Designing technology

(Above) One of adidas‘s footwear fitted with its very own BOOST technology. This image comes from Hypebeast’s story on the footwear tech’s design and technological evolution.

To ensure greater demand and success of your own product, service, and business in the digital economy, you should take design as one of the most important aspects of your strategy.

An element that used to be overlooked, design has been given more emphasis over the past few decades, as it provides a product or service’s ‘first impression’ for users in terms of experience, interaction, and perception.

The use of design in technology can be found almost everywhere, whether in the development of applications and websites, visual effects creation in films and video games, or design for buildings and in urban planning.

However, it is more well known in product design, and has become an integral part of many successful companies, as seen with electronics from Apple and Samsung, household appliances from Dyson, and footwear from Nike and Adidas.

Design in the current context aims to find and solve real-world problems by combining practical, technological, and creative skills, as well as taking into account the future impact of solutions discovered.

This means that design is no longer an element for mere appearance; instead it adds value by becoming more functional and meaningful in order to enhance users’ experiences.

Design in technology has accelerated over the years due to the upsurge and advancement of technological products, causing a rise in competition among businesses, increased demand from consumers, and rapid technology turnover.

Consumers, especially ordinary people, tend to expect more user-friendly, visually pleasing, and convenient experiences from their use of technology.

Thus, aside from technical performance, user empathy is a crucial factor in designing new products and services, and this applies in every major industry such as technology, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and mass media.

Given its increasing importance in the digital economy, design should be made a competitive advantage, whether you work for an organisation or run your own start-up.

By focusing on better designs in your product, service, and business operations, you can decrease costs, promote efficiency, and boost overall business performance.

Design also adds value to your product and service, and a user-centred design enables you to attract and retain customers, establish better market position, and boost brand identity.

Effective technological design, in particular, will help your target users to be more familiar and comfortable with the use of technology as part of their daily routine.

To put it simply, do not take design for granted. In today’s consumer and technologically-driven market, design – together with overall innovation – can make or break your product, service and business.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2KVYM9e

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From a hobby to a promising career

These days, technology has managed to weave itself into every aspect of our lives, including hobbies.

More hobbies have evolved to become ‘tech’ in nature as a result of people depending on technology to accomplish daily tasks.

Tech-related hobbies are becoming more popular among youths due to its fun and interactive nature.

While some may argue that spending too much time with electronic devices is bad, these hobbies also provide valuable skills that youths might find useful in future.

That being said, here are some tech-related hobbies that you might want to consider exploring:

Robotics

Robotics is beginning to pave its way into digital technology curriculum with some institutions in Sarawak offering robotic workshops for students.

As a fun and exciting experiment for students, programming robots is a great way to develop spatial awareness, fine motor skills, and a practical understanding of engineering skills.

Apart from that, in future, more jobs are expected to involve robots, so early exposure to robotic programmes will truly bring benefits, especially for students.

Graphic designing and video editing

It could all start with a simple video presentation for an assignment or a funny meme that you planned to post on Facebook.

But the next thing you know, your newly-acquired skills and interest have you designing things such as logos, banners and T-shirts for friends and family.

Before you know it, the skills that you have learned while doing graphic designing and video editing might just land you some freelance gigs and even a promising career.

3D modelling

The idea of 3D modelling is gaining interest in Sarawak lately as more and more innovation centres start to offer 3D printing service and courses.

Skills in 3D printing are valuable in various areas, mostly for prototyping, and hobbyists are using this system to print items such as keychains, robotic parts, figurines and toys.

With 3D printing, students quickly become designers and creators using cutting edge technology to build anything they can imagine.

Creative Writing

Whether it is poetry, short stories or blogging, creative writing is becoming more than just a hobby as some see it as a way of life and a career as well, regardless if you prefer pen and paper, or using tablets or laptops to write.

And for those who are looking at a career in writing, or communication, this skill might come in useful as publishing and public relations firms are always on the lookout for good writers.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, July 7, 2018.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels.

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Debunking the myths of soft skills

Believe it or not, there are myths surrounding soft skills and this includes the assumption that soft skills reflect an individual’s ‘softer’ side!

However, as we’ve covered in SarawakYES!, soft skills don’t make us any ‘softer’, and they don’t just include communication or teamwork skills.

They encompass a combination of interpersonal and intrapersonal abilities – creativity, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and countless more – frequently used in our relationships and interactions with others.

And when we have high levels of soft skills, we are able to demonstrate our strength and empowerment through our personality, attitude and behaviour as we confront and respond to varying degrees of situations in life.

This week we cover a few other myths about soft skills that deserve to be debunked.

