Aminah | Jr Data Engineering
Never tell Aminah Mohamed Lah that middle-aged ladies are behind the times.
Not only is the 51-year-old a fully trained and qualified engineer and a mother of three, she also managed to successfully transition into a career in the fast-paced tech industry.
While some 50-somethings may be thinking about slowing down a little, Aminah has a different view.
“It is impossible to achieve nothing,” is an ideal she truly believes in. Learning something new, no matter how small, represents an improvement of one’s self.
Aminah graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 1995 with a degree in Mechanical & Production Engineering. At a time when some parents may not fully approve of their daughter going into a male-dominated industry, Aminah’s parents were nevertheless supportive.
She worked in the field for about three years before making a switch to the public service, for stability and familial reasons. Aminah took a job with the Ministry of Education, working as an Administration Manager in a school.
“I liked the diversity of the job scope,” Aminah said of her time in MOE.
She had many different tasks like Finance, Procurement, Asset Management, HR and Event Management, and particularly enjoyed budgeting as it suited her meticulous nature.
She worked at MOE for many years, but then the global pandemic struck.With the world in lockdown, and the nature of work changing permanently, Aminah began to think of taking a different path.
Ironically, it was a helping hand extended by the government itself that made her think outside the box.
“By mid-2020, I was looking for a change,” she said. “That year happened to be the Covid year, and the government rolled out many schemes for upskilling.”
Taking the Plunge
While Aminah was intrigued by courses in fields as varied as healthcare, logistics and digital marketing, she found herself particularly drawn to data and data analytics, offered by many Institutes of Higher Learning.
“The industry is on the uptick and I could see myself starting a second career in this line,” Aminah said.
She also received valuable support from her husband. “I told my husband (that) I needed a change and he supported me fully. He has always supported me in any decision that I make with regards to my career.”
Aminah eventually found #GetReadySG, a national skills initiative co-created by employment non profit organisation Generation Singapore and the software behemoth, Microsoft and Temasek Polytechnic. She liked the unique range of courses that offered training in Full Stack, DevOps and Data Engineering by the 12-week, instructor-guided virtual “bootcamp.”
While most bootcamps tested your physical mettle, this one would test Aminah’s perseverance and resilience. Getting selected wasn’t easy, with prospective learners having to attend interview sessions, take quizzes, and even a short course on Python and answer questions on what was taught.
Still, Aminah persisted, and got in. Then the real hard work started.
“The bootcamp can be pretty exhausting,” she said. Participants were learning more about tech like SQL, Python and Azure. And every day, they would learn something new.
“No sugarcoating”, is how she put it.
Tough but not Alone
But Aminah wasn’t alone in her journey. Her oldest son had started university, and as it was the height of the pandemic, his lessons were conducted online too. He studied together with his mother.
As Aminah’s daughter was also taking a computer module in her university studies, they were all able to speak the same “language.”Still, it was tough going as Aminah did not have a background in tech.
Sometimes, in order to catch up, she would study at night and over the weekends.Thankfully, her persistence was greatly helped by her instructor, whom Aminah described as being encouraging, understanding and patient.Her classmates also helped her along, “so all of us improved together,” she said.
In addition to the training, Generation provided holistic support to each trainee, such as mentorship, well-being support, job search preparation and connecting them for interviews with employer partners.Their curriculum did not only focus on core technical skills but also emphasised the value of behavioural skills and having a learning and growth mindset.
Thanks to her new skills, from being an apprentice in a global financial institution and one of Generation’s employer partners, she’s now working as a Business Analyst in the same company.
Looking back, despite the challenging journey, Aminah found it an amazing experience. The key, she says, is to go into things with an open mind and a growth mindset.
“In tech it is always (about), “(How) can we improve on this?”
And while some may feel like tech is a “man’s world” with most engineers being male, Aminah has defied expectations, just as she has been doing ever since she went to university. She encourages women who may be on the fence to try a tech career because of self-doubt. “Many people may think that tech is a man’s world. But it’s actually not. Anybody can be in it. As long as you have the courage and put your mind to it, it can be done. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or woman!”
The Human Connetion
Aside from her newfound tech expertise and job, Aminah has also gained a new appreciation for the human heart behind the technology. During the course of her training, she met people of different backgrounds and ages, and appreciated just how helpful they could be.
Closer to home, her experience also allowed her to bond on a deeper level with her children. “It’s fantastic to be able to bond with them over tech…I hope they appreciate how I try my best in whatever I do.”
Reflecting on her mid-career switch, she said the most surprising thing in her book was taking the plunge at her age.
“So that is something surprising and I’m glad I did.”
(this article is originally published in https://mothership.sg/2023/05/generation-singapore-adult-learning-data/)