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Paving the way for tomorrow’s digital leaders
Paving the way for tomorrow’s digital leaders

Paving the way for tomorrow’s digital leaders

From mentorship with C-suite executives to scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate studies abroad, IMDA’s SG Digital Leadership Accelerator (SGDLA) is designed to establish a robust pipeline of digital leaders capable of steering Singapore’s digital trajectory. In the dynamic realm of technology, Singapore is a force of innovation1 and our talent are making significant waves on the global stage.

Serving as an accelerant for professional development, IMDA’s SGDLA helps ensure our tech and media workforce remains among the world’s best by providing opportunities and support for our talent at every stage of their career. It caters to seasoned professionals via the SG Digital Leaders programme, which collaborates with private sector employers to co-fund and co-develop future leaders in the tech and media sector. Additionally, the SGDLA also supports students pursuing their postgraduate or undergraduate studies through the SG Digital Scholarship which allows scholars to work in the industry after graduation.

At the forefront of our digital talent pool is SG Digital Leader Justin Lee, and four exceptional SG Digital Scholars: Tan Si Yu, Mukundraj (Raj) Sudarshan, Calleen Koh, and Yogesh Narayan. We spoke with them to find out how they have benefitted from SGDLA and their aspirations for Singapore’s digital future.

Passion for shaping tomorrow’s tech workforce

A graduate from the University of Cambridge, Justin Lee started his career as a management consultant in McKinsey, advising a client base of multinational companies, government bodies and state-owned enterprises in areas such as strategy, marketing, sales and operations. At the age of 27 he joined ShopBack as a Chief Product Officer and saw the rapid growth of the company from a young Singapore startup to one with a presence in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and India. Justin leads a team of product managers, product designers, and data analysts, driving innovation and strategy across these Southeast Asian markets that ShopBack has expanded to in the past 10 years. Beyond steering product development , Justin has a broader commitment to nurturing emerging talent in the tech sector.

He was appointed as an SG Digital Leader by IMDA in 2022, as part of a leadership development programme under the SG Digital Leadership Accelerator to co-develop up-and-coming Singaporean leaders from the tech and media sector with their private sector employers. Through the SGDLA, Justin was mentored by a global C-suite tech leader that profoundly influenced his personal and professional growth. Reflecting on this experience, Justin marvelled at the mentor’s approach of encouraging individuals to distil knowledge and develop problem-solving skills independently, as it unlocks a more latent critical-thinking ability from within.

Today, he pays it forward by combining his experience and learning to mentor younger talent in the community. Justin aspires to empower the next generation of tech enthusiasts and professionals, instilling in them the values of resilience, continuous learning, and global awareness.

This is one way for me to contribute to strengthening the tech talent pool in Singapore. IMDA has helped connect me to many bright minds who will one day become the region's tech leaders. The experience has certainly delivered on my expectations.

Justin Lee

Chief Product Officer, ShopBack

Chief Product Officer and SG Digital Leader Justin Lee posing in the ShopBack office by wooden steps.

Justin has developed stronger problem-solving skills through his mentorship experience.

Justin’s mantra of "Try, reflect, course correct," has been crucial in his journey, shaping not only his career but also his personal growth. Honed over years of perseverance and experience, Justin has applied this motto throughout every stage of his career – from diverse roles at McKinsey & Company to pivotal positions at SingPost and ShopBack. It is this drive and determination that led him to become one of the first SG Digital Leaders in Singapore, handpicked by IMDA in 2022.

Learning through global exposure

The SG Digital Scholarship is industry-driven and supports a wide range of tech- and media-related studies, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, quantum technologies, digital and interactive media, film, and TV, at local and overseas universities.

Si Yu received IMDA’s SG Digital Scholarship in 2019 and graduated with a Master of Engineering in Computer Science from Cornell University in New York. Having taken to coding during his National Service (NS), Si Yu was inspired by the intricate interplay between hardware and software and the transformative impact it wields in addressing real-world challenges. Attracted by the flexibility to work in any tech related role in any industry upon graduation, opportunities provided, and potential for professional growth that the scholarship offers, Si Yu applied for the SG Digital Scholarship.

Si Yu believes that the scholarship programme is an excellent opportunity for both students passionate about technology as well as professionals seeking to transition into different tech domains. He emphasised, “For students, the scholarship provides plenty of support to deepen technical skills through certifications and overseas experiences, as well as access to mentors. Professionals benefit from access to a network where they can seek advice on navigating a new field and managing a career switch successfully.”

SG Digital Scholarship recipient Tan Si Yu, Master of Engineering graduate from Cornell University posing outdoors.

Si Yu was keen on the opportunity to network and learn from Singapore's tech industry leaders.

