standards of your work. Clients can be very particular about this, seeing as they are paying a substantial amount for your services – which they themselves are unable to provide.
For this reason, it can sometimes be quite a stressful affair to live up to all these expectations.
The opportunity to work on a variety of projects, however, is probably the biggest highlight of this career. You will constantly be picking up new competencies, skills, and knowledge, and this will keep you on your feet.
Some consultants also relish how their work allows them to work with the latest technologies across multiple engineering areas! As you continue to gain relevant experience and skills, you can also work towards chartership and a higher managerial position.
Postgraduate study may also be a requirement if you wish to progress further along certain engineering specialisations, too.
Energy (Power Generation): Graduate Area of Work
As the energy industry moves towards new systems and a rising demand for power, graduates from different engineering disciplines are needed to address these issues.
Power generation deals with the generation of energy, its transmission and distribution to homes and properties, as well as its metering and sales.
This privatised industry is locally regulated by Singapore Power, and the major players tend to be companies with a full vertically-integrated structure – those with the ability to generate, distribute, and sell power.
Though profitability is still the main objective of this sector, issues concerning sustainability and environmental damage have pushed the search for alternative energy onto the industry agenda.
This can range from the tried-and-tested steam turbines and hydroelectric power plants, to newer power sources such as nuclear power.
Singapore’s strategic location within the Asian Sunbelt, as well as its strong logistics and R&D capabilities, have encouraged international companies to invest in clean energy research here in the city-state.
The government has also earmarked tidal energy and smart grid technology as areas for further advancement, in order to address increasing local demand for energy.
Trends and developments in the energy industry
As current power infrastructure systems come to the end of their service life, nuclear power is seeing a resurgence globally as new energy generation assets are needed to avoid worldwide power shortages.
There is also a looming concern over the lack of skilled engineers to operate these new generation technologies. Singapore is making efforts to solve this by offering postgraduate scholarships and specialised courses, but more has to be done to address the manpower shortage in this sector.
While climate change issues are pressuring engineers to deploy new sustainable energy solutions, the race is still on for reliable clean energy systems that can be deployed on a national scale and at an affordable cost to consumers.
For instance, Singapore may have difficulties generating a regular supply of solar energy due to rapid weather changes, and this unsustainability translates to increased cost for solar power.
It’s issues like these that power generation engineers around the world are struggling to fix.
What it’s like working in power generation
Typically, engineers working in this industry will be simultaneously involved in a large-scale project that involves extensive planning and lead time, as well as other smaller assignments that require rapid response.
Profitability is still the name of the game, and short-term solutions need to be applied quickly and safely.
Engineers in this industry typically work in small specialist teams.
They may either be deployed individually to address day-to-day technical issues, or integrated with other teams into a larger group for more complex projects – such as the building of a new power plant.
Some engineers, on the other hand, may end up taking on specialised consulting roles instead, offering their expert opinions on power generation projects.
However, in order for you to take on such roles, you first need to have enough experience to build your credibility.
Getting a graduate engineering job in power generation
Getting into this industry will require a solid education background and a practical understanding of the field.
Electrical and mechanical engineering graduates are particularly favoured, but hiring employers won’t discriminate against those from other engineering degrees either.
Most starting graduates will be absorbed into graduate schemes, where they’ll be rotated through various business departments for introductory roles before they decide upon an area of interest.
Hiring employers are on the lookout for candidates with good project management skills, as well as the ability to assess risk and take decisive action.
Other general skills sought include good communication and teamwork abilities, as well as the capacity to look beyond the details and see the bigger picture.
The power generation industry seeks graduates in...
- Power systems
Energy (Oil and Gas): Graduate Area of Work
Engineering careers in oil and gas come in great varieties, and may even require graduates to live and work abroad!
Despite not having any oil reserves, Singapore’s economy owes a great deal of its health to the oil industry, mainly due to its role as one of the world’s leading oil refining centres.
Much of the local activity in this industry takes place in the refineries and plants on Jurong Island.
Currently capable of producing 1.3 million barrels of oil per day, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal was also opened there in 2013 to further consolidate Singapore’s status as a leading oil and gas player in Asia Pacific.
Engineers in this field are usually assigned to either exploration and production (upstream) responsibilities, or refining and marketing (downstream) duties.
The former revolves chiefly around the search and extraction of new oil and gas beds, whereas the latter is about processing crude oil into commercial products for trade.
Although Singapore is primarily a refining hub focusing on downstream services, oil and gas engineers can still expect to be employed into either stream due to the international nature of the industry.
Major employers like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Keppel Corporation tend to send their employees on international secondments and transfers.
