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Data Analyst To Software Engineer: How To Explain Your Tech Job To Boomer Relatives This CNY


Chinese New Year is just around the corner and we know what this means for many Singaporeans: pineapple tart bingeing, new clothes, and of course, awkward conversations with people you see once a year.

Even with this year’s Covid restrictions on house visits and mingling, you’ll be on the receiving end of “what work are you doing now” quite a few times.

And if you’re a techie, you probably have struggled with how to describe your job, before settling for a lame “我做电脑”(I do computer stuff).

We feel your pain. So here’s a list of the most common tech jobs and explanations of what they entail that are simple enough for folks who are more familiar with titles like doctors, lawyers, and accountants.

We’ve also used a metaphor of a place that Singaporeans all love – the shopping mall — to help them understand better.

User Experience (UX) Designer

Say you’re building a shopping mall. You’ll need an architect to give the building an overall look and feel, lay the stores out coherently, and ensure the corridors and escalators optimise human traffic.

If you’re building a website or an app instead, the UX designer fulfills the same role in giving your site a pleasing, consistent look and ensuring that menus and navigation buttons are easy to find and placed in logical areas of the screen.

For example, a UX designer for an e-commerce site will plan out the navigation from adding items to cart to payment, ensuring that the process through a few different pages is smooth.

Software Engineer

An architect designs a shopping mall while an engineer builds it.

Similarly, a UX designer is the architect of a website, while a software engineer builds it. And just like there are different kinds of engineers, there are different software engineers too.

Broadly speaking, there are those who build the things you see and the things you don’t.

The team in charge of a building’s facade and landscaping is different from the people who put in the plumbing and electrical wiring.

Frontend software engineers build the website’s elements that you interact with, assembling the photos, videos, graphics, and text into one pleasing package.

Backend software engineers ensure that information flows smoothly so the website can load quickly on your device. They also build systems to store data like user information properly.

Cybersecurity Specialist

Let’s say your shopping mall sells expensive, luxury goods. You’ll want someone in charge of security to ensure that it’s difficult for burglars to break in.

You’ll need a comprehensive system of security alarms and security cameras, as well as strong vaults and locks.

Now that your mall is digital, you’ll need a cybersecurity specialist against hackers, the digital version of a burglar.

The cybersecurity specialist puts in defences and monitoring systems to prevent hackers from breaking in and stealing valuable information such as customers’ credit card details and personal information.

Product Manager

A shopping mall’s manager combines the needs of customers with the business objectives of the mall.

If the business wants to attract younger shoppers, the manager will have come up with a shortlist of brands that are appealing to young people and get them to set up shop in the mall.

Perhaps some redecoration is needed as well to refresh the mall and give it a more modern vibe. The manager has to pull everyone together to deliver on this goal.

A product manager also combines the needs of customers with the business objectives of the website.

If the website wants to attract younger shoppers, the manager will have to plan new webpages for new brands that appeal to the young and put in motion a refresh of the website’s interface.

He or she needs to rally product designers and software engineers to turn this goal into reality.

Data Analyst

A shopping mall has a team to monitor which stores are the most popular, and if a change in lighting and music caused shoppers to spend more.

They’ll also check on which walkways and escalators get more human traffic.

Data analysts carry out these functions for a website, monitoring which webpages are the most popular, which colours and layouts caused users to click more, and which navigation buttons get more usage.

Data analysts can even build a system to recommend additional items that are related to what online shoppers want to buy.

For example, a shopper who is buying a computer will get recommended a portable keyboard and mouse.

No More Tongue-Tied Awkwardness

If you celebrate Chinese New Year, may our article help your festive season be one of confident interactions with relatives.

Who knows, your new-found smoothness with the aunties and uncles may even lead to a fatter hong bao. You’re welcome.

And if all else fails, just say: “我和阿里巴巴的马云是同行!”(I’m in the same industry as Alibaba’s Jack Ma!)


This article first appeared on GovTech. You can also get byte-sized (geddit?) tech stories by GovTech here.


Featured Image Credit: GovTech




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