Here are Singapore's 10 Best Tech Companies to Work for in 2017:
- Red Hat (overall winner for large/MNCs category): US-based open source solutions company;
- Razer (overall winner for large/MNCs category): US and Singapore-based gaming hardware & software company;
- Titansoft (overall winner for mid-sized/SMEs category): Software development firm based in Singapore and Taiwan
- Carousell (overall winner for start-up category): Mobile classifieds marketplace app provider based in Singapore
- Accenture: Global professional services company for strategy, consulting, digital, technology & operations services and solutions.
- EON Reality: US-based VR/AR software development MNC
- IBM: US-based global technology and innovation company
- ST Electronics Info-Comm Systems: SG-based infoComm tech solutions company
- Tableau: US-based data visualisation software company
- Tinkerbox: SG-based software development firm
So what exactly do they believe in and practice that has made their people culture work? We had a chat with the management team from the top four winning companies (one for each category) to share on their working styles and practices, and the company culture they put in place to create a dynamic and empowered group of employees. Here’s what the top four practice and preach…
1. Red Hat – Everyone is a leader
One of Red Hat’s major core beliefs is meritocracy. The US-based open source solutions company adopts a relatively flat and open organizational structure which values the ideas of their employees and believe that ideas can come from anyone and everyone regardless of their hierarchy within the organization.
Singapore country manager of Red Hat, Mr Richard Koh shares about the company’s culture of excelling, “We give recognition to the best ideas instead of where or whom it is coming from. At Red Hat, everyone can be a leader. People want to excel in their work, voice out their opinion and be heard, and everyone contributes to the success of the company – we are all part of this big family.”
Collaboration is also a big deal in the company. Teams work together across functional units cooperating on specific projects and business tasks together. “What makes Red Hat stand out is our strong embrace of an open culture of collaboration. I like the way our CEO, Jim Whitehurst, has summarised in his book The Open Organization; ‘Successful organizations embrace opposition and debate. The best solutions to complex problems are developed in environments where people are not afraid to respectfully challenge one another.’”
Red Hat’s operations go beyond the physical work space, it is driven into the mindsets of the people in the way they practice engagement. Richard explains, “It is not about what we ‘allow’ our employees to do. Our company’s culture empowers people to do what they need to do without having to seek permission. We can directly walk up to our leaders and say, ‘I think this idea might not be the best, I have some other things in mind’, and this can go through a few rounds of discussion, even debates. What we believe in is to encourage such a culture of engagement. When there are key decisions to be made that might affect the company, we gather a group of people from different functions, help them to define the problem so they understand the requirements and what are the constraints. Then we put these people together for discussions.”
And in these discussions, they understand the differing needs and priorities of every function such that if the solution is not ideal for everyone present, they practice reminding themselves of a bigger picture at hand and make compromises accordingly to derive at the most successful outcome.
All this freedom of communication is not without balance. Red Hat’s core values include accountability. Given the freedom, they are encouraged to voice out and act but at the same time employees are expected to be professional and stay committed to what they want to do and be accountable for its eventual success. Much freedom is given but not outside the context of accountability. Talk about wisdom in balance!
2. Razer – Work and play is ONE
Can a gaming company be without play? Definitely not, and the employees at Razer know how to blur the lines of work and play with many of them being gamers themselves. Interestingly, this in turn becomes the key factor that adds to their driving passion in creating products that works for their company’s main target consumers. Ms. Patricia Liu, Chief Customer Officer at Razer recounts, “Our staff are gamers themselves so they are encouraged to do something according to their passion by designing things that they themselves feel comfortable with, want to use, and want to play with.”
Talk about boosting innovation in the workplace: Razer’s office was designed not with an office in mind, but with first asking ‘what does a gamer want’? It was not so much of designing a work environment, but a play environment – with work stations, described by Ms. Liu as ‘almost like a playground’. It is open, with gaming consoles, billiard and ping pong tables to encourage creativity. Work and play is integrated together and this is what they deliberately plan to achieve in the workplace. Tournaments are also organized from time to time where departments can pit against each other in computer games like ‘World of Warcraft’ – to encourage competition and get staff into their element.
One of Razer’s staff was even challenged by their CEO and Creative Director Min-Liang Tan to make her idea of kitty ears for their gaming headphone model Razer Krakens – come to existence. All she had to do was create a Facebook page and get 10,000 likes for the idea and he would make it come to pass. That indeed happen and she saw her very own innovation hit the local and global gaming market, with scores of gamers hash tagging #KittyKrakens for their much-loved purchase of “Kitty Ears for Razer Krakens” on social media.
Ms Liu reiterated, “Innovation is very important to us. That is why we create an environment for work and play to merge together and encourage creativity.”
3. Titansoft – Advocates of openness and teamwork
They believe in an open culture. With over 70 employees in its Singapore office, Yves Lin, General Manager of Titansoft shares, “We encourage openness. In our teams, we don’t have team leads telling people what to do. Our employees work in teams of 5-10 and decide what they are going to do each day, what problems they face and help each other out. They can talk to their department managers directly. Everyone is free to share their thoughts and those thoughts are respected.”
