(Marcus Loh, Director and Head of Step IT Up, Temus.)

Temus, established by a strategic partnership between Temasek and UST, is spearheading digital transformation for Singapore and beyond. The firm has grown rapidly, establishing itself as a leading technology services enterprise for the private and public sectors. At the heart of Temus’ competitive edge is the Step IT Up program, which is headed by Marcus Loh, a director of the firm. Step IT Up is designed to empower deserving Singaporean locals without prior IT backgrounds a guaranteed place in the digital workforce. Through three successful cohorts, Step IT Up has facilitated career transitions for individuals from diverse backgrounds – from platform delivery to education, optometry and music.

Looking ahead, Temus aims to grow the impact of Step IT Up and unlock greater economic and societal value for their client’s enterprises through both digital transformation and the transformation of their people.

Temus and Marcus’ expanded role

We started the interview by asking, “How has the Step IT Up program contributed to both Temus’ mission and the broader landscape of digital transformation in Singapore?”

Marcus Loh: “Thank you for reaching out. I’m delighted to share my journey at Temus. I joined the firm nearly two years ago after a 20-year career working with multinational enterprises and helping global brands grow their presence in the Asia Pacific region.

Established in April 2021 by Temasek in strategic partnership with UST, Temus aims to empower private and public sector organisations to thrive in a digital future for Singapore and beyond. The decision to join Temus was driven by my belief in the firm’s vision and my aspiration to help build a multinational technology services enterprise that Singapore might proudly call its own one day.

Joining a local tech start-up has been an exhilarating experience. When I started, we were a team of just around 100 people. Today, we have grown to over 400, expanding our regional presence and becoming strategic partners to an admirable portfolio of client-enterprises from both the commercial and government sectors. Our colleagues from Temus’ various Centres of Excellence engage in a wide range of inspiring work. Their work spans security and surveillance, customer journey design, transformation of operating models, generative artificial intelligence, digital application development, creating online marketplaces for various domains – and more!

However, Temus is more than just a business transformation partner. In the digital transformation space, we have seen how many initiatives fail – about 70% – due to an excessive focus on technology rather than taking a holistic approach that includes strategic considerations like policy, operations, culture, and people.

It is our holistic approach to digital transformation that explains why Temus pioneered a novel career conversion program for Singaporean locals with no prior IT backgrounds to join the digital workforce. This program is aptly named, Step IT Up.

When Temus was founded three years ago, our firm’s Founding Member and CRO Srijay Ghosh committed to putting people at the heart of digital transformation. Shortly thereafter, Temus’ Chief Executive Officer KC Yeoh announced Step IT Up on CNA, which guarantees any Singaporean local with the right motivation, aptitude, and predisposition a place in our nation’s digital workforce upon graduation from the program. In a meaningful way, Step IT Up embodies Temus’ aspiration of helping our customers and stakeholders unlock societal and economic value through digital transformation.

In my expanded role at Temus, I’ve been tasked to lead this program while overseeing strategic communication, public affairs, and marketing for the firm. It’s a heavy responsibility, but I am fortunate to work with a dedicated team, drawn from across our firm, who are committed to Step IT up’s success, and the overall talent transformation drive at Temus.”

The Evolution of Step IT Up

The Worlds Times: What factors contribute to the success of Step IT Up Singapore in facilitating career transitions for individuals who lack prior IT qualifications, into roles integral to Singapore’s digital transformation initiatives?

(Photo caption: Temus welcomed 21 career-converts at the firm’s 3rd Step IT Up Graduation event on 9 May 2024 with Guest of Honour, Mr Russell Tham, Chairman, IMDA.)

Marcus Loh: “Step IT Up Singapore is a partnership between Temus and Infocomm Media Development Authority, supported by Digital Industry Singapore, under the TechSkills Accelerator initiative. Step IT Up now boasts 59 career-converts from diverse educational backgrounds and industries. They are actively deployed in client projects under Temus’ remit, and their scope covers digital transformation and tech modernisation work in the public and private sectors across industries such as healthcare, finance, defence, environmental intelligence.

In efforts to transform and thrive in Singapore’s Digital Economy, organisations and industry players can leverage Step IT Up to draw on a wider bench of non-technically trained individuals in Singapore for their tech talent and digitalisation plans, and leave their digital transformation journey to Temus. We affectionately regard our graduates as ‘Temus Transformers’.

Temus’ third cohort of Transformers, hailing from diverse non-IT backgrounds like financial planning, education and research, has successfully earned certifications in business analysis, scrum, and software testing. Reinforced by their previous industry experience, these mid-careerists are now better equipped with the necessary technical expertise to bring fresh perspectives to their new technology roles within government organisations and various multinational enterprises, as employees of Temus.

For the first time since the programme’s inception in 2022, 80% of Transformers from Step IT Up’s third cohort will be assigned to work on Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) projects as Digital Business Analysts for a year. The remaining graduates will continue to be full-time employees of Temus’ Value Assurance Centre of Excellence.

One of them is Eileen Tan, who decided to join Step IT Up to explore a new career path after spending 5 years as a stay-at-home mother of three.

Considering that each Transformer resolved to ‘step it up’ without prior IT qualifications, experience, or backgrounds, and is now poised to excel in these technically complex roles; it’s truly inspiring. It highlights the potential and ingenuity of the human spirit in Singapore, especially when the right industry, career opportunities and talent infrastructure are made possible with these private-public partnerships.”

Step IT Up’s impact on the broader economy

The Worlds Times: What strategies is Temus employing through Step IT Up to address the growing tech talent gap and equip workers with the necessary digital skills to thrive in the evolving digital economy?