Engineers can also consider employment with small independent oil companies, oil services providers, and specialised operators, contractors, and suppliers catering to the needs of this industry.
Trends and developments in oil and gas
As technology advances, the international appetite for energy does too, and the search for new oil and gas beds has intensified as a result.
Subsea explorations now go up to more than 2,000 metres beneath sea level, and are expected to stretch even deeper globally. However, hydrocarbon resources are also growing increasingly scarce, leading to more research into alternative fuels.
Singapore, in particular, has been very encouraging of this trend – as seen by the amount of government investment into R&D, production, and use of biofuels.
Environmental issues continue to remain a looming concern in the industry. Engineers are urged to research ways to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact that come with both the sourcing and consumption of fossil fuel products.
What it's like working in the oil and gas industry
There tends to be a lot of movement in this sector, particularly during your first few years.
Expect plenty of transfers between offshore offices and refinery platforms – some of which may even be located halfway across the globe due to the international nature of the oil and gas industry!
The working timescale, on the other hand, varies depending on your employer and the stream that you’re working in.
Involvement with smaller companies and contractors generally means more specialised projects – you may only be working on one project at a time, some of which may last a few years.
Bigger companies, on the other hand, will require you to take on additional assignments alongside your primary project and often have shorter turnaround times.
Upstream projects last far longer than downstream ones by a long shot. The search for a new oil and gas field to the beginning of extraction can take up to five to ten years, while the production phase can last up to 30 years or more!
Getting a graduate job in oil and gas engineering
Consider taking up internships during your university days to confirm your interest in this field and to add to your hiring value.
Employers in this field tend to place a lot of importance on demonstrated skills and previous experience, and there is no better avenue to gain these than internships.
Upon joining, new engineers are usually apprenticed to experienced seniors. Take this opportunity to explore a specific line in the industry that you’re interested in and work towards it.
Alternatively, you can also work towards additional professional qualifications and chartership for career advancement purposes.
Character-wise, teamwork and strong interpersonal skills are extremely valuable as most projects in this industry are team-based.
Flexibility and the ability to remain cool under pressure are must-haves – things can get extremely fast-paced at extraction platforms and refineries.
Make sure to keep up with the latest developments in climate change, energy supplies, and global political situations as well. The oil and gas industry is often greatly affected by these factors.
The highlights of a career in energy
Oil and gas engineers can look forward to a potentially exciting career because of the rapid growth and constant activity in this industry.
Others look forward to the diverse set of responsibilities that the sector has to offer, which means that work will never be monotonous or repetitive.
If you’re working with an international organisation, you may also get the opportunity to work with and be mentored by engineers from other parts of the world, exposing you to new insights, technologies, and systems within the industry.
The oil and gas energy industry seeks graduates in...
- Power systems
Electronic Engineering: Graduate Area of Work
From consumer goods, medical technology, military equipment and automotive and communications products, the electronics industry offers graduates numerous opportunities for specialisation.
Electronics define the modern world.
Whether it’s manufacturers of high-volume consumer products like Samsung and Apple, or specialised medical equipment providers like Accuray (who may only produce a few hundred product units per year) – electronics companies encompass many areas of expertise.
This industry contributes to quite a large chunk of Singapore’s GDP – constituting nearly 25 percent of the local manufacturing sector’s worth.
Key players like Seagate, Broadcom, and STMicroelectrics, for instance, have selected Singapore as their regional centre of operations in Southeast Asia thanks to the city-state’s advanced infrastructure and facilities.
Trends and developments in the electronics industry
Globally, miniaturisation is a constant pursuit in this industry, as manufacturers are doing their best to pack the best technology into the most compact size possible.
An up-and-coming trend is the focus on “wearable” technologies, such as Apple’s “smart” watch and Google Glass, which allows information to be fed to users in a non-intrusive way.
Some of Singapore’s key strengths in electronics manufacturing lie in semiconductors and integrated devices, but the government is also looking to expand into other areas, such as microelectronics.
This translates to increased R&D investments in coming years along the production line, from component-level design and processes; to product designs, firmware development, and industrial design.
What it’s like working in electronics
Roles in this industry are very broad – depending on which area you go into, your job description may differ.
For instance, if you’re working in electronics for the medical industry, you can expect to be involved in extensive research and projects with long lead time.
Comparatively, working in consumer electronics can be very fast-paced and highly competitive. You may be pushed to come up with a completely new product – from conception to production – in as little as six months!
Work is usually done in teams, but then again, the working environment is also very sector-dependent. Specialised electronics manufacturers usually favour small multidisciplinary teams or – in some cases – independent research.
