Editor's Picks

16 Notable S'pore Developers Working Behind The Scenes To Build Amazing Things

We’ve covered quite a few chatbot creators in the past couple of months, from Abhilash Murthy of Bus Uncle to Yap Deep and Marcus Tee from NTU Bus Arrival.

Software developers are known for being able to convert sleepless days and copious amounts of coffee into code that empower the software we interact with. Pretty much every startup and corporation employs a squad of them to work around the clock, all to make sure we enjoy the luxury a good program can give.

We often credit the founders and leaders for their uncanny ability to address real life issues, but sometimes fail to appreciate all the effort these developers have put in behind the scenes.

And so, we thought it appropriate fit to highlight some of the notable and skilled software developers, programmers and coders creating interesting products for the tech platforms in Singapore.

These are just 16 of them.

1) Tan Guo Xiang

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Since graduating from university, Guo Xiang has been working for Discourse.org.

An open source platform for discussion forums, Discourse is funded by notable investors in the United States such as First Round Capital, Greylock Partners, and SV Angel.

Most of his work involves DevOps work, and the most challenging project he has done so far is to move the databases for Discourse customers which were on a single cluster to a “containerised setup” where each customer gets their own database cluster. Although Guo Xiang is working for a US-based company, he described the local tech community being great.

“There is never a lack of meet-ups to attend for whichever programming language or tools you’re using. Speakers volunteer their time to prepare a talk to share with the community and companies are actively giving back to the community by sponsoring venue and food for the meet ups.”

2) Laurence Putra

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Laurence Putra is no stranger to the local developer community in Singapore. His past work experience includes Nugit, and at night he runs a social empowerment initiative known as IAmTalentedSG.

“I’ve done a fair bit of challenging projects throughout my career, but I guess my most challenging project so far wasn’t technical at all. I took over leadership of the developer outreach team in PayPal in late 2014, and back then, we were just 3 volunteers.

Convincing people to join the team, and figuring out the processes to make the team work was without a doubt one of the more challenging work I’ve done, but I can look at with pride that the team grew to close to 20 volunteer engineers at one point, and we were hosting on average 3 meet-ups per week at PayPal.

And we had many good people ready to take over me when I decided to leave PayPal.”

Speaking of the engineering culture in Singapore, Laurence shared that there are many events everyday and these certainly make the ecosystem more exciting.

“A lot of what we have in the community would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the work Sayanee put in with WeBuild.sg, and Michael Cheng with Engineers.SG, and credit goes to them for creating such a cool culture around engineering in Singapore.”

3) Adrian Ng

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Adrian is founder of delivery startup FastFast as well as mobile development startup Codigo. Codigo operates as a digital agency with a core focus on mobile apps development, and it is also starting to go into co-ownership with startups that come to them for product development.

On his most challenging project, Adrian shares that almost any project that involves payment integration, ERP and legacy system integration will always be a challenge, but what usually makes these projects challenging are the deadlines given.

“What I like about the engineering culture in Singapore is the willingness to share and learn from each other, through meet-ups or through social media groups.”

4) Calixto Tay

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Calixto is the co-founder and Managing Director of Originally US, a mobile app development company.

To Calixto, the most challenging project he has been involved in was actually SG BusLeh, which shows you the bus arrival timing in Singapore.

“With BusLeh we focused on two really challenging technological aspects – how to support tens of thousands of concurrent users while ensuring that bus arrival timing show up in less than a second. We also push the envelop by developing our own proprietary features such as determining the exact location of buses and predicting how full buses will be.”

When asked about the engineering culture in Singapore, Calixto shared that engineers in Singapore are some of the most warm and approachable people to talk to.

“In which other industry here can you find professionals freely sharing their challenges, discussing solutions and helping one another without any promise of monetary incentives?”

On a side note, Calixto is also a mentor at the SMU Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

5) Lester Chan

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Lester currently works at Tech in Asia as Head of Engineering.

The most challenging project he has been involved in was in migrating his former company from mig33 to migme, which involves code changes, config changes and deployment changes.

On the engineering culture in Singapore, Lester shared that he likes the openness and willingness to share knowledge among developers in Singapore.

6) Bryan Chua

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Bryan is currently leading ShopBack’s engineering team and ensuring code quality as their CTO.

This includes monitoring real time application performance, security and traffic. He is also working with various ShopBack teams from other countries.

The most challenging tasks he has been involved in were developing app gamifications, logics, social news feeds from various platforms such as Facebook, as well as scaling applications for millions of concurrent traffics.

“What do I like most about the engineering culture in Singapore? Getting shit done and always prioritise helping each other first.”

