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SMEs and Start-ups
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.