"I became a DBS frontend developer during the pandemic"

“Just last year, I was a self-employed insurance sales agent, but now I’m a self-taught full-stack developer with DBS Bank.  

My major of choice in university was chemical engineering. While schooling, I also took up a role as a freelance financial consultant to earn extra income.

Upon graduation, I received multiple job offers related to chemical engineering, but I rejected them as I’d built up a fairly stable clientele base and felt comfortable in my role as a financial consultant - enough to want to make it a career. 

When the pandemic hit and the first Circuit Breaker was implemented, Zoom became the de-facto mode of meetings and I no longer had to travel around the island to meet with clients. Suddenly, there was an abundance of time on my hands. Being someone who is constantly seeking for self-improvement, I thought, why not pick up a new skill? I didn’t want to splurge my time binge-watching Netflix mindlessly. 

During my undergraduate days, I had dabbled with software development on multiple occasions which was thoroughly enjoyable to me. While on my internship with an oil and gas MNC, I was provided the opportunity to build an entire website from scratch. That required some skills and knowledge in software development that I didn’t possess. I had to learn on the job, which required a lot of effort on my part but I relished the work, so I didn’t mind putting in extra hours, even working overtime when I was not asked to.

When pondering over which courses to enrol in during the Circuit Breaker, I immediately thought of software development. Even though I had basic skills that allowed me to develop simple websites, I had never taken an end-to-end software development course so I didn’t have a solid foundation. This hindered me from developing more complex software.

The first course I took was CS50 Introduction to Computer Science on edX, a free online course for amateur developers. Without much background in computer science, it was naturally a struggle for me to understand some of the content taught and it required me to put in extra hours to work on my assignments.

I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone, but I eventually completed another 4 or 5 courses to become more proficient in software development.

Then, I enrolled in the NUS FinTechSG Programme, a 2-month crash course, which provided me with insights into the Fintech ecosystem and opened doors to real-world opportunities. One of them led me to an SGUnited Traineeship Programme with a Japanese MNC where I was hired as a full stack developer. That role allowed me to practice and garner more hands-on experience, which helped build up the confidence that I could potentially make a career out of this. 

I must have applied to 40 or 50 companies during my job search, out of which I received two offers, one of them being DBS Bank. I eventually chose DBS because I felt that there was more room for me to grow, and it was fast adopting digital capabilities such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), data and machine learning, which resonated with me.

Being in DBS has been an eye opener. I had always thought of the culture within a bank to be serious and ‘cold’, instead, the bank is very employee-centric, constantly seeking for feedback and suggestions to better the work experience, making me feel highly valued as an employee.

Going from a financial consultant to a developer in the span of a year is no doubt challenging, but doable. Practice makes perfect is a cliche saying but that is the only way for a developer to improve - by continuously developing programs, websites, apps, etc. 

Despite the efforts I had put into upskilling myself, I did anticipate an arduous search for a job as I knew I would be pitting myself against many other graduates who majored in relevant fields. Thus, apart from taking courses, I worked on multiple personal projects religiously; projects that were fun and interesting but that also allowed me to hone my skills.

It takes a lot of courage to step out of your comfort zone and do a mid-career switch, but I’m glad I took that risk and I have not looked back since.”

- Vinson Ong, Technology and Operations