Data analyst... Although this profession might sound too serious for most people, Career Guide - Lee Wee Teck sure knows how to have fun. In fact, he shared with us how he used to enjoy a good ol mambo night every Wednesday. He also loves traveling and scuba diving which shaped him to become more environmentally-conscious and this subsequently led him to his current firm - CARIUMA, an ecommerce company that takes pride in producing and selling shoes that are sustainably-made and eco-friendly. In his present role, Wee Teck deals with everything that has to do with data and analytics, i.e. building up the company’s data infrastructure and its ability to perform analytics.
Prior to CARIUMA, Wee Teck has worked in companies from diverse industries and has also took on both consultant and in-house roles. When asked about the differences between consulting and non-consulting roles, he replied that consulting positions typically allow one to tackle a variety of challenges in different domains, but project engagements tend not to be very long in duration. Conversely, in-house roles are more focused on the issues within the company, but the working relationship is longer and more lasting.
On the reason for volunteering as a career guide, Wee Teck explained that he wants to give back to society and he sees mentoring as a meaningful way to achieve that. He strongly believes that one's success in life is due not only to one's own efforts but also dependent on the opportunities and help one receives along the way. Through the act of mentoring youths in their careers, Wee Teck hopes to pass it forward the goodwill and support he has received so far in his own career.
Any advice for youths who plan to enter the field of data analytics?
I would suggest that they attempt to find out as much as possible about the area before they fully commit themselves to it. They can already gather a lot of useful information just by scouring the internet or taking up some online courses like Coursera or Udemy but I believe what really helps is to speak with professionals or mentors working in the field and industry to find out what the work really entails. This would also help get them focused on the important areas to learn and practice so that they can shorten the time to become competent.
What are your thoughts on Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
AI is overhyped. Contrary to what we often read in the media, not many companies today are doing actual AI work. Many companies are still struggling to get their data in order and making sense of them.
On the academic front, universities and learning institutions are also trying to keep up with how fast the field is changing. So, while they are already producing graduates in data science, there is still some mismatch in what the industry needs, and the skills people are trained in.
Generally, I would say that AI is making good progress in the industry. However, different from what popular media often claim, I do not think that AI will replace humans completely in their jobs in the next five or ten years.
What are some of the common issues your mentees face, and what is your advice for them?
Data science is a relatively new area and the mentees who reached out to me were those who were either considering career transitions into the field or are fresh graduates seeking their first jobs. For those who were thinking of career switches, they were often concerned about the practical challenges and prospects in the industry. For fresh graduates, they were usually more curious about the work and what they can expect from projects in data science.
What these mentees had in common though, is that they typically don’t know where to start. There is a lot of information out there on the internet from various sources like educational institutions, social media and self-proclaimed gurus, coaches or experts, and almost everyone is saying something different. It can be quite overwhelming for beginners to identify the important areas to focus on to start their journeys given the broad scope of data science and the rapid pace that it is developing.
My usual advice for them is to identify the companies or roles that they are going for and seek out mentors or practitioners in that area to understand which subjects they need to take up first so that they can flatten their learning curves and become proficient in those areas more quickly. As much as possible, try to get more information by talking to people who are already working in data science. This can be done through mentorship programs (like what Young NTUC is offering) or local interest groups like Data Science SG. Refrain from taking up every available course on the internet since this is tedious and generally time-consuming. Furthermore, not every course offers something which is relevant or important to what is used or needed by the industry.
Besides this, it’s important to be open-minded and one must be prepared to learn new things out of one’s comfort zone, especially for mid-career switchers. Data science and technology are both growing, and it is imperative to keep learning to keep up.
Do you have any success stories of how you have helped fellow mentees?
In the earlier part of this year, I spoke to a mentee who was contemplating a career switch to data analytics despite not having any background in the field. We had a couple of conversations and follow-ups to clarify her doubts and discuss the approaches she could take to explore her options more thoroughly. I also provided some advice on what she might need to look out for when preparing for data science interviews. Thereafter, she committed effort to research and learn, and applied to suitable opportunities. She subsequently landed a position in a data analytics traineeship program.
Her success is largely due to her own efforts. She was open-minded, diligent, and proactive in engineering her career change. I would not take any credit beyond helping to clarify her questions when she had doubts.
I am very happy to be able to share this success with her.
What opportunity has Young NTUC given you after you started volunteering?
Young NTUC has allowed me to meet many different people with different backgrounds, concerns and challenges. Because of that, it gave me different perspectives about my own career and personal life. The experience has also enabled me to practice my listening skills which refined my way of mentoring.
As a mentor, it is sometimes easy for me to jump in and straightaway offer solutions to the mentee’s questions or challenges. However, I came to realise that my own circumstances and experience are different, and my proposed solutions might not work for everyone. Every mentee is different, and it is often better to let the mentee figure out the options himself/herself and let him/her decide how to move forward. Personally, I feel that it is better to be consultative rather than prescriptive.
What is your biggest takeaway from the mentees?
The questions and challenges the mentees face today in their careers is not unlike those we faced during our own youth – only the circumstances are different. The mentees today have more resources available to them to clarify their doubts although their environment is more competitive as well.
Regardless, so long as we seek out the right guidance, set the appropriate goals and work hard towards them, we will give ourselves good opportunities for success.
What is one advice you have for youths, especially in this trying times?
As cliché as this may sound but take good care of your own health. This refers to eating well, exercising regularly, and having adequate rest. This is important because a healthy body is necessary to be productive and to take on challenges and stress.
When I was younger, I often take my body and health for granted. I felt undefeatable and got by some days with little sleep. I was not eating healthily and rarely exercised. While life and work carried on, I was not operating in an optimal state. And what I did not realise back then was that my productivity was affected. I was less able to take stress and my mood was not positive. I was not the best self I could be, mainly because I did not take good care of myself.
So, as basic as it sounds, taking care of our health and bodies is the very first step to doing well in both our lives and careers.