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Tech luminary is inspiring women to make a quantum leap in Stem

Tech luminary is inspiring women to make a quantum leap in Stem

SG Digital scholar Amanda Chew is one of the local female trailblazers in quantum computing
SG Digital scholar Amanda Chew, local female trailblazer in quantum computing.
Photo Credit: SPH Media

As she excels in the rapidly evolving field of quantum computing, this SG Digital scholar is also helping the next generation navigate the tech industy.

Imagine your computer as a super-efficient librarian but with a catch: It can only check out one book at a time, flipping through pages in order.

Now, picture a superhero librarian who can read many books at once, absorbing and processing every word on every page simultaneously. Enter the thrilling world of quantum computers – machines that explore multiple paths to a solution at the same time, thanks to a property called superposition.

This capability can unlock new advancements in industries such as aerospace and automotive to help design fuel-efficient vehicles, says Ms Amanda Chew who is at the forefront of this rapidly evolving field.

As vice-president of product at Horizon Quantum Computing, the 32-year-old leads the product vision, strategy, research and development of tools for programming quantum computers.

While looking for scholarships after junior college, Ms Chew was drawn to the Singapore Digital (SG Digital) Scholarship offered by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) – it would open doors to the ever-exciting tech industry and give her the freedom to choose the company she wanted to work for while serving out her bond as long as it was in a tech- or media-related role.

In 2010, the SG Digital Scholarship took Ms Chew to Brown University in the United States where she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science.

She was excited to start a new chapter but had to overcome the high expectations she had placed on herself to be able to excel, which turned out to be a debilitating instead of motivating force.

When the coursework was difficult or when the going got tough, Ms Chew kept silent, not verbalising her doubts or asking questions to clarify them for fear of looking foolish.

“It took me a period of discomfort and maturing to be comfortable with fear, uncertainty, insecurity and groundlessness. My scholarship experience helped me to let go of perfectionism and experience life as it is," she says.

Embracing new possibilities

While at university, the scholarship also enabled Ms Chew to embark on two internships in Nairobi, Kenya. It broadened her horizons globally, gave her a taste of what it was like to work in a different culture and enabled her to contribute positively.

During her first visit, she taught 3D computer animation to local trainers at a company which taught design and computing to underprivileged teenagers. Later, she returned to Nairobi to assist a company in developing a prototype for a disaster response mobile application which tracks the whereabouts of victims in crisis situations such as riots or earthquakes.

The scholarship gave me the opportunity to pursue a well-rounded education and meet like-minded individuals and nurturing mentors.

Ms Amanda Chew

Recipient of the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s Singapore Digital Scholarship

Armed with her newfound experiences, Ms Chew interviewed with software giant Microsoft when it came time to fulfil her five-year bond after graduation.

She still remembers her screening interview vividly. “I asked them tough questions about their company and they were genuinely interested to hear my thoughts,” she says. “They didn’t treat me like a student and even asked me how I would change Microsoft.”

This experience was a stark contrast to other scholarship interviews where she felt the interviewers only wanted to hear “the right answer”.

At Microsoft, she started out pitching enterprise software and services to Fortune 500 customers and went on to become a senior program manager for Microsoft’s Visual Studio App Center software in San Francisco.

Honed over the years, Ms Chew’s technical expertise and interpersonal skills are now indispensable in her current role at Horizon Quantum Computing, which she took on in 2020. Here, she frequently collaborates with a wide and diverse range of people, disciplines and domains.

Her achievements have also been widely recognised. In 2023, she was listed among the SG Computer Society's Singapore 100 Women in Tech and also featured in Female Tech Leaders Community Magazine's Empowering Voice: 25 Women in Tech.

Deeply invested in promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) to young women, and helping them navigate their careers, Ms Chew is a mentor to female Stem students at Brown University, her alma mater, and participants of the TechWomen programme, which supports women in Stem from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.

She also occasionally gives talks to students at schools in Singapore and the US and coaches younger IMDA scholars through the organisation’s speed mentoring programme.

Ms Chew also participates in events that the scholarship hosts to connect scholars with tech leadership in Singapore, other SG Digital leaders and scholar alumni.

Ms Chew is optimistic about the future for women in STEM. She notes an increase in mentorship programmes, speaking opportunities and leadership training tailored for women, alongside greater respect and recognition from colleagues and managers for their unique talents.

“The scholarship gave me the opportunity to pursue a well-rounded education and meet like-minded individuals and nurturing mentors," she says.

“I am grateful for the kindness and generosity I’ve received and am happy to share that with others.”

Choose different with the SG Digital Scholarship today.

Footnote

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

LAST UPDATED: 13 MAR 2024

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