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From civil servant to product manager in a tech startup

From a civil servant to a product manager in a tech startup, Web Development alumni Danish Hisham uses tech not just in his career, but in his volunteer work to help the less fortunate.

Tell us about how you used tech to create impact in your volunteer work.

I volunteer as a Vice-President at the Malay Youth Literary Association, a non-profit organisation to uplift a selected group of low-income Singaporeans. With my newfound skill and friends in tech, I cobbled together 3 Le Wagon batch mates to create a web app for our beneficiaries to order food rations. As a volunteer for 5 years, I knew how important it was for the beneficiaries to have access to food rations. There were elderly folks with mobility issues that experienced difficulty ordering food rations in person and my team helped to bridge this gap with tech.

Completing this project was truly rewarding because the ability to code allows us to create impact for the community.

What were you doing before Le Wagon and why did you decide to do the Web Development bootcamp?

I majored in International Relations in university and upon graduation, I worked in the government as an account manager. The role of my team was to increase investments from MNCs into Singapore to grow jobs and the economy.

I realised that the skills I was developing in this role were not what I wanted to be doing in 5 years. I learnt that I love the demands of being in a fast-paced environment and tech was the natural choice. I’ve dabbled in small coding projects but I wasn’t confident that I was good enough to make a career out of it so I joined the Web Development bootcamp to grow my skills.

Tell us about your Le Wagon experience.

The Web Development bootcamp at Le Wagon in Singapore was one of the best investments for my professional development. They had excellent teaching staff, a strong curriculum and a robust alumni network.

The teaching team focused on concepts, principles and best practices behind coding. An example was a focus on incremental testing and to learn from our error messages – these are things that no online tutorial will teach but are integral to being a good developer.

There were some programming concepts that took me longer to understand but the teachers reassured me that learning isn’t linear and not everyone gets everything instantly. I also had fantastic classmates who motivated me to spur on. The bootcamp was challenging but the satisfaction I felt during Demo Day when I presented our final project made it all worth it.

The Career Week at the end of the bootcamp was extremely instrumental in helping me land a job. As someone foreign to the tech industry, I benefitted from the 1-on-1 resume advice and sharing by Le Wagon alumni.

What do you do now and what are the highlights of your role?

I’m a Product Manager at Affinite Solutions, an insurance tech startup in the B2C space. I write documentation for new features on our app and discuss with the developers on feasibility and timelines.

A highlight was a new voucher system for our MVP launch. I needed a low-hanging fruit for new users to spur transactions – hence I negotiated with a bubble tea shop to give free drinks! I worked hard on areas such as backend logic, user flows and UAT. When new and organic users started redeeming free bubble teas, I felt my efforts paid off!

What transferable skills from your previous career have you found valuable in your current role?

In my previous role, critical thinking was extremely important. As I dealt with investment projects, I had to study its purpose, numbers and impact. I had to provide an assessment on whether we should support them.

As a Product Manager, this skill is not only transferrable but absolutely valuable. I have stakeholders that want to create tons of features for the product, but my role is to employ critical thinking to understand the outcome of such a feature and how necessary it is. As we have limited resources and time, I need to ensure we’re disciplined in everything we do.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career switch to the tech industry?

You may experience a steep learning curve because of the technicalities of coding, but if you’re patient and realistic – you’ll learn how feasible it is to build a lot of things! However, the biggest learning outcome is realising that if you can conquer this, you can conquer anything in life. Don’t be afraid, there are others like you in the past who have made a huge change and are leading more fulfilling lives now.

My three top tips:

  1. Networking is extremely important. Talking to people from certain industries gave me a clearer picture on how to chart my career.
  2. Participate in the Le Wagon Singapore Alumni Club activities and connect with fellow Le Wagon alumni.
  3. Reach out to connections on LinkedIn. I did this and realised that people are really affable and they’re usually open to a quick call even if you can’t offer them anything in return. The most important thing is to put yourself and your intentions out there.
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