PRISM FRESHMEN EDITION
Taking the whole approach to learning
More than what we learn
Going the extra mile
Brought to you by
~ Editor In Chief ~ Melvrick Goh ~ Managing Editor~ Clarissa Goh ~ Design Editor ~ Ong Zhi Min ~ Editors ~ Lee Wee Nee Saiyidah Sainal Shanaaz Kamal Puan Youshuang ~ Writers ~ Kevin Quah Lim Yi Sheng ~ Contributors ~ UBS Chloe Lim Gan Tian Yao Guang Aloysius Lau Andre Ng Lee Jin Peh Xiangyang Tay Wen Bin Martin Chew ~ Photographers ~ Ci Qing Lee Wee Nee Robert Chai Wu Jing Long
’re crazy! Take a good hard look at yourself.” It’s a great phrase, ain’t it? A bold insult that helps you stop and think about how the rest of the world is seeing you. My family frequently says that to me, especially when they think that I’m spending too much time in school. Truth is, being young at heart (I’m sure you are too!), we’re trying to maximize what we can do here at SMU. Perhaps this may be a topic for another column, but I think that too often perceptions reduce us at SIS to zombies behind the mountains of code. I’m not going to go all paparazzi on that, but I think stereotypes rarely reflect the truth. I think most of us agree, as I realized over the past two years here, that you’re a swaggering witty bunch of students. That there are so many of us out there beyond the firewalls of code, leaders of community service projects, of your different curricular activities, even budding entrepreneurs out there making a name for yourself in the industry. Most of all, it is the rapport and unity here that makes us one family. Much of what I’ve seen inspired me to take a good hard look at what we’re doing here at SIS. Could we be more useful in helping one another through the burdens of life, while still demonstrating what SIS has to offer? Could the people we feature reveal how they did it so well, instead of just being a faraway dream? Could we be a guide to life in SIS well spent and not just a “geek in the screen?” So you’ll find in this issue a greater focus on our contributors’ personal thoughts and personas. Your Friend,
CONTENT PAGE 4 Interview with the Dean
6 Feature: Task Amigo 8 StarringSMU: Going the Distance, Making the Difference
10 11 12 13
Credit Suisse UBISOFT Ministry of Home Affairs CitiBank & UBS
STUDENT INTEREST GROUP:
15 White Hats
17 MetamorphoSIS 19 Glow 20 Sporting Feature: Tug-Of-War CASE COMPETITIONS:
21 APEX Biz-IT 23 InnovateIT 25 CodeXtreme 27 Curriculum 31 CMU Experience 33 SIS 10th Anniversary
By: Shanaaz Kamal & Ong Zhi Min
You may have met him in the lift, you may have seen him at your presentations, and he may even have interviewed you. We feature Dean Steven Miller, who has been with us since the founding of SIS. Here, we discuss his vision and ideas for us. SIS students are seen as being different. What do you envision us to be? Clearly, if you compare us to the other schools, we have more peer-learning. People [in SIS] have to coordinate work, solve problem and verify concepts very closely. IS students are known for being focused but it’s not about Information Systems. We take a whole approach to making things happen, to problem solving. Given the rigorous curriculum and a strong emphasis on team projects that model real-world applications, IS students are trained to take on complex challenges. We can throw ourselves in the middle of situations; be it management, organisational strategy or technology. From a freshmen perspective, probably even as a student, you might not be able to see that learning curve. But it’s part of creating the environment if you will: Choosing the ingredients, working with the ingredients and adapting [to] the recipe. For example, if you take Software Engineering, it is clear that you learn about project management in the context of creating software solutions. However, what most do not realise is that this very intensive experience they just went through to manage the resources, risk and
6 completion of their project throughout a complex design-create-implement lifecycle will give them a strong foundation for managing any type of complex project throughout the rest of their entire career.