Myth 1: Soft skills are inborn

In any setting, you are bound to meet people who may or may not be as conversational, empathetic, or creative as you.

Still, like technical skills, you can learn and improve your soft skills. A very effective way is through experience and practice, which allows you to step out of your comfort zone and overcome your fear and uncertainty of how others perceive you.

Myth 2: English is a must to master soft skills

While it is important to master the world’s lingua franca, you don’t necessarily have to be extremely fluent in English to develop your soft skills.

In fact, according to international leadership consultant and coach Prof MS Rao, there is no connection between soft skills and any particular language. Rather, soft skills focus on the way you communicate or relate to others, regardless of the language you speak.

Myth 3: You don’t need soft skills to thrive

Any job, whether technical or non-technical, requires a balance of soft and hard skills.

And, together with the necessary skill sets, you need to perform well at work and to be able to adapt to different cultures of different workplaces in order to grow and succeed in your career.

Myth 4: You only develop your soft skills in school

Although you’ll learn soft skills-related courses in college or university, the knowledge you have gained from there won’t be sufficient in the long run.

Thus, you need to continue learning and developing them even after you graduate, because no matter how old you are, soft skills will always be important.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2IIcaYA

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From STEM to STEAM?

Without a doubt, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is becoming ever more crucial, especially in a world where the digital economy is growing in importance.

However, there is also a movement that hopes to add greater value to STEM education by placing art and design at the centre of STEM.

And this movement hopes that STEM education will become STEAM education – or science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics education.

The concept of STEAM was largely championed by John Maeda, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design.

He noted that art, which includes liberal arts, fine arts, music, design thinking, and language arts, are critical components in innovation.

As the fourth industrial revolution often emphasised on the importance of innovation, he pointed out that creativity and design thinking – being important elements in the arts – are also essential for innovation.

For instance, by connecting the artistic medium such as music with technical projects such as building music apps, young innovators would be able to discover the potential of artistic innovation.

As STEAM education also emphasises the importance of STEM education, it also stresses on the ability for students to open up new ways of seeing things, to think of alternative ideas, and to learn.

When engaging in projects or activities that combine the elements in STEAM education, it would naturally trigger their curiosity and interest.

Thus, when encountering a problem, they will approach it with a variety of methods through critical thinking and creativity.

By trial and error, students will learn how to take risk, therefore learning how to really think outside the box instead of using the common approaches in solving a set of problems.

Skills fostered by an education in the arts such as creativity, trial and error, divergent thinking skills, dynamic problem solving and perseverance can be utilised and brought over to improve STEM learning.

Meanwhile, for us in Sarawak, the Digital Economy Hub – a private sector initiative for STEAM education and commercial applications – was established in Kuching to support our digital economy transformation.

The centre provides a platform for young manufacturers and innovators to learn, collaborate and assist industries in going digital.

With courses and services such as 3D printing lab, fabrication lab, robotics and virtual reality studio, the centre focuses on integrating art into STEM education.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, June 23, 2018.

Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels.

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Are you cognitively flexible?

Cognitive flexibility may not rank as high as complex problem solving or emotional intelligence in the World Economic Forum report ‘The Future of Jobs’, but it remains a significant skill to have in order to compete in the global digital economy.

It is defined as our ability to shift our thinking between several ideas or context due to our response and adaptation to new stimuli.

Being cognitively flexible is key to our personal and professional growth because it enables us to keep an open mind, take risks, consider various viewpoints, and learn effectively, thus supporting other vital soft skills such as critical thinking, decision-making, and creativity.

To improve and maintain your level of cognitive flexibility, not only do you need to make sure to keep your brain active, you also have to give it sufficient rest so that your mental capabilities function well on a daily basis.

This can be done through activities that let you gain new experiences and information, challenge your beliefs and perceptions, and apply knowledge and skills in whatever you do.

However, before you start working on enhancing your cognitive flexibility, you need to know if you are cognitively inflexible.

One indication that suggests cognitive inflexibility is if you find it hard to adapt, because you are unable to adjust your thoughts to new perspectives and you are already set in your own ways.

You might then have a difficulty, for example, in having effective discussions with people of different cultures and outlooks.

Your level of cognitive flexibility might also be low if you have trouble solving problems.

This could be the case, if you are not exposed to new concepts, or are afraid to experiment with methods that you have never tried before to solve a problem.

If you tend to take the easy way out, you might be considered cognitively inflexible.

In this case, while you may find it convenient to rely on a Global Positioning System (GPS) during your drive or use a calculator to do calculations at all times, it doesn’t help your brain to stay active.

And believe it or not, always keeping to your routine without any tweaks – whether because you fear the unknown or you don’t want to waste time – might be hindering your efforts to improve your cognitive flexibility.