7) Jonathan Low

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Jonathan is currently coleading the engineering team at honestbee.

He does less coding now and spends more time in management, but works quite closely with the data team, explores the growth attribution from the analysis and works on improving data use.

“Building up the data team in honestbee was a big challenge.

Coming from a software engineering background, data science and BI was a new field to me and we had to deal with many unknown unknowns initially due to a lack of knowledge and a lack of talent in this field. Eventually, the talent started to come in and pieces coming together and we were able to build a strong team.”

Jonathan also shared that the engineering culture is getting stronger in Singapore.

“Various software communities are growing and maturing. We also see more non-engineering folks having greater appreciation and interest towards engineering. Software engineering is also becoming more recognized and respected as a career.

I think the efforts from the Singapore government in supporting technology and startups in the past years is paying off. To date, we’ve started conversations with IDA and other government industries who are interested in exploring internships with software engineers and data scientist.”

8) Winston Teo

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Winston is the Deputy Director of Digital Technology at Singapore Power, as well as the founder of Jolly Good Code, a software consultancy specialising in building MVPs and training, with Ruby and Agile practices. He also run Ruby meetups and the annual RedDotRubyConf on the side.

In 2008, Winston joined a travel startup in Singapore, and he was tasked to build out an analytics platform by himself.

“It was challenging for me because at the time, I was relatively new to the startup and engineering world, having just stepped out from the corporate world where I was just a Database Administrator who did no coding. Hence, I had to pick up necessary skills like Ruby quickly, and the analytics platform was launched in 2-3months.”

On the engineering culture in Singapore, Winston noticed that many companies in Singapore lack a strong one.

“For example, a lot of companies don’t emphasise the need for testing or code review. At the same time, they do not conduct feedback sessions enough (or at all) to reflect and improve on current processes. It’s slowly changing though, and I hope to see the day we catch up with Silicon Valley standards.”

9) Sam Hon

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Sam has co-founded 3 tech startups and raised US$12 million in funding. The founder of Flowhero.io, a SaaS product company also does consulting work in parallel.

“My most challenging project? One that attempts to integrate with a legacy system where APIs are not made readily available, let alone being RESTful. The users also refuse to take evolutionary steps to improve their work flow, thus the app has to do a lot of heavy lifting to accommodate new features while keep the current workflow and importing/exporting data in and out of the legacy system.”

Sam hopes that Singapore’s engineering culture will steer towards more participation in user groups.

It is through user groups that engineers can pick up new and best practices. Also I hope that engineers will contribute and rely on open source projects more so than commercial software. Rationale being that the low cost of open source software allows more engineers to be entrepreneurs.”

10) Jaryl Sim

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Jaryl currently runs Tinkerbox Studios, a software development studio and a platform for startups and entrepreneurs to kickstart projects. They are currently working on automating a lot of the mundane work that goes on in agencies, and software teams.

“This allows us to focus on more high value activities, like getting the user experience right. It’s also a lot more fun.”

Commenting on Singapore’s engineering culture, Jaryl shared that everyone is supportive of each other.

“We can get a pretty good turnout at conferences and meet-ups. There is also a healthy amount of debate and discussion, and I think that this vital for growing the ecosystem here.”

11) Chin SuYuen

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SuYuen is the co-founder of MomoCentral.com – a real-time freelancing platform of curated developers and designers. MomoCentral currently powers over 150 companies in Singapore and Silicon Valley.

The most challenging project SuYuen has been involved is was the project for Resort World Genting group’s global loyalty point system.

“I can’t speak much about it but I remember it involving lots of tight security (as it deals with the usage of gambling points), limited access to servers during the development period and every testing session, upload session, change upload, et cetera had to be scheduled way in advance.

You couldn’t just go and upload it to the server for testing whenever you wanted. On top of that, we had to ensure the coding was top notch as the code would go through a bunch of security tests.”

When asked what she liked about the engineering culture in Singapore, SuYuen commented lightheartedly that it is very female friendly.

“Very female-friendly! HAHA just kidding but seriously, as a female, there’s never a shortage of guys to exchange knowledge with (or even just hang out). I’ve been coding and involved in startups since 2007.

I have to say I really love how the community has progressed to become more open, a lot more sharing is going on and there are way more avenues for engineers to meet up and share knowledge now. In the past, there was barely one event happening every month or 3 months. Now there are meet-ups happening almost every week!”

12) Michael Cheng

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Michael is no stranger to the local developer community in Singapore. A Senior Software Engineer at Singapore Power, his engineering credentials include Pivotal Labs Singapore and running Engineers.SG, a community initiative to archive and document the Singapore tech and startup scene.