To Titansoft, talent means more than numbers. They execute this by limiting the size of each office to about 100 people so that they can easily focus more on teamwork. “As it gets too big, the teamwork, communication and bonding gets too complex” shares Yves.
“We have lots of training and development going on. We hire trainers from overseas just to teach our staff coding skills.” “in terms of career progression, the biggest advantage we offer our staff is continuous learning, which helps us keep up with the market.
So what does Titansoft look for in hiring new blood into their company? They are big on two key traits: (1) Courage, and (2) Teamwork. Yves explains, “Courage – in trying new things, and not fearing mistakes. Sometimes we fail but we learn from our failures. ‘Teamwork’ – because in teams we achieve more than we do individually.” He candidly drew reference to traditional IT companies, “Most employees of these firms handle projects by themselves. But the thing is, if I get sick, if I leave the company, or if my girlfriend ditches me, then my productivity will go down and nobody else can cover my work. In Titansoft, our definition of teamwork is working on things together - even when it comes to coding, and by doing so we can cover each other’s work and mistakes and learn from each other.”
In the upcoming job fair organized by e2i, Titansoft is looking for programmers, creative designers, and UX designers.
4. Carousell – Keeping aligned through expansion
What is the story of this home-grown start-up firm that have created one of the most used shopping apps to local millennials? Five years ago, the three founders of Carousell - Marcus Tan, Quek Siu Rui and Lucas Ngoo saw that a tool simple enough for the mobile user to buy and sell was missing in Singapore’s local community. This initiated their passion to solve this gap using tech. The dynamic trio had since expanded the business from Singapore to 7 different markets across 19 major cities which include Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines and Australia.
Initially when the team was small, they found it easy to have discussions and meet-ups over meals. Then when they grew to about 30 employees, they transitioned to having Family-Friday meals together. Marcus Tan, Co-founder, President at Carousell shared, “Now at a stage of about 100 employees, being aligned must be deliberate and that is still a challenge we face.” The company practices holding an annual OKR (Objectives, Key Results) planning where everyone comes together to be aligned on top priorities and to ensure various functions are not working in silos, but collaborating cross-department and cross-functionality. “The only way to be agile is to be aligned on top-level issues. Once people can remember what the top priorities and overlying objectives are, they’re more likely to stay aligned and work together to reach that objective”, explains Marcus.
The vibrant start-up does its best to ensure their staff have relevant skillsets by constantly learning and developing, and the young management team humbly accepts their limitations by understanding the need for new hires with deeper experiences to train and mentor their young employees. Marcus recounts, “When we were at 3-30 employees, we were hiring people like ourselves – young, college grads, hungry to learn and wanting to solve problems. But as we scaled up we realized that these people who joined us also wanted to learn and be developed in their skills. That’s when we started hiring middle management and senior management so that they can help to coach and level-up the team.”
Their working spaces are deliberately designed in an open way to encourage a culture of open collaboration. Even management sits in a hot-desking style with everyone else and encourage their employees to bounce ideas off to them.
Carousell’s leadership is relentless when it comes to the five core values they inculcate into their current employees, as well as those they are looking to hire: (1) Be a problem solver (2) Be mission-first, (3) Care deeply about the problem at hand (4) Be relentlessly resourceful, and (5) Stay humble. Further to that, nearly all their employees are Carousell users. “We tend to look for people who have experienced selling things in their lives. This helps us in our user experience testing. As a seller, they would know the challenges in the classifieds experience of selling and what Carousell can do better each time.”
The team desires for local consumers to create a community experience by engaging within their neighborhood and school networks, a memorable example pointing to the touching “Uncle Postman” and hilarious Snorlax stories picked up on social media in 2015 and 2016. “We want to inspire people to sell, so that other people can benefit. What drives us is the passion to see more meaningful experiences that a buyer and seller can have. Our dream for the future is for everyone in the world to be able to sell things easily in the context of their local communities and eventually even across international borders”, shares Marcus.
On 12 July 2017, 10 companies across start-ups & small organisations, mid-sized organisations and MNCs/ large organisations emerged as the 10 Best Tech Companies to Work For 2017 at the Tech3 Forum organized by Singapore Computer Society (SCS), and supported by e2i, IMDA, and WSG.
They were judged based on five criteria: (1) Inspiring people culture, (2) spirit of innovation, (3) excellence people management, (4) effective human resource policies and (5) financial sustainability; from a rigorous selection which included site visits, employees’ interaction sessions and assessment by an independent panel of judges made up of 14 professionals across these organizations: The Business Times, NCS, Human Capital Singapore, V-Key Inc, Korn Ferry Hay Group Singapore, LinkedIn, Ministry of Manpower, Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), SGInnovate, Stream Global, Red Dot Ventures, SPH, Workforce Singapore (WSG), Employment & Employability Institute (e2i).The Award recognises four of the 10 Best Tech Companies To Work For as overall winners for their implementation of innovative practices and their demonstrated workplace excellence in the infoComm and digital media industry.
Follow these links for: Upcoming e-career fairs, career fairs, training previews, networking seminars and training sessions by e2i
Story by: R.Lee