How then, do we go about facilitating this sort of learning environment? Self-learning is a very big part of our curriculum. Have a look at the FYP (Final Year Projects) poster and demo fairs that our students put up; it showcases their enthusiasm and creativity that is the very innovation that we try to encourage.
FEATURE: TASK AMIGO
To improve this environment, we need to have constant change that can maximize the likelihood of this creative renewal. You can think of it along four dimensions: Content We have to achieve an equal balance between materials that can be taught within and without the seminar room–this is the context of the SIS curriculum. Learning How should we even use class time? How do we deliver content to students? We challenge our students to think critically amongst their peers instead of having answers given to them. Professional Students are instilled with the technical understanding to know what it takes to use information systems and application software tools to make change. This isn’t simple when you have to go through many steps and thus involves multiple stakeholders and organisations. IS students are exposed to enough of these concepts to try out new things and make changes. Future Possibilities Technology is ever-changing. Analytics, mobile applications and outsourcing are done on a global scale. It is important to provide students with learning opportunities that enable them to foresee and adapt these trends for professional roles. Right now, we are working on these different dimensions. We have the LARC (Living Analytics Research Centre) and LiveLabs. We have 52 PhD students running around whom you guys sometimes interact with. We have partnerships with companies like Tata; we are kicking off a project with DHL on sustainable supply chains. The important thing is how we open ourselves up to sense, learn and adapt that makes SIS a very innovative place to learn. What advice do you have for the incoming batch of students? A lot of people have preconceived notions about IT when they hear Information Systems. The reality is that when our students graduate; they work in a wider range of industry, a wider range of job roles and earn a higher average starting pay than most other programs. Talk to our students about their personal take on this experience and what the experience is doing for them! What motivates them to put in the time and effort that you do in this place? Take a look at their outputs. These outputs lead to all sorts of possibilities, be it technology, management, inter-phase of the two, or even entrepreneurship. Our students get jobs in interesting places and in a wide range of capacities. And it’s this diversity that makes them attractive in the market. Hence, I strongly recommend potential students to chat with our existing students; this will really reflect what they learn here.
By: Clarissa Goh SMU students- we are an insanely busy bunch, there’s always something going on, somewhere to be. On top of that, we have a million things to do: collect name cards from the printer’s, help your mom get stuff for Chinese New Year or fix that table from IKEA you bought three months ago- you’ve just been too busy with all the school work to do it! So many things to do, so very little time, don’t you wish that there was someone who could do it for you? Now where can you find someone who could do those tasks for you? Enter TaskAmigo - it’s a website where you can post your tasks to find others to do them for you. And the brains behind this online errand running service? Our very own Peh Xiangyang, who is now a year 3 student and is the founder of TaskAmigo. Join us as he talks about his brainchild and about starting your very own business in IT. Q: Where did you get the inspiration for TaskAmigo? This was a short while after I had completed Software Engineering (IS203)- I was feeling pretty empowered by what I had learnt and really wanted to create a web app but didn’t have an idea of what to create. Interestingly, the idea came when I was trying to put some furniture together and was getting a little frustrated when I thought: “I’ll bet I could pay someone who would have the time and knowhow to fix this for me in a heartbeat.”
me who needed someone to run errands but didn’t know where to find them, and it dawned on me that I could offer this as a service to others. Q: What were some of the things you did when you were starting out? I did some research on the idea and it turns out that there is a similar service that’s offered in the US, but has yet to be done in Singapore so I believed that it would be viable to do this for the local market. I also attended a tech startup event called Echelon to find out more about entrepreneurship in technology and spoke with many there to get advice on how to get the ball rolling.
It started out as a summer pet project to create a website that could do just that. As the project After that I posted on Techcofounder to look for potential collaborators. Fortunately for me, I grew, I realized that there were many others like
7 found someone who was interested in starting a business in the region and we went on from there. We approached several institutions for funding with our proposal and business plans and eventually managed to secure one from Spring Singapore.
working hard to make this a reality. We are also looking for others, especially students who are interested to work and expand with us and students from IS are most welcome to join us and learn more about managing and working in a startup.
