Isabel Chew

Chew Hui Min
Q: Share something about yourself.

Hello, I am Isabel Chew. I am currently pursuing a one-year Graduate Diploma in Systems Analysis at the Institute of Systems Science in National University of Singapore (NUS). The course taught me programming foundations in various programming languages such as C#, Java and Python. In addition, I have learned web and mobile applications development and how to structure and maintain the databases for these applications.

As part of the course requirements, I did an internship with the Social and Cognitive Computing Department at A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) from March 2021 to July 2021.

I had also completed my undergraduate studies in Psychology at the University of Bristol in 2018, where the focus was on Psychological Research. When I worked as a research assistant following my undergraduate studies, I witnessed how I could use technology to translate research into actual tools that benefit people. It inspired me to pursue my studies further in information technology. 

Q: Tell us about what you do at IHPC?

I was involved in a project to build an AI chatbot that could answer technical questions in fields with a high expertise ceiling, such as engineering. The team I worked with was in charge of developing the frontend and backend systems of the chat messaging application to serve as the platform for users to interact with the chatbot. 

My task was to develop the frontend chat messaging application on the web and mobile (Android and iOS) platforms using a single codebase via the Flutter framework. It included user interface designs, frontend code implementation, and software tests to ensure that the system built was reliable. 

Q: What/Who is your inspiration in life?

I would say that no specific person or event that inspired me in life yet, but rather, I draw inspiration from the people around me. I am especially inspired by friends of around the same age as me, as we are currently in the same stage of life whereby we are exploring different paths of life and building up our careers. I truly feel that everyone around me is an amazing person, and each of them have their strengths. Watching them mature, pursue their goals and tackle hardships fill me with determination as well. To me, growing to become a better person is what makes life meaningful. Being surrounded by people who are doing the same reminds me of this when I face challenges, and inspires me to push through. 

Q: Describe a typical work week.

Prior to building any main feature for the chat messaging application, I first needed to break it down into sub-features. Each sub-feature has a set of requirements either designed by myself or suggested by my other team members and needs to be approved prior to implementation. 

Every new work week, I would set a target for myself on tasks to complete, making sure to be in line with the project development schedule that my team has planned. I would also do some readings or research first whenever I met with complex requirements. This process could help visualise my tasks by steps instead of diving straight into coding and allows me to code more neatly and efficiently. 

At the end of the work day, I would update my progress and completed tasks on my team’s Kanban board - a web tool that allows team members to keep track of each other’s work progress. During this time, I would mentally consolidate what I managed to achieve throughout the day and create an mental plan of what I should focus on the next day. 

Chew Hui Min
My first encounter with pottery

And to stay healthy, especially during this work-from-home-arrangement where I was limited to some physical activities, I would also make sure to slot in time for some cardio exercises during lunch break or after work. Exercising helps to refresh my mind, especially when I am tackling a particularly challenging coding problem.

Q: How has this internship benefits you?

I had no prior experience working in an IT role; hence this internship gave me valuable practical programming knowledge. I even had the opportunity to learn the Dart programming language and the Flutter framework to build web and mobile applications. The Flutter framework is a powerful tool that allows programmers to build applications that run on several platforms using only a single codebase (the code is only being written once). It is something that I find very useful in a future career in software engineering.  

Moreover, I had the opportunity to work with a team led by Dr Tuan Le Mau, Scientist from the Social and Cognitive Computing department. The team adopts common software engineering practices in project management, such as Kanban boards and Gantt charts to manage our project timeline. The Gantt chart is a tool that helps our team visualise the flow of tasks in the project and adjusts our task priorities as a team to fit any changes to the deadline. These are effective practices that many software development teams in different companies adopt, so being exposed to them would help me adapt to the working environment of software development teams.