These are just some of many behaviours and attitude that might prevent you from being cognitively flexible.

Identify those that have been holding you back, and overcome them so that you can be mentally strong and be successful in life.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2MBrZn9

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Getting into the tech industry with zero experience

If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to get an IT job without a tech background, the answer is of course!

These days, it’s common to see more and more people with no prior experience in IT moving over to the fast-growing tech industry.

This is mainly because this industry is moving rapidly and producing new and exciting products and services. Bigger companies also offer high-paying jobs with many attractive benefits and perks.

If you’re considering switching to a career in tech, you may want to consider the following:

Have transferable skills

When you’re breaking into the tech industry without any technical skills under your belt, it’s important to take stock of skills that you actually possess now.

Even though the company you’re interested to join is an IT company, they might be interested in hiring for non-technical positions such as for their communications and customer service teams.

So examine how your skills can be used in a new role and if those skills can add value to the organisations you’re thinking of joining.

Learn some tech skills

For those with no tech background, the thought of going back for a three-year degree course might sound intimidating.

However, you must realise that in order to be competent in the job you cannot avoid picking up some basic knowledge on tech.

Fortunately, there are now some great courses that you can find online and best of all some of them are free.

With so many things to learn, follow your interests and teach yourself about the relevant software and hardware. More importantly keep yourself updated on the latest technologies coming out.

Get experience where you can

The best way to get immersed in the field of tech is to get some experience and to focus on closing your knowledge gaps.

At SarawakYES! we always promote the idea of internships, especially for those who’ve just graduated, as it’s probably one of the best ways to gain valuable experience and to start creating your professional network.

For those who may not find it possible to obtain an internship at a tech company, one way to learn about what it’s like to work in a tech company is to network with people who are already in the industry.

By hearing first hand from the experiences of these professionals, you may even feel more motivated to pursue your new career in tech.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2sKTnGX

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels.

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Should you be data literate?

We have previously discussed the benefits and opportunities arising from the increased availability and access to data in the digital economy, including big data and open data.

Yet, the desired improvements that we hope to achieve through data might not come to fruition without the human element, that is if we don’t make use of the data to its fullest potential or, worse still, we don’t even know how to use the data in the first place.

This is why we need to possess skills and knowledge in data literacy. Although its purpose and emphasis may differ from field to field, data literacy can be generally defined as our ability to read, evaluate, work with, and question data.

It includes searching and determining data relevance and reliability; interpreting data visualisations like charts and graphs; thinking critically of data; knowing how to use data analytics tools; and communicating results based on data.

In an era where we are surrounded by massive amounts of data every day, being data literate allows us to gather insights through data collected, interpreted and visualised; and to take proper and effective actions based on our discoveries.

This becomes crucial in today’s workplace, which is increasingly dependent on data to drive its operations, including jobs and departments where data analytics isn’t their primary function.

This means that the demand for individuals with strong data literacy is on the rise, be it data or non-data professionals, and further indicates that data literacy is more common and significant than we think.

In view of this, more academic and practical courses aiming to boost data literacy are being made available online and offline for business, government, tertiary institutions and the general public around the world.

Here in Sarawak, for example, the Sarawak Centre of Performance Excellence (SCOPE) has recently partnered with Kuala Lumpur-based Center of Applied Data Science (CADS) – the first one-stop platform and centre of excellence for data science and analytics in Southeast Asia – to develop up to 2,500 local talents through various data-related and talent development programmes.

These future data-proficient professionals will then become the key to foster a strong data-driven culture and eventually contribute to the state’s digital economy.

While some of you may not have a background in data science and analytics, that shouldn’t stop you from improving your own data literacy, whether you’re in a technical or non-technical field.

For instance, you can develop a strong foundation in your mathematical, statistical and data analytical skills through short courses.

Essentially, get curious, ask questions and be comfortable around data so that you have a greater understanding and appreciation for its potential in your work, studies and daily life.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Friday, June 1, 2018.

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Advantages of creating ‘Smart Campuses’

If you’re young, you’re more than likely to be digital savvy to the point that you’re often stereotyped as being restless without a Wi-Fi connection or if your smartphone is not within reach.

And if you’re a student, you probably should be considered a ‘digital native’, who’s able to embrace digital technology into your lifestyle.

In view of all this, it should make sense for more and more tertiary education institutions globally and locally to adopt smart technologies into their classrooms, and creating a smart campus environment.

For instance, in 2017, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak 2 Campus planned to upgrade itself into a smart campus in line with the State’s initiative of becoming a smart city.