What we did after that was to execute our business strategy by finding people who were interested in being our errand runners so that there was a reliable pool of people to run those errands. Most of what we have done up to this point was really to build a foundation for the business.
Q: What have you learnt from developing a startup? Developing a startup is a truly unique experience. A startup is evidently a lot smaller so there are many things that you would have to do yourself. As a result, you get exposure to a whole range of jobs roles that you would not otherwise be able to experience if you were working in a large company.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you faced when building a tech startup like TaskAmigo? Well, our idea was not as well received in the early stages as most Singaporeans tend to be later adopters of innovations so they were not as open to this which was a rather novel idea at the time. Another thing we realized was that this was successful in the US because they had a different social structure and by association, market structure. Many Americans typically live individually while most Singaporeans lived in family units. Due to this difference in social structure, Americans relied a lot more on the internet and its related services for their needs. To counter that problem, we altered our business and marketing strategy to suit that of the local market and so we started exploring other areas in which we could develop the business. After some deliberation, we decided to move our strategy from marketing directly to consumers to businesses instead so that we could reach more people- employees would learn of us from their company’s employment of our services. Q: So where is TaskAmigo headed in terms of development? We are going through some major growth at the moment and are working with Singtel to bring TaskAmigo to foreign markets. This is an important point of our development and we are
I also learnt that a business strategy is very important if you want your company to have some measure of success- it gives you a plan for developing the business. Q: Any advice for budding/ fellow entrepreneurs? Do your research and learn as much as you can about everything related to the business. My specialization was in programming and even though TaskAmigo was web-based I couldn’t rely solely on my IT skills and had to learn more about running a business as well. If your business doesn’t take off immediately, don’t be discouraged. Maybe you’ve been approaching it the wrong way, try to find out what went wrong and rectify it. Don’t give up just because there are some people who are skeptical of your idea, especially if you believe that it could benefit others. Listen to what the naysayers have to say- while they may not be receptive to your idea, they may raise some valid points as to why they think it won’t work and you can use them as learning points to improve your business strategy.
starringSMU: Going the Distance, Making the Difference By: Melvrick Goh University is probably our final phase of formal education. Sure, seminars and projects are critical to our learning, but can we also do more with our time to perhaps make a difference in someone else’s life. Nobody embodies this more than Lee Jin (Year 2) and we hear his thoughts about life in SIS and his motivation to go that distance as President of starringSMU’12. What is starringSMU? Established since 2007, starringSMU is the largest community service project held for freshmen joining SMU each year. The intent of starringSMU is to nurture a culture of caring and bonding in society through the execution of its community service projects. In starringSMU’12, we rolled out a series of events; namely, starringCAMP, starringCARWASH, starringGIVESBACK and starringNIGHT: starringCamp through interactive games and community service, aims to assimilate freshmen into the SMU family while promoting the spirit of giving back as part of SMU’s core values. The first day of the camp saw participants engaged in a home maintenance project on their first community service task with the disadvantaged, cleaning up houses and interacting with the residents. The objective was to raise awareness of the lives and living condition of the homeless in Singapore. starringCarwash defies traditional notions of community service by aiming to spread the SMU spirit and youth vivacity. The main beneficiary for this event, merited through the raising of funds was ‘My Buona Vista Place’; a one-stop centre for social welfare programmes reaching out to over 20,000 residents in the estate. Apart from organizing regular social activities, the centre also seeks to be an information point for those seeking and providing social assistance. starringGivesBack aims to give back to the community by serving them in little ways. Our beneficiaries were The Salvation Army, Kits4Kids and Surya Home and activities were held over 3 days. The heart of the project was the starringFLASHMOB, performed during lunch hour at Raffles Place Park to raise awareness of these beneficiaries. After the performance, hand-made awareness cards were distributed to the audience.
