What do advising companies on AI strategy, shaping global AI initiatives, and mentoring AI startup founders all have in common? They trace their roots to my transformative experience in AI Singapore’s AI Apprenticeship Program (AIAP). If you’re contemplating a career pivot into AI through AIAP, this article aims to inspire you through my journey.
In 2018, I took a leap of faith that would redefine my career by joining the 2nd batch of AIAP intakes. This decision was far from spontaneous; it was a culmination of a year-long preparation. I had been actively doing online courses on AI, captivated by its potential to revolutionize industries and redefine our daily lives. When I announced my decision to my colleagues at Procter & Gamble (P&G), their facial expressions were a mix of shock and disbelief. After all, I was trading a managerial role and a significant pay cut to become an AI Apprentice. Was I nervous? Absolutely.
But I was undeterred. I knew that AI was the future. I wanted to experience a real-life project and create tangible value for companies. The allure of AIAP providing hands-on experience in real-world projects was too compelling to resist.
The 9-month AIAP program was an intense yet rewarding experience. It was not just about learning AI techniques but about applying them to solve real-world problems. One of my most memorable projects involved developing an AI model to predict complications arising from kidney dialysis (Supporting Our Healthcare Workers and Kidney Disease Patients – AI Singapore Community). The project was fraught with challenges—data inconsistencies, algorithmic limitations, and more—but overcoming them made the experience invaluable. The code-to-impact experience and unexpected twists that come with real-life projects make me a more well-rounded AI professional. The pinnacle of this project was presenting our findings to DPM Teo Chee Hean, a moment that underscored the societal impact of our work.
I like to think of my pre-AIAP experience as the core of a cake. Learning AI is like adding an icing to the cake; the icing differentiates the cake and makes it more valuable. Unlike re-skilling, where we discard our previous expertise, plus-skilling is about layering new skills on top of our existing foundation. This multi-layered approach has allowed me to tackle challenges and seize opportunities from a broader perspective.
As the AIAP program neared its conclusion, I faced a moment of truth. Would companies recognize the skills and experience I had gained? Would I receive job offers that aligned with my passion and expertise? The answer to both was a resounding yes. I received multiple offers, each more exciting and financially rewarding than my pre-AIAP role.
I chose to extend my journey with AISG, initially rejoining as a Senior AI Engineer. My career has been on an upward trajectory ever since. I’ve been promoted yearly, moving from Senior AI Engineer to Principal AI Consultant, Assistant Head (AI Standards and Advisory), and Associate Director (Strategy and Special Projects) in 2022. Each role brought unique challenges and milestones, but the constant has been my ability to combine new AI skills with my previous stakeholder management skills and business acumen. The ability to plus-skill through AIAP fast-tracked my career.
Yet, my aspirations extend beyond climbing the corporate ladder. I see AI as a transformative tool that, when strategically applied, can profoundly impact businesses, governments, and society. This vision requires a leader who can bridge the gap between AI expertise and business acumen. I am actively shaping myself to fill this gap by pursuing a dual MBA at Peking University and NUS. This isn’t a departure; it’s the next layer in my ‘plus-skilling’ journey, all made possible by the foundation laid during my time at AIAP.
As I work towards completing my dual MBA at Peking University and NUS, I realize that AIAP was more than a 9-month stint; it was a catalyst for continuous learning and career growth. My initial ‘gamble’ had paid off, illuminating career paths I had never envisioned. If you’re on the fence about a career in AI, let me assure you: AIAP isn’t just a program; it’s a launchpad for “plus-skilling” and personal growth.
Take that first step today; your future self will thank you, just as mine.