Among the efforts planned include setting up a ‘Big Data Lab’ as well as smart classrooms with high-technology (tech) infrastructure and Internet connectivity.

Some may still wonder how digital learning in a smart campus could enrich the education system and methodologies.

High-tech infrastructure, such as smart classrooms, aims to improve the learning environment.

This infrastructure might include smart parking, high-speed Internet connection for indoor and outdoor areas, way-finding apps, feedback channels or portal, and an attendance tracking system.

By linking the right technology, via devices and applications, with people, it transforms institutions of higher learning into smart campuses that harness digital technologies to provide new educational methods and a more conducive study environment for students.

Data collected from various sources including sensors and building systems installed in campuses, can then be stored, accessed and used by campus operations for various purposes, such as reducing energy consumption, and refining services on campus to make them more convenient and effective.

Smart campuses will help to enhance the effectiveness of our smart cities of the future and as we head into this new and exciting direction, we hope more institutions of higher learning in Sarawak would work towards providing more opportunities for students to experience studying in such campuses.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, May 26, 2018.

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Leveraging on open data

(Above) The home page of the Sarawak Open Data platform, which can be accessed at https://data.sarawak.gov.my/.

At the recent International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS) 2018, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg launched the Sarawak Open Data platform.

It was designed to give people access to open government datasets for research, application development, and other purposes.

Sarawak’s Open Government Data platform will now be a part of the hundreds of open data initiatives available around the world.

They are usually developed at different levels, from country-level open data such as Australia, India, and Malaysia, to cities like Buenos Aires, London, and Vancouver, and even individual agencies or sectors such as government agencies in the United States.

Open data is meant to be used, reused, and shared with anyone without restrictions, and while its concept isn’t new, it has become more defined and important in stimulating a country’s economy through digital advancement.

Numerous studies have highlighted the values of open data; for instance, improving efficiency and effectiveness of public services, and building better relations between the government and citizens through transparency, accountability, and engagement.

Here are some other benefits from leveraging on this largely untapped resource:

Makes research less tedious

Finding information through an open data is more convenient because it can be accessed from a single platform at any time, making it easier for academics, the public sector, industries, and students to gather necessary facts and figures during their research.

As the data gets updated, analysing their trends and changes also becomes less cumbersome since both old and new information can be found in one location.

Drives innovation

Reusing and combining information from different datasets in the open data can lead to greater potential in the development of new products, services, and applications, or improvement of existing ones.

In fact, open data has been a means to encourage innovation through the promotion of its usage as seen from the likes of competitions, hackathons, and datathons.

Fosters entrepreneurship

Whether in fulfilling unmet needs or solving problems that can uplift community wellbeing, aspiring entrepreneurs that are in need of information can use the open data to further understand their potential target market.

Entrepreneurs and general users can also provide feedback to data providers regarding the data they are using or data they hope to see in the future, thereby increasing the demand for more enhanced open data.

Creates new jobs

As the digital economy progresses, the need for more open data professionals will increase as a result of jobs created from more open data initiatives or data-driven organisations.

Sarawak, in particular, hopes to develop data-driven technologies that can enhance major sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing in order to spur the state’s overall economic growth.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2LfuyKZ

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Soft skills needed to thrive in the IT field

If you think working in the world of tech only requires you to deal with computers and code, then you’re in for a surprise.

Since information technology (IT) personnel deal with the matter of tech itself, most people assume that IT professionals don’t have to deal with the various stakeholders including clients.

While it’s true that the IT field does require you to be equipped with the right technical skills, the job also requires having the right ‘soft skills’ in order for you to be able to collaborate with colleagues or gather specifications from clients.

Known as ‘people skills’ or ‘interpersonal skills’, these soft skills including having a positive attitude, enthusiasm, and good organisational abilities refer to the way you relate to and interact with other people.

Good communication

A good IT professional should be able to understand the needs of clients when delivering tech solutions and this would require good communication skills.

When working in a tech environment, you would often have to deal with non-technical people and as such you will have to explain technical terms and processes in easy-to-understand language, especially to customers and employers. This is particularly important if you need people to support and understand your projects.

Creativity and problem-solving skills

As an IT professional, creativity and innovation in problem solving, as well as a high level of imagination are vital for coming up with unique solutions.

Problem-solving is also more than merely solving technical issues, as you would also need to give suggestions on how to enhance your existing products, procedures and services.

Teamwork and building relationships

Often times, IT projects would be handled by a team of professionals with different expertise rather than by just one individual. So, for a team of IT professionals to work together, teamwork would be essential.

This is because you will need to understand each other’s problems, ideas and suggestions for you to ensure the project outcome is a success.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels.

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