Juliana Chua is the Head of Digital Transformation at NTUC Income. In this role, she is responsible for heading the programme to digitise core businesses through design thinking, agile methodology and change management.
What made you decide to do your degree in Computer Science?
Growing up I didn’t really have the hobbies a typical girl would, instead I enjoyed basketball, taekwondo and gaming, and it’s that love for gaming which piqued my interest in studying Computer Science. I opted for a degree in Computer Science because I wanted to do something that would allow my interest to speak for itself. It also gave me the opportunity to be involved in future trends like AI which I have studied and have since become technological trends.
When I did my degree in Loughborough, UK, I was one of only four females in my Computer Science cohort of over 100 students, so it was definitely a male dominated area. While that caught me by surprise at first, I never felt my gender held me back as everyone in the course was receptive towards the diversity.
Can you tell us about your career progression to date?
The first role I had was as a Patent Analyst at IBM in the UK, which was where my curiosity in emerging technologies began. With IBM being the highest generator of intellectual property (patents) worldwide to date, my experience there has helped me get a better understanding about protecting inventions, which I later learnt that only five to ten percent of patented inventions actually make it to the market. Coming back to Singapore, I joined an Australian-based IP law firm before going over to A*STAR on a EDB funded programme and eventually entered the start-up world.
What does your current role entail and why did you join Income?
In my current role I lead a number of core digital transformation projects. A recent successful core project would be our launch in making our top selling life insurance products available online, designed with customer experience in mind. Over the last 2 years, we have been busy building a highly talented collaborative team of digital minds, and adopting an agile way of working to bring ideas in our launch pipeline.
While insurance may seem quite different from my background, that was also a pull factor that intrigued me, as I wanted to be involved in the digitisation of insurance and be a part of Income’s journey of digital transformation. The ability to take upon a different perspective and with a customer lens also gave rise to our approach in design thinking.
What factors have enabled you to be successful in your career?
Curiosity, resiliency and a passion in venturing into the new. Every time I move into a new role I have felt the need to prove myself, not because of my gender but because I am new to that situation. What I’ve learnt is the importance to stay humble, have that hunger to learn and be able to handle ambiguity, which are all skills I look for when I’m hiring for my team.
What initiatives have you seen work well to encourage diversity and inclusion and what advice would you give to leaders wanting to promote it?
We can promote equality and diversity by creating an inclusive culture, ensuring equal access to opportunities, and enabling all staff to develop to their full potential. I think having awards that recognise and celebrate diversity is also helpful, for one, I was very lucky to have won the “Digital Leader of the Year” award at the 2019 Women in IT Awards Asia.
Fundamentally, in terms of advice for leaders, providing an open culture is critical. Ideas should be encouraged and I often find myself impressed by ideas from my team/project members. As leaders, we should foster transparency, be reflective of our own actions, and be upfront with our feedback. And lastly, be okay with not knowing everything.