Despite being abroad, SGDLA's mentorship programme connected Si Yu with a mentor who equipped him with practical industry insights. "Having a mentor in the data science field was beneficial as it gave me a better idea of a career path in machine learning. The SGDLA mentorship programme features a variety of mentors. Students are bound to find one that matches their interest areas," said Si Yu.

For Raj, the SG Digital Scholarship enabled him to pivot from being an accountant to an aspiring AI expert. His love for programming and data encouraged Raj to chart a career path in data science, and he is now completing a Master of Science in Data Science at New York University. Raj wants to use his knowledge and skills to push the boundaries of data science in the fintech sector and make a significant contribution to Singapore’s high-impact National AI projects in the years to come.

Raj shares that a standout feature of the scholarship is the flexibility it provides. As an SG Digital Scholar, Raj has the freedom to work with any company in Singapore post-graduation. He also looks forward to connecting with fellow scholars and participating in the diverse array of data and AI events regularly organised by IMDA.

What resonated most with me about the scholarship programme is the sense of community it provides – a gathering of like-minded, ambitious individuals navigating the same exciting space.


Master of Science in Data Science, New York University

SG Digital Scholar Mukundraj (Raj) Sudarshan, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Data Science at New York University.

Raj believes in having a global mindset to succeed in an open, competitive economy like Singapore.

The SG Digital Scholarship enabled Raj to immerse himself in his chosen areas of interest and learn from the best in the field. Raj said, “I really wanted to study in the US as most of the cutting-edge AI research is being developed there. The SG Digital Scholarship was immensely helpful in even motivating me to think about pursuing an overseas master’s in data science.”

Impacting industries from animation to AI

Our next scholar, Calleen, is a BAFTA-nominated animated short film director, animator, and artist2. Leveraging her self-taught skills, Calleen has directed three animated short films, Sexy Sushi (2020), To Kill the Birds & the Bees (2021), and Hot Buns (2022). Inspired when she was 11 by PIXAR’s 20th Anniversary exhibition in Singapore, Calleen found the scholarship to be the ideal gateway to advancing her passion in animation. It enabled her to overcome financial concerns and pursue her Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Animation at her dream school, the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). She believes that the qualification, experience and exposure gained here will help her elevate Singapore’s thriving animation scene. "As someone deeply committed to growing Singapore's animation industry, the SG Digital Scholarship is the perfect match for my career aspirations," said Calleen.

When working on her short film Hot Buns, Calleen experienced many challenges in producing it. “I realised that I needed to learn more about filmmaking beyond the borders of Singapore and push myself to become a better filmmaker, especially if I want to learn how to enrich the local animation scene,” Calleen elaborated on her desire to broaden her horizons.

A picture of SG Digital Scholar Calleen Koh, who is pursuing a Master of Fine Art in Experimental Animation at CalArts.

Calleen picked up her drawing skills from YouTube videos and library books she borrowed.

Expressing deep appreciation for the scholarship, Calleen shared that the SG Digital Scholarship is unique because it not only supports students in their studies, but actively encourages professional development during and after their studies. “The scholarship programme provides ample opportunities to network and stay updated on the latest trends and innovations in the media industry,” Calleen explained.

Another digital leader in the making, Yogesh, is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at the Singapore Management University. He wants to use the knowledge and experience gained from the programme to make a positive impact on the healthcare industry. He is working towards getting into the Masters Fast-Track Programme at Carnegie Mellon, a world-renowned American university in the technology field.

Whether immersing himself in new tech stacks, staying up to date with cutting-edge research papers, or gaining practical insights through internships, Yogesh believes in exploring every facet of the dynamic technology sector. His advice to fellow students is – “Embrace chances, start your own projects, and don't be afraid to try new things.”

SG Digital Scholar Yogesh Narayan posing outdoors. He hopes to pursue the Masters Fast-Track Programme at Carnegie Mellon.

To gain a head-start on his university studies, Yogesh taught himself programming during his NS.

Keen to explore the use of artificial intelligence to relieve the strain on healthcare professionals during manpower shortages, Yogesh sees the SG Digital Scholarship as a vital gateway to growing personally and professionally in the technology sector. “The scholarship has provided me with the opportunity to expand my knowledge and gain international exposure. This experience will offer valuable insights into the global technology industry and enrich my overall perspective,” he shared.

Shaping Singapore’s digital trajectory

As Singapore continues to strengthen our media and tech talent pipeline, SGDLA plays a crucial role in helping individuals advance their passions and make meaningful contributions to the future of Singapore’s digital landscape. If you would like to play a part in shaping the country’s digital future, check out the opportunities offered by SGDLA.