starringNight is starringSMU’12’s finale event. We collaborated with our beneficiaries to organize a concert, to raise funds and the public’s awareness towards our beneficiaries’ causes. Themed ‘Battle for a Cause’, bands from the various tertiary institutes in Singapore (NUS, NTU, SMU, SP, RP, NYP, NP, TP) were invited to battle it out, and attracted a crowd of 1200. Guest performers 53A and local YouTube Star, Clarence Liew, were invited to grace the event. What inspired you to take charge of starringSMU’12? I enjoy doing community service projects as they are very meaningful and impactful. Previously, I led an overseas community service project (OCSP, Project Open Hearts 2) to Laos and worked closely with my project manager, Tan Gek Cheng, in the C4SR (Centre for Social Responsibility). She convinced me to lead starringSMU’12. Knowing the extensive nature of starringSMU’s impact, I was keen to challenge myself to do more with starringSMU’12. Given the heavy commitment, how do you go about managing your workload? A planner and a proper project timeline mapped out. To be honest, I was juggling between starringSMU, setting up a social enterprise in the CITI-YMCA social enterprise challenge, mentoring my OCSP and working on my studies at the same time. I even had an appendicitis operation during week 7 of my second term! Most importantly were my group of friends from SIS and starringSMU who would help me unconditionally. If anything, it’s the SIS culture at work, I’ve had seniors making time and offering consultation sessions even when they do not get anything in return. If anything, what sort of advice would you offer us readers? We only have 4 years. Make full use of that time in SMU to do something and make that difference!
By: Lee Wee Nee
Internship experiences are few of the most exciting parts of university life, where you venture out in to different sectors of the society, and maybe even secure a job before graduation. Tay Wen Bin, our year 3 SIS senior, tells us how he got into Credit Suisse as an intern and the amazing 10 weeks he spent there. By taking the initiative to source for his internship, Wen Bin steadily got the opportunity to work at Credit Suisse after stages of tests and interviews. Ten weeks at Credit Suisse enabled him to learn both technical knowledge and soft skills as he was given the opportunity to work with people across different departments, not just the information technology (IT) department. As an analyst, Wen Bin had to monitor and ensure the day to day operation of the information systems in Credit Suisse are in good working condition. Besides that, the technical skills he learnt in SIS also allowed him to aid the development of Java codes to monitor queues on TIBCO EMS server, and the documenting of a manual to aid integrations of applications in the future. This had definitely enhanced Wen Bin’s technical skills and gave him a greater picture of what it is like working in large financial companies like Credit Suisse. The internship program gave the interns a chance to experience what a permanent staff at Credit Suisse would go through, like e-learning and many other programmes. Having seen and been through internships in the banking industry, Wen Bin attained a clearer perspective of the career path that he might want to pursue after graduation. Aspiring to venture out and attain even more learning experiences in the different working environment in other sectors, Wen Bin aims to acquire an overseas internship later this year. When asked for tips to get internships into multinational corporations in the financial sector like Credit Suisse, Wen Bin emphasized how he had to work with people and to speak up during both group and one-on-one interviews before coming through. And ultimately, the advice was: Consult the seniors, they have been through it, and they will teach you a lot. Later in the day, I came across to Wen Bin’s name on the Dean’s list for the previous years, which he did not mention during the interview. This is by far the most humble Dean’s list honoree I have met, and perhaps being humble is the greatest tip of all, my friends!
CITIBANK & UBS
By: Clarissa Goh
Did you know that banking and finance is one of the most popular industries for SMU’s graduates to intern and start out in? How about you? Are you considering a career in banking too? Maybe you’re wondering how you can play a role in the banking industry with a degree in Information Systems? Meet Gan Tian, she’s in year 4 of her course of study in IS and has completed two internships- one in Citibank and the other with UBS, both of which are big names in banking, and we caught up with her recently to learn more about her experiences interning at these banking giants. Q: Which internship did you start out with? I started at Citibank in the summer of my second year and interned at UBS during the next summer. I did two internships as the first was to try out how it would be like to work in the banking industry while the second was to experience working in my preferred company.
it at the end of the internship. The project was on performing and standardizing system checks across various offices in the region.
