#EverydayHeroes: he went from fighting crime to fighting the spread of Covid-19

BY DBS, 17 JUN 2020

“I was under a lot of pressure because I was afraid one day a case would come in.”

Weekends used to be more peaceful for data scientist Wu Wei.

“Covid-19 has changed how I spend my weekends,” said the young father-of-two.

“Previously my wife and I would be busy sending our two daughters to enrichment classes and taking them to parks and malls.

“Now we always stay at home (and) the kids have more fights,” he lamented, with a rueful grin.

Like most working parents, Wu has had to adapt to the demands of his work and family life overlapping amid the pandemic. On the weekends, when not brokering peace between his daughters, Wu is also on standby for work as he is part of a team responsible for protecting his colleagues and the community-at-large from further infections.

A race to contact trace

Wu leads a team of data scientists at DBS, who built a contact tracing solution through data analytics and modelling.

First rolled out in DBS’ Singapore offices, it has proven to be more successful to determine who an infected colleague have been in contact with, rather than relying on the patient’s memory.

Wu still recalls how he felt that weekend when he received a text message to start work on this solution.

“It was a Sunday. My manager sent me a WhatsApp message telling me that he would like me to work on a contact tracing project.

“(The next morning), I was brought into an online meeting with quite a few colleagues from several departments to discuss how we can use data to facilitate contact tracing.”

Although there were no confirmed cases within the bank at the time, Wu remembered, “I was under a lot of pressure because I was afraid one day a case may come in.”

Over the next two days, Wu’s team pivoted from their usual duties to working on the contact tracing solution.

It was just in time.

On 12 February, the bank learnt of its first Covid-19 case among its employees. Within an hour, all employees working on the same floor as the patient were sent home; And almost immediately Wu’s contact-tracing tool was activated.

“I am inspired to do real and meaningful work”

Wu’s contact tracing solution has now been implemented across DBS’ core overseas offices in Asia and can be scaled to locations where the number of employees are large enough to need an automated contact tracing tool.

While nearly 80 percent of DBS employees in Singapore are still working from home, having a reliable in-house contact tracing solution has gone a long way in easing the minds of the essential staff who have to come into the office for one reason or another.

Despite having to be on standby over the weekends, Wu is proud to do his part for his fellow colleagues and their families.

“(Contributing) to the bank’s effort in fighting the spread of the Covid-19 virus… It is a very meaningful piece of work,” the data scientist added.

Wu’s “meaningful work” at DBS is not just limited to the contact tracing solution. As part of their usual duties, Wu and his team work on projects with the Legal and Compliance team to harness the power of data to detect potential money laundering activities and facilitate their investigations.

For Wu, data is a way of life, and he finds great joy and meaning as a data scientist. They build solutions that help make a difference in people’s everyday lives.

"I believe there are many data scientists working on projects that help solve world’s problems such as discovering drugs to treat diseases, optimising transportation to reduce emission, or analysing data to catch criminals,” he said. To Wu, with “data being essential to almost everything we do,” he believes that “companies that can leverage the power of data will have a competitive edge.”

Outside of his job at DBS, Wu has also found purpose in educating others. Since 2017, he has been lecturing part-time at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), imparting his skills and knowledge to students of the university’s Master of Analytics programme.

“I believe teaching is also the best way to learn,” he said.

“Teaching is not easy. Each hour’s lecture requires a number of hours to prepare. And it’s not easy to cater the lecture for students with different backgrounds and foundations. Some would find it too difficult while some find it too easy.

“Similarly, the colleagues in my team also have different needs. I need to adapt my style to their individual characters.

“As a teacher, I find students are very creative in their course projects. So, in my DBS job, I also try my best to let my team members design their own solutions.”

 

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