Consumer electronics, on the other hand, places emphasis on large teams as they need to achieve maximum output in minimal time.
This emphasis on teamwork calls for good communication and people skills, especially when you need to relay your message effectively.
The ability to prioritise and plan effectively, along with good decision-making skills, are also essential. Problem-solving ability, too, is underscored and sought after by most recruiters in this industry.
Getting a graduate job in electronic engineering
Most graduates get into this industry via graduate schemes. While the focus may largely be on electronic engineering graduates, engineers from other disciplines are also highly encouraged to apply.
With regards to career progression, engineers in this line of work may be promoted into a management or technical consultancy position within the company after a certain period of time.
There are also commercial roles, such as technical marketing or sales positions, where you’ll need to combine customer service skills with engineering knowledge.
With enough experience and expertise, electronics engineers may also opt to become specialised consultants later on in their career.
There’s a huge market for independent contractors and consultants in this industry.
The highlights of a career in electronics
Many electronics engineers enjoy the diversity within the industry, where they get to explore a variety of industries and creative ways of solving difficult technical problems.
Another highlight is the opportunity to work with advanced technology, using it to manufacture other technologies.
While there may also be opportunities for travel (due to this being a global industry), other engineers simply appreciate the satisfaction of seeing their finished products hit the market.
Knowing that you’re responsible for merchandise that can influence people’s daily lives is a pretty big highlight.
The electronics industry seeks graduates in...
- Power systems
Rolls-Royce Singapore: How to Get Hired
Sarika advises graduates on key qualities Rolls-Royce Singapore looks for in candidates.
Please describe the assessment process for fresh graduate applicants in your organisation.
We welcome all fresh graduates to apply online, and they will go through a screening process where selected candidates will be invited for a day-long assessment centre (AC). In the AC, they will go through interviews, numerical/abstract tests, presentations and group exercises.
What are the soft skills that you look for when you hire fresh graduates?
At Rolls-Royce, we are always on the lookout for well-rounded graduates who not only excel academically but also take a keen interest in personal development. We look for candidates that have interesting internship experiences, exposure to different cultures and may have undertaken leadership roles in their extra-curricular activities.
We rate their ‘soft skills’ as much as the background of their academic qualifications. Professional memberships will let us know the level of interest and commitment they have to a specific area, which is always good to know.
It is also critical that they possess a positive attitude and good work ethics. They must be effective in communication and have confidence in themselves. At the end of the day, these candidates must be passionate about what they do in order to excel in their roles.
Please explain how a prospective job candidate can make a good impression on you during the job interview.
Prospective candidates need to exude passion for our sector and our business - even if they aren’t applying for an engineering discipline, we expect them to have a broad understanding of and be excited about our products and services. We expect them to have done their research! We want to see commitment and motivation and a yearning to grow professionally and personally in whichever field they hope to have a career.
What qualities/skills do you find lacking in fresh graduates today? Why are these important?
At Rolls-Royce, "critical thinking" is an essential skill set. Graduates are responsible for developing alternative solutions for high-profile projects and programmes.
Graduates who can apply and use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions to different problems are in good stead. This is something that we look for and do not always find in fresh graduates.
What can fresh graduates do to increase their value at the workplace?
Fresh graduates should bring fresh eyes, ideas and ways of thinking. It is important to bring a solution-minded approach to the workplace as well. It is well and good to highlight problem areas to your boss, management or team, but it is important to suggest a solution or approach as well.
What support does your organisation provide for employees who want to pursue further education?
At Rolls-Royce you’ll be responsible for your own training and encouraged to create your own tailored development programmes. This includes professional accreditation and support with professional memberships wherever appropriate. We’ll try as hard as we can to match your career aspirations with our business needs. If we think you have a lot of potential, we’ll help you gain fast-tracked leadership positions.
In an interview, what is the number one important question that you wish more candidates would ask?
Questions that focus on "passion" for the job, such as “What do you love most about working here?” Asking such questions demonstrates they know how to engage and connect with people, and are eager to learn about our working culture.
GLOBALFOUNDRIES: How to Get Hired
Julia gives an insight on what graduates should look out for when applying for opportunities in the organisation.
In GLOBALFOUNDRIES, we place a great emphasis on graduate hiring. We believe graduates are a key resource in the overall talent and succession strategy for the Company.
We assess our graduates through a holistic approach evaluating the technical / functional competence level as well as social / soft skills. Graduates are also invited to visit us on-site to get a real sense of what it will be like working with us.
We want our future employees to be fully engaged and committed when they join us and be part of the GLOBALFOUNDRIES family.
