Many paths to success — The story of Bing
A short story of Bing — who helped us as we built ArcLab’s L&D mobile learning platform, and what we can learn from him.
With training and education at our platform’s core, ArcLab is honoured to work with Institutes of Higher Learning (“IHL”). One important IHL partner we support is Singapore Polytechnic (“SP”):
- We support SP School of Business — lecturers & students from their Dip. Human Resource Management with Psychology —who work on our ‘live’ HRTech L&D platform.
- We collaborate with SP School of Computing (“SoC”), offering internships to SP students to give them real-world experience, as they support ArcLab’s development under our CTO Steven’s guidance.
Our SP SoC interns proved to be adept coders and were of great help in ArcLab’s product development. Kudos to their lecturers for making them industry-ready — teaching coding skills and software engineering, while instilling in them the mindset of continuous learning (our firm’s raison d’etre), and perseverance & creativity while problem solving.
We’ve had the pleasure to work with Claire Liew, Francis Yeo and Chin Bing Huang from SP, and others we credit here.
They bring enthusiasm, vigour, hard work, and lower the office average age 😅.
Today, let me share the real-life example of Bing.
The Story of Bing
I first met Bing in late-2016, before ArcLab even existed.
I was then running a game-based learning firm serving schools, but I’d started to research problems organisations faced in scaling workforce training, as knowledge cycles kept shortening. This was before Digital Disruption had taken hold of the public consciousness.
Kris, Cedric and Ruiwen (My then-colleagues and intern 👋) and I met several companies to understand the problems they faced.
I had this idea to reverse-engineer the training process, then mainly face-to-face and requiring significant logistical coordination, with difficulty gathering data to help the organisation’s further training. Imagine the additional efforts needed for organisations with distributed workforces (think multi-boutique retailers, chain restaurants etc.), and how technology could reduce these pain points.
Leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones, we could deliver bite-sized training modules directly to staffs’ mobile phones! I didn’t code AT ALL then, so we needed someone who could.
Enter Bing — Final-year SP student, whose project ‘Happy Wheel’ ( navigational application with checkpoints annotating obstacles for the disabled or wheelchair bound users navigating from point-to-point) had just won in IMDA’s Data-Driven Innovation Challenge.
Bing was a quiet fellow, but had a mind like a sponge, absorbing all the information we fed him — problems we were looking to solve, first-iteration feature designs and wireframes, and a data dump of EVERYTHING.
We had no-one to guide him technically at that time (we were all designers, though Kris had working coding knowledge), but Bing simply took in all our functional design and UI/UX, and single-handedly architected and coded what would later become ArcLab Ver 0.1 — in all of SIX WEEKS.
What Bing built with us was a PoC we could now bring back to the companies we first interviewed, and they became our first beta users.
The amazing thing about Bing was how calm and organised he was. What I admire most about him was his clarity of thought, his ability to break complex requirements into simple pieces, to pick off, build and put together. He didn’t over-engineer, but because he architected properly, there was method to what he built.
(*N/B: When we later co-founded ArcLab in 2018, our CTO Steven remarked that Bing’s original code was well thought-out, with elements worth keeping even as we continued to scale and evolve the platform).
Many paths to success — The way of Bing
Bing enlisted soon after helping us with this Ver 0.1. But I’m forever grateful to this young man, for helping us lay the foundations of what would later become ArcLab.
So Bing had taken a slightly longer academic route than his peers. Before entering SP, he’d spent two years at the Institute of Technical Education (“ITE”) where others matriculated to SP directly after ‘O’-Levels. Where others might have ‘given up’, Bing became a top ITE students. He also did well at SP, as you know.
But what was more amazing was his thirst for knowledge and continuous drive to improve.
Bing participated in many industry hackathons, working backwards from problem statements to code a technical solution. So he constantly honed his skills, which are way better than his peers who may perform better academically, but couldn’t code as well.
As an employer, I much prefer Bing’s approach — to hone skill rather than optimise grades.
ArcLab got the privilege to work with Bing officially after he completed National Service. Bing worked with us in mid-2019 with Luke Tan and Claire (his SP junior). They were Steven’s “power dev team” as we responded to user feedback to build features for ArcLab (now an actual business with customers) to serve users’ L&D needs.
To me, Bing embodies this “Many Paths to Success” statement that has been much bandied about.
At the policy level, I think the right things are being done in Singapore so different academic routes can still lead to employability and viable livelihoods. At the societal level, we have someways to go; there are still many employers who use academic qualifications and grades as a non-negotiable filter (though these are slowly changing).
At our firm level, ArcLab is playing our part in this transformation journey by helping organisations continuously train staff, through ArcLab’s on-demand, bite-sized, mobile learning modules.
But it is at the individual level that I think most work needs to be done. Too many give up when they meet their first failure; they settle into a sub-optimal pathway when perhaps more perseverance would have helped them break through.
We can all learn from Bing. Never giving up, learning and doing. Building what’s useful, always improving.
Bing is now a freshman at Singapore Management University. I am so happy he continues to improve his knowledge, and eager for the chance to work together again in the future.
Join us! Be like Bing.
ArcLab has just opened our 2020 call-for-interns — across various disciplines.
We’re organisationally-flat so your voice always gets heard and you get to run with your proposals from start-to-finish.
For our tech interns — you also get the benefit of working with our CTO Steven, who’s held senior software engineering roles in PayPal, and previously built & sold his startup Spickify to Rocket Internet! One more HUGE plus: You get to ship ‘live’ code into production, working in consultation with Steven — invaluable experience in your programming journey (whereas (we heard) interns in other companies may only do bug-testing or buy coffee…).
So if you’re a student excited about solving real-world problems and having a positive impact on improving the skills, lives and livelihoods of millions of deskless workers, please apply to ArcLab, and be part of our mission.
(… And I may yet write about you too 😊)