Transcending Borders

Taking on regional roles at prominent tech firms Twitter, Apple and Microsoft, three WKWSCI alumni share about their journey through the world of tech.

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In today’s tech-centric world, Deborah Ng (CS’07), Colwin Tanhehco (MMC’16) and Sarah Thiam (CS’15) are employing their skills in communications to navigate their way through the vibrant and dynamic tech scene.


Deborah Ng, Regional Head of Communications, Twitter: Work Love at First Sight

While being paid to be on social media may sound like a dream job for most millennials, for Deborah Ng (CS’07), it is a reality. “Currently in a serious relationship with Twitter,” she quips on her LinkedIn profile.

As the head of communications for India and Southeast Asia for microblogging service Twitter, Ng deals with corporate, consumer and business communication matters, working with cross-functional teams across different regions in her day-to-day — something which she considers “a highlight in itself.”

“I get to gain exposure to different cultures and people, and learn about their values and the way they work,” said Ng, who worked at Forrester Research as its regional communications lead prior to Twitter. “As Singapore’s media scene is small, it’s refreshing to see how other countries take different approaches to media.”

“It can get exhausting at times,” she admitted, “but there is never a dull day working at Twitter.”

Deborah NgRegional Head of Communications at Twitter

Ng considers tech to be her “work love at first sight,” having developed an interest in the digital world early in life.

“Even as a child, I would fiddle with every button on the TV, back when the remote control did not exist,” recalled Ng, adding that her love for tech carried on into her time at university, when contemporary digital platforms were just starting out.

After completing her Professional Internship at technological PR team with the Hill & Knowlton, Ng delved into the topic of online communications for her Final Year Project. Her research paper, ‘Bowling Online, Not Alone: Online Social Capital and Political Participation in Singapore,’ examined emerging social network trends as an alternative source of political participation.

Today, as she nears the end of her third year at Twitter, Ng’s passion for tech is still just as strong.

“It can get exhausting at times,” she admitted, “but there is never a dull day working at Twitter.” From crowdsourcing relief in India to raving about K-pop live-streams, Ng added that the fast-paced, constantly changing nature of the industry keeps her on her toes.

“Tech is embedded in everyone’s lives, whether we notice it or not,” she said.

“As communications professionals, it’s important to embrace digital disruption and understand what’s needed from a communications perspective.”


Colwin Tanhehco, Data Analyst, Apple: Taking the Digital Leap

As a data analyst at Apple’s headquarters in Singapore, Colwin Tanhehco's (MMC’16) job scope revolves around data. On a day-to-day, he grades and analyses information relevant to the Asia-Pacific region.

The 23-year-old was first exposed to the digital industry while still in high school, when he began taking on part-time digital marketing projects.

“I would spend whole days sitting in front of my laptop just to learn anything digital,” he said. “And since then, digital media has become part of my daily routine.”

“I would spend whole days sitting in front of my laptop just to learn anything digital,” he said. “And since then, digital media has become part of my daily routine.”

Colwin TanhehcoData Analyst at Apple

In 2015, Tanhehco came to Singapore from the Philippines to pursue a master’s degree in communications. Turning down full scholarships from Tsinghua and Fudan University, he eventually chose to join the graduate programme at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

"WKWSCI’s reputation in the global communication field was a huge factor in my decision,” explained Tanhehco. “WKWSCI is highly recognised internationally as a centre for developing outstanding media practitioners, both in academe and industry.”

However, his experience at WKWSCI was not without its challenges.

“The journey was not an easy one,” admitted Tanhehco. “As the youngest and perhaps the most inexperienced one amongst my MMC cohort, the career-searching journey was a rocky one.”

Before graduating, Tanhehco decided to take on a role as a research assistant in August last year to gain experience in data collection and research. One conference paper, which he worked on with Assistant Professor Liew Kai Khiun and Assistant Professor Trisha Lin Tsui-Chuan, was accepted by the International Communication Association.

Eventually, one of his classmates in the graduate programme referred him to his current job at Apple.

Although many people would consider a desk job boring, Tanhehco believes that it’s a role that’s both challenging and rewarding.

“For us communication professionals, it's always about being versatile to whatever medium we are required to work with, all the while finding a way to stay updated with the current goings-on,” he said.


Sarah Thiam, Events Lead, Microsoft: Stepping into the Unknown

As an undergraduate at WKWSCI, Sarah Thiam (CS’15) had her heart set on a career in broadcast.

An aspiring filmmaker, Thiam chaired the Perspectives Film Festival in her third year and even worked on an interactive documentary for her Final Year Project. In a serendipitous turn of events, Thiam chanced upon a three-month role in marketing at tech giant Microsoft in her final year — and decided to take it on.

“At that point, I was still deciding which route to take, because as a communications undergraduate, we have a lot of options,” said Thiam. “I was interested in marketing, and it was just for three months, so I thought — why not?”

“No matter which industry or country you’re in, communications is a skill people need literally everywhere.”

Sarah ThiamEvents Lead at Microsoft

Today, the 25-year-old leads events and marketing strategy in the region, and is a member of the school’s inaugural alumni advisory board.

Thiam said the deep dive into her role during the initial days at Microsoft was a struggle. “I would spend hours reading up on technical aspects of the products,” she recalled.

While adapting to the unfamiliar industry was a challenge in itself, Thiam believes it is not impossible.

“Once you get the hang of it and understand your product, it’s much easier to bring your skills in communications to the table,” she said.

Transitioning from a product-focused job to a more central marketing role also helped her realise her passion in communications, even while working in the tech industry, explained Thiam.

“Things like getting the customer’s story and telling that story across multiple media platforms — these are things we learn and do at WKWSCI,” she said.

And while tech may not be something that most WKWSCI students consider pursuing, Thiam maintains that communications is, in fact, a transferable skill set.

“No matter which industry or country you’re in, communications is a skill people need literally everywhere,” said Thiam. “So don’t be afraid to pursue whatever you want.”