Finding Passion in Numbers
The Singapore Institute of Technology’s applied learning curriculum motivated Ong Lek Kiang to pursue a career in accountancy.
The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) hardly needs further introduction these days. Its approach is based on applied learning, innovation, integration, and impact. Established in 2009, SIT has been recognised as a university that offers practice-oriented learning experiences that are holistic and authentic, allowing its students to be thinkers, makers, and catalysts; thereby enabling graduates to make a difference in society.
27-year-old Ong Lek Kiang, an Associate in Assurance at PwC Singapore, shares his thoughts on how he pursued his childhood penchant for numbers. The self-effacing valedictorian professes that he never aimed to be the best in university. He just wanted to do well in his examinations and focus on his studies to get a degree and start work. This approach has yielded significant dividends for Lek Kiang so far.
Ong Lek Kiang is valedictorian of his cohort at the Singapore Institute of Technology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Accountancy in 2018 and is an Associate in Assurance at PwC.
When I run the half marathon, I tend to think about life and lots of great ideas coming to my mind. I can get inspired to do things after the run! Finishing a run is particularly invigorating for me. Sometimes running is just about relaxation and to unshackle from the daily hectic work rhythms. It helps me decompress and think better.
During his second year of National Service, Lek Kiang came across the SIT Accountancy programme. He was immediately attracted to the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) which is a distinctive feature of SIT’s curriculum. Providing students with the opportunity to undertake real work, the IWSP is structured in a unique and distinct way for each degree programme with the aim to develop industry-ready graduates.
“During the IWSP period which occurs in our final year, students spend around eight to 12 months in a real work environment, handling tasks of an entry-level graduate. We are also given career guidance along the way. Interns like us are given real-world problems to immerse ourselves in a bona fide working context. These really serve as valuable learning opportunities for us.”
“The icing on the cake is that many of us – as high as 90% – receive ‘Priority Offers’, enabling us to work in the companies we did our attachment at,” he adds.
Lek Kiang cannot overstate the importance of the IWSP. During his time with PwC as part of the IWSP, he picked up not just important industry knowledge and experience, but also improved his confidence and listening skills. Liaising with vendors and communicating with bosses taught him when to listen and when to speak, soft skills he would not have learnt in a classroom setting.
This is reflected in his words about the programme: “I love the thought of going into a work attachment with a big accounting firm for eight months even before I begin full-time work. Attachments are a good way for us to ‘blend’ into the industry we want to pursue. It also gives us a chance to find out if this is the industry we are suited for in the future.”
The SIT Experience
Lek Kiang is SIT’s first graduate to top the Financial Reporting paper in national Chartered Accountant Professional Programme exam, one of the five exams of the programme. He credits his achievements to SIT’s culture that encourages him to push himself to finish the hurdles before him.
At SIT, students are immersed in hands-on situations, allowing them to apply what they have learnt to real-world situations. This positive notion is led by SIT’s DNA of being ‘catalysts for transformation’, ‘thinking tinkerers’, ‘able to learn, unlearn, and relearn’ and lastly be ‘grounded in the community’. Lek Kiang believes strongly in the second trait, which emphasises real-life application of classroom skills.
“To be able to use what you have learnt in the classroom and apply it in the eight-month IWSP really works well,” he recalls. “SIT also promotes a ‘can-do’ culture so it really pushes students to go the distance. Best of all, the transition into working life is not unfamiliar for students.”
Some Words of Advice
For those considering a university education, Lek Kiang thinks SIT is a great fit. “I think the IWSP programme helps with your career path. You get to learn and apply all that you have learnt to solve real-world problems,” he recommends.
“There is also no need to fret about a future career if you work hard during your IWSP. My eight-month exposure allowed me to gain more experience and insight into how the world really works in the accounting/consulting industry.”
An applied learning education with the opportunity to experience the industry as well, SIT is an institution that is definitely worth more than a consideration.
This article was adapted from BrightsSparks: Scholarship & Education 2020, Vol.1 with the permission of CareerBuilder Singapore.