When Leonard Lu completed his National Service in 2009, there were three things that he knew he wanted: a professional degree in Engineering, a chance to pursue his studies overseas without burdening his parents financially and a private-sector career in infocomm, which he describes as ‘the industry of the future’.

‘The National Infocomm Scholarship (NIS) was the ideal springboard to all of the above,’ he said.

Offered by the Infocomm Development of Authority of Singapore (IDA) and various leading IT organisations, the NIS presents scholars with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience, local or overseas industry attachments and subsequent employment at any of the 26 sponsoring organisations from both the private and public sectors.

In March 2009, Leonard applied for the NIS to study Engineering at Cornell University in the United States. It was, in his view, a move that would give him ‘the best of both worlds’ – the prestige of a government scholarship as well as valuable private sector work exposure and experience.

Under the NIS, scholars are attached to the sponsoring organisations during the course of study. These could be leading multinational corporations, local companies or government agencies. ‘I liked the fact that there were so many sponsoring organisations to choose from. Technology is so ubiquitous; it is essential in every field – from the public to private sector, from traditional information services to new-age banking and consulting,’ said Leonard. ‘There is an organisation to suit one’s interests and demands.’

What these organisations have in common, however, is that IT is key to their operations and growth, and not merely a service support function. For example, in investment banks like Leonard’s sponsoring organisation Barclays Capital, complex algorithms are being used in electronic trading to replace conventional trading methods to analyse market conditions and execute trades. ‘More and more operations will become computerised, he said. ‘Computer science is definitely a degree for the future.’

For Leonard, who was looking to learn from ‘the very best in the industry’, a big plus under the NIS was the opportunity to undergo a six-month overseas work attachment with the sponsoring organisation. ‘This is a very rare opportunity that you don’t get with the other scholarships,’ he said.

Another feature unique to the NIS is the talent management scheme, under which scholars can take development courses to enhance their professional capabilities, ranging from vendor-specific expertise to soft skills like business communication. ‘This goes a long way towards fostering an all-rounded education and crucial on-the-job experience, giving us a vital head-start.’

Meanwhile, the Cornell experience – which Leonard described as ‘rigorous but very rewarding’ – is adding even greater breadth to his education.  ‘A great part about Cornell, and the United States education system in general, is that students are allowed to take almost any course available in the whole university.’

So beyond his plans to major in either computer science or information systems, he has also made use of the opportunity to take up courses as diverse as Psychology, History and Anthropology. ‘The boundaries between disciplines are no longer as clear-cut as before. Inter-disciplinary research is becoming more and more common and it is interesting to see how some of these fields relate to my core interests,’ he said.

Leonard is also taking an introductory course in operations research – the use of various algorithms to solve real-world optimisation problems across various industries. ‘It is very intriguing to know that the skills that I have learnt from my computer science and math classes can be applied very logically to solve the problems that affect us on a day to day basis.’

In the long run, Leonard’s goal is to become more than just a practitioner of technology. ‘I want to go into the field of technology management,’ he said. ‘I feel that technology innovation, however brilliant, cannot be maximised unless it is subjected to effective leadership, governance and risk management.’

In line with this, his aspiration is to become a Chief Information Officer – a role which will enable him to ‘bridge the business vision and the IT force, and in so doing contribute to the promotion of Singapore as a global infocomm hub’.

The National Infocomm Scholarship (NIS) offers outstanding ‘A’ level students and Polytechnic graduates a wealth of exciting career opportunities at prestigious organisations. Pursue infocomm at renown international or Singapore universities and gain experience through job attachment opportunities both locally and overseas.

Take on a rewarding and enriching career in infocomm. Transform the way we live, learn, work and interact.

Visit infocommtalent.sg/nis to apply. For more enquiries, please email ida_nis@ida.gov.sg

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