Ong Swee Sin started her coding career as a System Analyst with Truenet Systems Sdn Bhd, a small software house but has big clients like MAS and Panasonic. She was offered a team lead position even as a fresh graduate. She is currently a Software Development Manager at Redfish, a UK based company with a development department in Malaysia that works remotely, and has been serving the company for 11 years.
What was your first computer? When was that?
I was using the computer in the computer lab at my university before I owned one myself. When I was in the final year of my bachelor’s degree program, I bought an OEM computer from Plaza Low Yat, the IT lifestyle mall in Kuala Lumpur.
How did you start to get into computing? What was the first program that you wrote?
I didn’t have much clue about computing when I was choosing a major for myself. I knew that I like mathematics and I am good in logic. I liked accounting too, but I didn’t want to major in a field which so many people were already doing, so I had chosen something considerably new at that time.
During the final year of my undergraduate study, I wrote an inventory system using Visual Basic as my first program for a friend in his food and beverage business.
What programming language do you specialize in?
I started with ASP, VB 6, Crystal Report 9, MSSQL 2000. Today I am using ASP.NET (C#), Bootstrap, JQuery, AngularJS, and MSSQL 2017. Along the way I had also utilized PHP, MySQL, XML, and XSLT as well as third-party tools like Google Data Studio, Google Analytics, Core Metrics etc.
What are the most important considerations in system architecture design?
Higher adaptability and better code maintainability. We don’t build a 'once and for all' system, new features and changes are required following clients’ requests. Higher adaptability makes these easier to achieve as the software architecture creates a clear separation in areas of concern. Better code maintainability is important especially when the codes are to be maintained by different developers. With a visible and known structure of the code, it’s easier to extend the software or find bugs and anomalies. Better code maintainability can also achieve higher productivity at the same time.
What are the challenges that a developer would face in her job?
Rapid technological advancement. A lot of times we need to pick up a new programming language or tool in a short time. We also need to justify the time spent to implement something already included in the new tool to the old system versus to upgrade or revamp the old system.
What factors made you stay in the company and the industry for so long?
A good boss, harmonious working environment, appreciation and recognition from my employer. I like the flexibility the company provided and the open-minded management approach. E-commerce is one of our core businesses in the earlier years of the company. I like shopping and I experienced how shopping online can also be so creative and so much fun.
What are the contributions of your company’s solutions to the industry?
We deliver better marketing results through data driven, personalization of the channels to the clients’ end customers using the best most affordable technology. We help our clients deliver better customer conversion, response, and retention.
What are the pros and cons of remote working from your personal experience?
There are many pros and cons, subject to what are important to the individual, one may outweigh another, and not everyone is suitable to work from home. The biggest pros to me are greater flexibility and a balance between work and personal life. This is a great benefit especially for families with young children like mine. The biggest con is a lack of human interaction, but with the technology available today this is not a big deal to me at all.
How does Redfish manage the workflow and internal communications in a remote working setting, as well as different time zones?
We are using Agile Scrum Methodology, we receive work requests in the form of email and through our support system. Here in Malaysia, we have overlapping hours of 1-2 hours with UK and we will have a Scrum Call at the end of our day to update our work status or to hand over our work to our peers. We benefit from having 2 shifts a day in which we have an extended 14-16 hours production time a day thus providing faster deliveries.
What are your challenges in remote management? How do you overcome it?
One significant challenge of managing employees remotely is ensuring they accomplish all their job duties: on time, efficiently, and up to standard. We have a daily Scrum Call and time-tracking software to get the best sense of what our team is up to during the workday. Regular Skype call within the day is done too to have close interaction with the team members. I am giving my trust to the team members and what I am expecting is they must have a good sense of discipline and responsibility.
Are the developers in the industry fairly compensated in general?
Yes. Personally I can compromise on the salary matter more when working from home than working in the office.
How do you achieve work life balance?
I think working from home helps in this aspect. I have more quality time; it’s like adding another two hours back to my day – time that can be invested in my children, exercise, hobbies, or preparing a family meal. Besides, I like travelling and I will plan for holiday trips whenever I have free time.
Would you please talk about your hobby in painting and your art project?
I have always been fascinated by art but to start painting was unplanned. I wanted to make my time more meaningful than doing nothing waiting for my children while they attended art class, so I decided to join their class instead, but of course I am doing something more advanced than they do. Painting is also a good therapy to relief stress as well as to gain self-satisfaction. I have created my own 100-Painting project to boost my enthusiasm.
Is there any other food for thought that you would like to share?
There are some who regret staying in the same industry or company for too long and when they realize it, they don’t have the courage to make a change due to their age. I would advise everyone to set some goals and actions on how to achieve them at the beginning of the year and evaluate it at the end of the year. This way, at least it reminds you something that you may have missed or overlooked during the year than you realized time flies and you don’t have the chance to go back. If you have missed out the same goal several years in a row perhaps it’s strong enough to alert you that something is not right, and it’s time for you to act accordingly.