Q: How would you compare your internship experience between both banks? The main difference was that the internship I did with Citibank was not part of an internship proQ: What kind of responsibilities were you tasked gram while the one at UBS was. with? I was working in the e-Business department at My internship at UBS was more of a long-term inCitibank and my job there was in quality assur- terview so I had the opportunity of getting a return ance. Even though the job was in the e-business offer if I did well. Shortly after my internship ended, department, it was less tech-based. My main tasks I was offered a place in UBS. For other students who involved obtaining and analyzing consumer feed- are also looking to work in your preferred banks afback regarding Citibank’s mobile services and to ter graduation, it would be good to look for those communicate the feedback to the tech support with formal internship programs as they are more likely to provide return offers. team. The UBS internship on the other hand was more technical- there were three levels of tech support within the company and I was placed at the most technical end. I was given my own project to handle and had to give a presentation
Q: What are some of the advantages of undertaking a formal internship program? There was more training involved- things like learning how the industry and UBS in particular
worked. We also had the opportunity to speak with various department heads to learn more about the other departments so that we were not just isolated in the tech department and know nothing of how the rest of the bank functions. I found these really useful as it increased my interest in banking.
regularly with our school so they know the caliber of our students and are interested to have us intern at their companies.
One thing I realized was that budgeting is really important in the banks and was an aspect that I had to actively manage. This is something that you don’t really think about in school projects as most of the projects we do are not actually implemented so there’s very little pressure on budgets.
Q: Any advice for others from IS who want to explore a career in banking and finance? Be prepared to go through several rounds of interviews- they usually involve logical and numerical tests, one-to-one interviews and also group discussions with other interviewees.
Q: What do you think the banks are specifically looking for in IS students? Since many areas of technology can be outsourced, the banks are not really looking for programmers. They prefer to have students who are of management and leadership quality- those who have a good idea of both IT and business to facilitate the integration of these two important areas.
Be confident and be ready to provide specific answers at your interviews- substantiate your points and give detailed examples. SMU students are known for our eloquence so we should make full use of that. Interviewers also like to ask about different scenarios to see how you would handle them so think of a few scenarios they might ask about before going for your interview.
There is more emphasis on soft skills and less on technical skills- as long as you are familiar with the basics it is good enough as technology moves very quickly so it is more important to learn as you go.
There is no need to vie for leadership in group discussions- there are other roles that are just as important so if you do those well it will be noticed too. Lastly, it is always important to show your motivation and willingness to learn.
Q: What is the working culture like in both banks? There was more of a hierarchical structure in Citibank, maybe because there is a greater Asian inAnother part of the program I liked was that they fluence there so people are more particular about took a holistic approach towards training their in- hierarchy. However, my boss was always willing to terns- we got to attend wine tasting classes and help if I had any problems so it turned out well. took part in community service activities. In contrast, UBS had a greater Western influence Q: What are some of the challenges that you and had a flat organization approach so that made it easier to speak to everyone. The company also faced? The corporate way of thinking was an area that focused a lot on work life balance so work is rather flexible as long as you work efficiently took me some time to get used to.
15 STUDENT INTEREST GROUP
Q: As the newly appointed president, are there any changes that you would like to propose? Under the previous lead, Xin Chu, we had all of the events led and run by Executive Community. The new leadership respects the previous style of leadership but believes that more could be done with the members.