We want graduates who have a keen interest and passion in the electronics and semiconductors industry. We want them to be excited about the opportunities in the industry and understand that the industry is expansive from front-end to back-end manufacturing, from equipment and materials vendors and suppliers, to precision engineering.
We want graduates who are happy to learn in school and at the workplace, and happy to collaborate with colleagues, peers and managers. Graduates must have a positive and humble attitude and a sense of curiosity and willingness to learn.
In past years, we have hired the top cream-of-the-crop graduates as well as graduates with average results. Having a holistic mindset, we believe all graduates have an equal opportunity to succeed in the Company and we will facilitate the process.
We are happy to note that, through the years, we have many graduates who have stayed and grown with us and developed into capable technical experts and business managers. We are so proud of them!
GLOBALFOUNDRIES have a structured training programme encompassing the lifecycle of an employee. New employees or graduates go through a thorough induction / orientation programme to help them adapt to the culture, systems and processes. This is followed by an on-job-training (OJT) programme to ensure new employees are trained and comfortable in their new role.
Throughout the subsequent months and years, the Company provides various technical / functional training as well as soft skills training. Employees can choose to focus on a technical career path or a people management path. In both areas, ample training will be provided to facilitate the employee’s growth.
There will be opportunities to participate in various projects and gain different exposure. Employees can build their network among colleagues, exchange ideas and collaborate, and work with team members from other regions globally to solve problems for the Company and get valuable experience in the process.
Culture fit is a key element that we emphasize when hiring. In GLOBALFOUNDRIES, our managers are trained in behaviour based interviewing techniques, and we identify a graduate’s strengths, weaknesses and preference through the interview process.
A graduate goes through at least 2 interviews in the selection process that provides a platform for diversified perspectives. We also want to give the graduate an opportunity to assess the Company and the people they will be working with.
We understand that it takes two hands to clap to make a successful employment relationship and this is emphasized throughout the hiring process where we continue to pro-actively engage the graduates and consult them during the different stages.
Last but not least, GLOBALFOUNDRIES thrives in a Culture of Excellence in Execution and we uphold this mantra throughout most challenges and situations.
DSO National Laboratories: How to Get Hired
Serene gives an insight on key qualities candidates should possess when applying for opportunities at DSO National Laboratories.
What kinds of knowledge and skill sets do you look for in applicants?
DSO’s mission is to develop game-changing technological surprises to sharpen the cutting edge of Singapore’s defence capabilities. Defence R&D is our core business. Our work spans across multi-disciplinary domains, so we need passionate individuals with a good degree in the sciences or engineering.
Beyond qualifications, we want individuals with a keen interest in R&D, a bold imagination, and a relentlessness in transforming ideas into reality. The key attribute we look for is a desire to make a difference for the nation with your work.
Describe the assessment process for applicants to your organisation.
We try to match fresh graduates to jobs most suited to their interests. To do that, shortlisted candidates will meet with our senior management early in the recruitment process. Because work environment is also a crucial factor, candidates will be invited on lab tours where they get to see our exciting work, get a feel of their work areas, and interact with their future co-workers and immediate supervisors.
What aspects of a graduate's academic experience would you consider most important?
It is important that your degree and modules reflect your keen interest in a chosen area of R&D. This includes project work which may involve research or design. A degree from a reputable university as well as good grades in key engineering or science modules are important.
In addition, your involvement in co-curricular activities and internships will also bear testimony to your range of interests, hard and soft skills, as well as practical experience.
Candidates will also stand out from the crowd if they have spent time in internships or relevant jobs that build up their practical experience.
What advice would you give to keen applicants who do not possess the relevant academic qualifications?
If you have the passion for the job, you will have the determination to start somewhere. Be specific and clearly express your interest and determination to get into the field. Highlight relevant skills. Read up and be prepared to discuss the position in depth with your interviewers. Don’t give up!
Does your organisation offer any internship programmes?
DSO offers internships of varying durations both locally and overseas. They are specially designed such that undergraduates are exposed to real-life defence R&D work. On top of that, interns get to be immersed in various programmes just like a DSO employee would.
To make the most out of these programmes, have an open mind and a positive attitude to challenges. All interns will be mentored by one of our DSO’s scientists and engineers. So be inquisitive, ask lots of questions and learn from experience. Don’t be shy – offer your point of view!
How do you identify culture fit during the recruitment process?
We want the interviewee to be able to identify with the values of the organisation. DSO’s values are Knowledge Seeking, Integrity, Excellence, Teamwork, Innovativeness, and Customer focus (KINETIC). The fit can be established when we discuss your experience working in teams (internships and CCAs), and the examples you cite about challenging work and people relationships.