Left: SG:D Scholarship recipient Cindy Zheng was a software engineer intern at J.P. Morgan and aspires to solve real-world problems leveraging technology. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Information Systems), with majors in Software Development and Financial Technology, at SMU.
Right: Joel Neo is a SG:D Scholarship 2021 recipient and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) with a specialisation in filmmaking at NTU School of Art, Design and Media. She aspires to be part of a great filmmaking team that tells stories that touch and inspire lives.
Cindy Zheng and Joel Neo have vastly different pursuits, to say the least.
Cindy is currently studying for a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems at SMU and in the future, she hopes to leverage her expertise and technology to help companies solve real-world problems. On the other end of the spectrum is Joel, an aspiring filmmaker pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at NTU. Instead of putting together bits and bytes, her ambition is to tell emotive stories and narratives through moving imagery.
Therein illustrates the broad and inclusive nature of the Singapore Digital (SG:D) Scholarship, which Cindy and Joel are on.
Offered by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the SG:D Scholarship offers passionate individuals a path to transform their innovative ideas into reality. By empowering them with the flexibility to chart their own career paths in the tech or media sector, they transform into highly sought-after talents.
The SG:D Scholarship stands out for its unparalleled flexibility and extensive support. SG:D Scholarship recipients can serve their bond in a tech or media-related job role in any organisation of their choice, ranging from start-ups to SMEs to MNCs, subject to IMDA's approval. They also enjoy tailored networking opportunities and full funding for approved tech or media courses.
This barely scratches the surface of IMDA's extensive offering. Thankfully, Cindy and Joel were happy to fill in the details on the SG:D Scholarship. They also shared their hopes and aspirations for the local tech and media scene.
To start with, what attracted you to the SG:D Scholarship?
Cindy: The SG:D Scholarship's ample opportunities and benefits appealed to me. The flexible bond grants scholars like myself the freedom to undertake any tech or media-related role in any organisation and industry of my choice upon graduation and its extra-curricular funding opportunities have supported my endeavours in cloud computing by financing several Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud certification exams. Its emphasis on overseas exposure gives me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embark on an upcoming exchange program to the United Kingdom in Spring 2022, which I've been looking forward to for a while.
Joel: Making the decision to change my studies midway is a costly endeavour (Joel was studying Business at another tertiary institution before her switch to pursue Fine Arts in NTU). Therefore, I actively searched for suitable scholarships that can afford my degree on my own merit.
The SG:D Scholarship is the only scholarship that aligns with my passion while meeting my practical considerations. Most importantly, the prospects outlined in the scholarship made me excited about the future and giving back to the industry.
You are both studying in SMU and NTU, respectively. Beyond acquiring technical knowledge, tell us your biggest takeaway so far.
Cindy: One of the most important lessons I have learnt is to never perceive conspicuousness as a prerequisite for making a difference. Rome wasn't built in a day and likewise, a humble yet steadfast conviction speaks louder than an impulsive burst of over-ambition.
Joel: My biggest takeaway is to treat myself as the only competition that matters. In an environment surrounded by many talented individuals, it is easy to feel demoralised and dejected when you can't measure up to the people around you. Thinking about surpassing myself for each project motivates me to do better each time, but at a healthier and more sustainable pace.
Joel, was it difficult for you to switch majors? If so, how did you overcome the challenge?
Joel: Yes, one of the challenges I faced is being stereotyped into certain roles because of my business background. I am still in the process of overcoming it, but I find that having a clear purpose helps me focus on my learnings while directing me to pursue opportunities that help to strengthen my weaknesses.
Speaking of clear purposes, Cindy, you have been very active in non-academic activities towards your belief in using technology to make a difference. Can you tell us about one of your projects?
Cindy: I'd like to highlight SMU Women in Tech, a community of aspiring female technologists whose dreams were encouraged and validated in a supportive environment, bridging the gap between this community and the tech industry via events and programs held in partnership with corporations.
Founding SMU Women in Tech has made my senior year the most worthwhile in my college life. And while it's going to take more than any individual to eradicate decades of female underrepresentation in tech, there is much more an empowering community can achieve for diversity and inclusivity within the industry, and this, hopefully, is a step in the right direction.
And the SG:D Scholarship provides support for your endeavours?
Joel: All those and more! The SG:D Scholarship offers endless learning experiences through internships with partner companies, industry-certified technical courses, networking sessions, amongst others. In particular, the opportunity to interact and learn from scholars from tech-related fields inspires me to think about how technology can be potentially converged with films to enrich the storytelling process.
Cindy: IMDA is an eminent statutory board under the government and therefore has strong connections with many entities within the digital business ecosystem. This provides SG:D Scholarship recipients with exclusive invitations to take part in corporate networking and outreach events with IMDA's partner companies.
There is also a global exposure element upon which scholarship recipients are given the chance to broaden their horizons overseas, by undertaking internships, competitions or international exchange programs.
The SG:D Scholarship sounds like an outstanding proposition for somebody who wants to pursue a career in media or tech. Please leave us with some last words of encouragement for prospective scholars.
Cindy: I understand all too well how daunting it would feel for prospective applicants to take the first step. But as clichéd as the saying "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" goes, applying for the SG:D Scholarship was truly one of the most momentous strides I have ever made as a student, and has opened up new opportunities I never thought possible.
I am proud to be an SG:D Scholarship recipient and I hope prospective scholars of the future feel the same way when their exciting moment comes to pass.
Joel: I think the best part about the SG:D Scholarship is the infinite possibilities that it offers.
If you are passionate and excited about the convergence of tech and media, if you are looking for a nurturing community that offers endless opportunities, if you desire the flexibility to chart your own career path, I think you should look no further than the SG:D Scholarship.