Marcus Loh: “According to the World Bank, the digital economy makes up more than 15% of global gross domestic product (GDP), and has grown 2.5 times faster over the last 10 years than the GDP of the physical world. The World Economic Forum predicts that as the global economy rapidly digitalises, an estimated 70% of new value created over the coming decade will be based on digitally-enabled platform business models. This uncharted digital terrain produces many possibilities, but also a corresponding set of challenges. To navigate it successfully, we need more than traditional tools; we need the finesse of digital skills and mastery.

The evolving digital landscape has given rise to a significant tech talent gap. Data from recruitment agency NodeFlair shows that there are around 500 fresh tech-related job openings every week on employment platforms. Even in the face of global political challenges and their impact on world trade, technology remains a fundamental pillar for economic growth. And this is especially so for Singapore, where our talents remain our greatest asset.

On the other hand, there is also the escalating demand for skilled tech professionals in sectors outside the traditional tech domain, including banking, hospitality, supply chain, and retail. Notably, there’s a heightened need for experts with niche tech skills, such as those in software engineering, cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data analytics. As Singapore sets its sights on a future that is distinctly digital, I believe that this gap will assume a greater significance. With local corporations and government agencies here intensifying their digitisation efforts, the demand-supply dynamics for skilled tech professionals are becoming increasingly accentuated.

Competing in the digital age, and now an AI economy, workers and enterprises must harness ‘machines’ to achieve meaningful digital transformation, instead of working against them. This modality of working will continue to impact the way we regard talent development, effect change in business operations, and ultimately drive our economy forward in the digital age.

Most jobs will require some degree of digital literacy and mastery, which is transferable and valuable across different roles and industries. Temus, therefore, aims to be an essential driving force in this effort by doing our part to grow the builders of our digital economy through Step IT Up.”

What makes Temus different

The Worlds Times: What specific strategies and methodologies does Temus employ to ensure the successful integration of AI technologies into its operations, while simultaneously fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration among its employees?

Marcus Loh: “At Temus, our approach is defined by value centricity from strategy to design, transformation to technology, and data to artificial intelligence – we provide end-to-end consultancy from conceptualising an idea to developing the infrastructure.

That said, we believe that the key to any successful digital transformation depends on the strengths of its people. Therefore, we invest heavily in upskilling and reskilling our employees, as we do our Step IT Up candidates, with both social and technical skills that will enable them to thrive in a new and competitive global economy that’s increasingly in flux.

We’ve also made it a point to encourage a culture of innovation and collaboration to push the boundaries and challenge ourselves in unlocking both economic and societal value for the firm and the stakeholders we serve. For example, we recently transformed our talent acquisition and development approach with a digital platform we named ‘TalentForge’.

Temus built this digital solution for the AI Trailblazers, a joint initiative with Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information, Digital Industry Singapore, Smart Nation Group, and Google Cloud. The program aims to help organisations like ours identify real-world challenges that can be addressed with generative AI, build generative AI solution prototypes, and bring these prototypes to production. Temus’ TalentForge platform, powered by generative AI, has led to annual savings of over SGD$1 million by optimising our hiring process and providing employees with personalised learning paths. According to my Chief People Officer, Melissa Kee, Temus has seen up to a 50% boost in productivity due to better skills matching and targeted development efforts.

Another example of how we have helped our client transform their operating model involves the development of the award-winning mobile application, ‘giga!’. In partnership with our client, Temus’ low-code team conceptualised, built, and launched the app in just six months. Furthermore, the mobile app has won multiple accolades for customer service and user experience, serving the needs of over 1.2 million mobile users.”

Future Outlook and Focus for Step IT up

The Worlds Times: What specific strategies does Temus employ within the Step IT Up program to ensure that personal development translates effectively into strong career outcomes for participants, particularly in the context of Singapore’s evolving digital landscape?

Marcus Loh: “The traditional struggle with conventional upskilling movements is that incentivising personal development does not necessarily translate into strong career outcomes. In a more complex future, our enterprises need to have ‘skin in the game’ in the transformation of workers; the government and industry bodies need to incentivise, mobilise, and aggregate demand for these workers at the sectoral level; and institutes of higher education need to place greater emphasis on helping the next generation of workers increase their propensity to learn and relearn.

This is how I’d like to reimagine Singapore’s talent infrastructure moving forward, and how we might create a much deeper nexus between the private and public sectors to give our workers the best shot at shaping the digital future of Singapore and beyond.

At Temus, we will remain focused on growing the impact of the Step IT Up program, supporting our clients in Singapore’s private and public sectors to meet their tech talent needs. In his commentary for the Business Times last year, my CEO KC Yeoh encapsulated this aspiration for Temus: “As we stand at this historical juncture, our narrative is bifurcated. One, there’s the commitment to age-old principles, the anchors that have held our society steadfast, like housing. In parallel, there’s the audacious venture of empowering locals to play more pivotal roles in building Singapore’s digital future through providing career agility for everyone. This digital transformation at the level of individual citizens isn’t exclusive to a niche segment of tech enthusiasts or policy architects. It’s a collective endeavour involving employers, individuals, and the government. Every Singaporean has a pivotal role in shaping our digital and economic destiny.”

We owe it to the next generation to fulfil this aspiration, which KC articulated with such conviction and clarity that I could not have said it better myself,” Marcus Loh concluded.

(Marcus Loh takes a selfie with Step IT Up Transformer, Lo Ying Ki and son at the program’s graduation event on 9 May 2024.)

Connect with Marcus Loh on LinkedIn.

Visit Step IT Up to learn more about how Temus aspires to grow the digital workforce for Singapore and beyond.

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