When asked which was the most challenging project he was involved in, he recalled revamping and introducing agile practices in a government agency’s public facing e-services site.

“It was challenging from an integration, infrastructure and cultural standpoint. That project has been delivered with high end-user satisfaction.”

Michael also shared that the Singapore ecosystem is very small. As such, it is very easy to get to know people.

“As a whole we are very open to new ideas and new people. I think we are this way because of our multi-racial and multi-cultural background.”

13) Natalie Tay

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Natalie Tay is also a software engineer at Pivotal Labs, where they help companies reshape the way they do software by passing on best practices and modern concepts. Think pair programming and the agile methodology.

When asked what was the most challenging project in her career, she shared that it would be the one involving a 2-year project timeline with a large organisation in Singapore.

“What I’ve learnt is that it’s extremely important to work on a project with at least one other full-time software engineer, as the mistakes that happened were those easily prevented by having another person around.

Projects that span that amount of time can also be taxing if no new perspectives are introduced frequently, it drains the mind and makes one dull.

Obviously, that made me reconsider what I really wanted, and I managed to reach a delightful conclusion that, yes, I need to see the bigger world of software engineering.”

Natalie also shared that the engineering culture in Singapore is growing.

“Engineers are getting more and more open-minded, I suspect due to the influx of foreigners. Diversity will make any culture bloom, especially in a country like Singapore. We’re so small, and the engineering population definitely doesn’t hide themselves.”

14) Goh Bing Han

Goh Bing Han, who’s currently our technology director at Vulcan Post, is also working on Parrot, our social content analytics tool. Parrot indexes all the article by publication in Singapore and provides virality and engagement insights for users.

When asked what’s the most challenging project he has been involved in, Bing Han shared that it would most definitely be Parrot.

“It was challenging because there are multiple sub-systems (crawlers) involved to index and collect data from different sources (social media and websites) and displaying data in realtime.”

Touching on the engineering culture in Singapore, Bing Han liked the fact that the developer groups here are very open to sharing new knowledge with one another among the various communities and interest groups in Singapore.

15) Mugunth Kumar

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Mugunth is also not a stranger to the developer community in Singapore, mostly among iOS developer. Currently, Mugunth does iOS Corporate Trainings and also do some consulting work on iOS for clients (startups).

The most challenging work for Mugunth is surprisingly not related to development work.

“The most challenging project I’ve done is writing iOS programming books. The challenge is in writing the book alongside Apple’s beta release of iOS. As such, when we start writing, almost everything is new and under Apple NDA. The only source of help is Apple developers whom we reach through devforums.

To date, I’ve co-authored 3 books and they are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks Store and most brick and mortar stores worldwide including Kinokuniya in Singapore, KL and Dubai.”

Taking a different view from other developers, Mugunth shared that he is not really impressed with the engineering culture in Singapore.

“Most of the local developers (almost all of them who graduated from NTU with me) work for a Valley startup in the United States. Unless local companies are willing to pay competitive salaries, it will be impossible to bring them back.

This is something I don’t see happening now and I don’t foresee that this would happen in the near future. I happened to attend the recent TIA SG conference. I don’t know about the ticket sales ratio, but within the conference hall, I saw more investors and founders and considerably less number of developers.”

16) Chang Sau Sheong

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Dubbed by some as the Programming Godfather of Singapore, Sau Sheong works as Managing Director of Digital Technology at Singapore Power. Before that, he managed a team of software engineers to develop consumer-focused products for PayPal.

When asked what was the most challenging project to him, Sau Sheong shared that there are probably too many to describe, and that every project has its own unique difficulties.

“The most difficult ones are usually ones that are distributed across many countries, regions and timezones. Technology is rarely the problem, communications and coordination are the biggest problems in projects I worked on.”

Sau Sheong also liked that the community is small but open and helps itself without being possessive.

“There is a closeness in the community now that didn’t used to be there before, and as I talk to people in the same industry in other countries, I find that the same cannot be said everywhere else.”

Continue Engineering On

The tech industry is vast in Singapore, so this list barely scratches the surface and it doesn’t represent the engineering scene to the fullest. This list is also put up based on the responses that I managed to get from the interviewees and based on word of mouth recommended by my first degree connections.

If you know any other software developers, programmers or coders in Singapore, feel free to mention them in the comments below.

Also Read: 99% Of S’pore Businesses Are Made Up Of SMEs, Here’s How Lazada And Singtel Are Supporting Them

 

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