Meet Sau Sheong, Managing Director of Digital Technology at Singapore Power
14 June 2016
A self-described family man whose interest in coding has taken him on a meandering and exciting journey, Chang Sau Sheong has done everything from network cable-laying, writing software and managing people in his own start-up.
Dubbed the 'CodeFather' by organisers of the RedDotRubyConf in 2011 for being the oldest active programmer in the room, a term of endearment that has stuck with him ever since, the Managing Director of Digital technology at Singapore Power recalls how his life in tech started.
"I didn't deliberately progress in the technical route, nor did I move along this route linearly", he says. Armed with a degree in Computer Engineering, he found his first job at Singtel working on their new billing system. He then moved to IDA and helped computerise the Civil Service. He's laid network cables, set up servers, configured firewalls and routers, managed vendors, wrote applications and everything that was needed to move things ahead.
He also wrote the first ever portal framework in the world (at the time) and co-founded a startup with a friend using that technology. The startup went regional, with offices in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong and was eventually sold to a Hong Kong listed company. He also spent 5 years developing software for a French company, built engineering teams in Singapore and France as well as outsourced teams in Vietnam and India.
After an equity firm invested into the French startup, he cashed out the options and joined Yahoo. Not long after, he was invited to join Garena as their CTO, then progressed to HP Labs Singapore, where he lead a team of research scientists and engineers for Cloud and Big Data research. He then moved on to PayPal’s Singapore office, where he worked on delivering products such as PayPal’s mobile app and many others.
Which brings us to where he is today. Now the Managing Director of Digital Technology at Singapore Power, he’ll be focusing on transforming the company and building up a product and engineering team to create new and innovative digital products and services for Singapore Power and its internal users and customers.
A seasoned veteran with 21 years of tech experience - of which 17 were spent taking young talent under his wing - has given Sau Sheong a unique perspective when it comes to hiring. He is a firm believer in those who keep a curious mind and indulge in tinkering with new things and ideas.
He urges those who are interested in the field to go further than learning the tools of the trade. “What’s most important, in my opinion, is to learn how to solve problems, because at the crux of it all, programming is about creating software to solve problems. Everything else can be learnt later on.”
As for the tech industry, he’s pleased it’s doing well at the moment but advocates cautious optimism for those looking to join as “there is always an ebb and flow”, akin to any other industry. After all, he was there for the initial ‘boom’ and persevered through the dotcom bust, where many of his friends and colleagues left for greener pastures. However, if you’re passionate about it then it shouldn’t matter. “If it’s job prospects that drive you instead of passion, you’re doing it wrong”, he points out.
Who’s to argue? Passion for coding and the modesty to keep improving have kept his feet on digital ground all these years. Nonetheless, you don’t get to be called “CodeFather” by chance.