The Secret to Better Gaming Chairs and Career Progression: Levelling Up
18 November 2022 — Meet Vivian Teh, a Quality Engineer and one of the people who has helped Secret Lab build a global reputation for producing (possibly) the world’s best gaming chairs. In her role, Vivian is responsible for analysing data and offering insights to help the team at Secret Lab decide what enhancements customers desire most. Simply put, she helps the company to “level up” the quality of their products and product lines.
Vivian loves how the role is a perfect fit for her personality. She explains: “Since I was young, I have always been fascinated with solving problems. Growing up, I would see a product that I liked, and think of ways of making it better. Now, I am driven to create good products using my problem-solving skills!”
Advancing from Being a “Newbie”
Her current position is not her first job as a quality engineer. In fact, Vivian started her career as an Assistant Quality Engineer in 2015, before joining another company as a Quality Engineer in 2017.
A dedicated employee, Vivian connected well with her supervisor and was well-liked in her company at the time. However, to progress in her career, she needed higher-level skills like decision analysis and cost analysis to make sense of data and propose viable solutions. However, such skills are not easily picked up. They were not taught to the required level in diploma programmes, nor could they be learned through on-the-job experience.
Her then-supervisor advised Vivian to take up a relevant degree programme, so she could close the skills gap and improve her career prospects—and even negotiated with management so Vivian could have a flexible working arrangement.
Choosing Her Upgrade Path
After thoughtful deliberation, Vivian decided on the National University of Singapore (NUS) Bachelor of Technology (Industrial & Management Engineering) degree programme for several reasons. Importantly, the programme includes in-depth modules on quality engineering, which would provide her with key insights into many aspects of her work in quality control.
Vivian admits that while she was always good at executing quality control procedures, she did not fully grasp the rationale and technical reasoning behind how the standards were set. By developing her understanding of this area through the Bachelor of Technology (BTech) programme, she would be able to transition from “implementor” to “strategist”, increasing her ability to perform better in her workplace.
The part-time nature of the BTech programme also meant that Vivian could still work as she studied, allowing her to earn a full-time income throughout her four-year degree course. It was also important to the go-getting young engineer that she be able to gain both working experience and the theoretical knowledge at the same time.
Gaining More Experience Points
Returning to life as a student, especially after a three-year absence and a full-time career, was not easy at first. However, the journey became smoother as she progressed. Vivian credits this to her friends and professors, saying: “I made a few friends early on, and we stuck together for all four years! We helped one another get through assignments, projects, examinations and more.”
She adds: “I also really enjoyed receiving advice from our professors. They have rich experience (in their industries) and are very knowledgeable in their fields. For example, I learned how to tactfully acquire data and confidently present findings. I was able to pick up other tips that were directly and immediately applicable to my work.”
This level of immediacy really appealed to Vivian, who found her day-to-day work performance improving as she immediately applied to her job what she learned in class.
Vivian also appreciates how the BTech programme taught her how about “human design”, or designing products while keep in mind how people will use them on a day-to-day basis. She explains that human design elements are a consideration in all the products she is involved with, so applying the theories she has learnt into practice, feels especially gratifying. It is also an acknowledgment that her decision to “level up” her skills with this degree programme, has been the right one.
Preparing to Take On the Next Level
Since she first embarked on the NUS BTech degree programme, Vivian says her confidence, presentation skills and ability to convey her thoughts clearly have all improved. Considering all that she has gained, her advice to full-time engineers considering a part-time degree programme is: “Go for it!”
“You may be surprised at how much overlap there is between what you have been working on all day, and what you are learning that very evening,” she says. “I love how I can easily apply what I have learnt in lectures, immediately into my job!”
Clearly brimming with excitement for the future, Vivian plans to continue growing and learning, and hopes to take on a part-time Master’s Degree programme in the future.