Read a first-hand perspective on Big Data playing field in Singapore, strong support for Machine Learning and Data Science research, excellent local conditions, and how all these contribute to a bigger aspiration this city state is striving towards.
Innovation in Data Analytics – How you can play a part in shaping Singapore's Smart Nation
Here’s what an expert shared with Contact Singapore on her perspective of the types of research a practitioner can look forward to, the big data playing field in Singapore and how all these contribute to a bigger aspiration this city state is striving towards.
Laura Wynter Director, IBM Research Collaboratory in Singapore Research scientist at Watson Research Center, Smarter Transportation including Real-Time Traffic Analytics, Forecasting, Operations Research, Optimization Singapore
Tell us about yourself and what you do at IBM?
I lead a team of scientists and engineers in research projects. Before coming to Singapore, I was working as a research scientist at the New York headquarters of IBM Research. We have had a number of applied research projects in the field of analytics, in collaboration with some of the local government agencies in Singapore, as well as a few international projects. In parallel, we try to push the envelope by developing new methods that may be useful in future applied research projects down the road. My work spans the full life cycle of a research solution - from the definition of the research problem and its characterisation, to the development of effective algorithms, to collaborations with the IBM software division, and culminating in the creation of commercial software products from the models and algorithms developed.
When did you come to Singapore, and why did you choose to work at IBM here?
I have been living in Singapore since January 2014. Before I made Singapore my current home, I had already spent time in the country during work trips over several years, so I was familiar with how clean, well-organised, and fun Singapore is. When the opportunity to take over the direction of the Collaboratory in Singapore arose, I was keen to make the move. Singapore's strong vision to becoming a Smart Nation was one of the main reasons why I was attracted to come and work here. It is hard to think of a more exciting place than Singapore to work as a researcher in the field of applied analytics.
What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
Every project that we work on is interesting! This is the luxury of being in research. By definition, if a project comes to the research lab, it must be challenging and new, or there would be an off-the-shelf approach or software to solve it. We are fortunate to have a job that is always really exciting and challenges us to come up with complex mathematical methods for solving problems, as well as learn about the domains of application.
How would you describe your typical work day, how closely do you work with your US (or global) counterparts?
My days are rarely ever the same! Over the course of a week, I typically have at least one meeting with our partners involved in projects from the Singapore government agencies or international organisations. The majority of my time is spent with the research team discussing new ideas or challenging ourselves to come up with solutions to address new problems, as well as reading and working on research. We are used to working with international research teams – in some of our projects, we have had team members from the other IBM Research labs, such as the New York lab and Zurich lab. I also meet regularly with colleagues in IBM who are not part of the research division, but who are interested in knowing what we do.
What makes Singapore a unique place for any data analytics professional and how do you think this experience will help boost his/her career?
The concerted effort from the highest government levels towards becoming a Smart Nation makes Singapore truly unique. Before that, several Singapore agencies, such as the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), were already focused on innovation. With the creation of the Smart Nations Programme Office, many other government agencies have become involved and the range of topics that a data analytics professional can contribute to is truly vast. At the same time, because the agencies are keen to put innovation into practice, we have a genuine opportunity in Singapore to make a difference through the work we do. There is no doubt that working in Singapore is a big plus for any data analytics professional seeking to make a difference.
If you can make a pitch to a potential candidate for a position with your team, what would you say?
If you are passionate about challenging research and seeing your ideas put into practice, hardworking and fundamentally curious, and keen to delve into and create new methods and approaches for solving mathematically complex problems, then the environment we have in IBM Research will be a perfect fit for you.
What is it like working and living in Singapore?
It's easy to live and work in Singapore – it's safe, convenient, efficient, well-connected (both geographically and in terms of IT connectivity) and fun.
What do you enjoy doing most in Singapore for leisure?
I like to attend concerts, films, meet up with friends and enjoy sporting activities. There is almost always an interesting event or show happening in Singapore, and the tropical climate means that outdoor activities are possible all year round.
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In the heart of Asia lies Singapore – a bustling, world-class city state that has made waves around the world for its business excellence, connectivity to the world and its innovation.
Singapore has been consistently acknowledged as a global business hub – one that features developed infrastructure, political stability, open business policies, a skilled workforce, the use of English as the main working language and respect for intellectual property rights. Many multinational companies have chosen to set up their bases in Singapore, next to 187,700 small and medium enterprises. Business owners all over the world regard Singapore as an ideal location to grow their businesses, with many of them using the country as a springboard to tap into other emerging markets in Asia.
Besides being ranked in the World Bank 2016 Report as the world's easiest place to do business (out of 189 countries), Singapore has, among its many accolades, the top ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 by the World Economic Forum as being the most competitive economy in Asia. Singapore was also ranked by the Mercer 2015 Quality of Living Survey as the top Asian country for its quality of life.
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