By: Puan Youshuang
Whitehat Society is a SMU SIS Special Interest Group (SIG), part of the School of Information Systems (SIS) and founded by students who are passionate about information security. We spoke to the upcoming president, Andre Ng, to obtain insights on what the society has to offer and his unique style of leadership. Q: What are the main objectives of Whitehat Society? Whitehat Society has three objectives. Firstly, it seeks to be the student representative body for information security to both internal and external parties. Secondly, it aims to promote information security awareness in SMU and encourage research involving the field of information security. Finally, it hopes to promote information security as a profession. Q: What does Whitehat have to offer to its members? My answer to that would be plenty. We offer the chance for the students in SMU to learn more about the information security profession and experience the Information Security landscape in Singapore. This is achieved through constant liaison with industry professionals, non-profit communities as well as spreading awareness and knowledge. We have assisted in securing internships and scholarships for our members who wish to pursue a career in Information Security. Q: Could you share some of the upcoming events? We have two events in line for this semester. CyberCrime Workshop In this workshop we will demonstrate two forms of Cyber-attacks namely the Trojan exploit and Facebook identity theft. Participants will get to
STUDENT INTEREST GROUP 16
experience these real world exploits and try it for themselves. In addition, students will learn counter measures to prevent these exploits and avoid such risks. To ensure ethical behaviour and use of the knowledge obtained, we will require all students to sign a form of disclaimer. Furthermore, students will be introduced to the Computer Misuse Act (Singapore). In addition, there will also be workshops and hands-on training for Computer Network Security. Topics covered in these sessions will easily complement modules like IS302: Information Security and Trust. Q: Let’s move on to a more personal question. Why did you join Whitehat Society? I am a member of Edgis, a student led Security Interest Group in Singapore. In my free time, I write and share about some of the exploits that I have tried and tested. All exploits are conducted in a controlled environment whereby I am both, the attacker and victim. Occasionally, I managed to get a volunteer. In addition, I conduct Security Awareness sessions amongst secondary schools in Singapore under my former polytechnic (SP). In short, my interest lies in Information Security and being a part of SMU Whitehat Society deems to be a natural choice for me
We seek to empower each member to pursue and specialize in their own interest within Information Security. Members are encouraged to take ownership of their learning experience in Whitehat and conduct their own events or sharing sessions. A horizontal hierarchy will replace the traditional
Exco hierarchy to facilitate knowledge sharing and generate more opportunities for its members. Instead of titles, persistent roles and responsibilities will be given to select members based on either their skillset or proficiency. These “subject matter experts” would then form the foundation for members to build their proficiency and knowledge upon it. In summary, members of Whitehat can look forward to more opportunities in making an impact within this interest group. There will be more opportunities, more learning, more action and more fun. With a horizontal hierarchy there will be no directives, only facilitators.
METAMORPHOSIS By: Lee Wee Nee
On the first day of your freshman year at SIS, you sit at the Big Steps at SIS looking out for people in the shirt of the same colour as yours, or at least someone who looks familiar enough for you to talk to. You do not consider it to be the first step into SIS, you do not, till you go through the highlight of your freshmen experience- MetamorphoSIS. Martin Chew, a freshman of 2012, gives us the answers to what you can look forward to at the camp. Like many other freshmen, Martin was expecting activities to be lined up one after another, like what you get from many other camps you join in school. The only exception is that MetamorphoSIS is the camp where you get to meet people whom you will probably see in class and even work with for the next four years. Isn’t that important? A series of activities, such as the Tower Defense, were held on campus. An entire clan using all their wit and might to protect a single piece of newspaper from getting wet may sound silly, but this is probably one of those moments we would never forget. You know this is definitely true as even when half a year in SMU has passed, Martin still chuckles as he recalls about Tower Defense. A trip to Sentosa on the second day with messy face paint under the hot sun, Martin jokingly suggested “Even if we complain about the weather, we whine together.” And at the end of the day, even though everyone was wet from the games and burnt from the sun, the camaraderie and fellowship we’ve enjoyed was all worth it. Fun aside, time is also allocated for the seniors to guide all freshmen in the bidding of modules; tips on which modules to bid for, what is a suitable bid price, and advice on doing well in each module. Besides all the activities planned out for the freshmen, our friend Martin recalls the best part of the camp was the time where each group gets to have their own time to have dinner outside of school, and the heart to heart talk during the night. Words cannot do justice to the experience you will have. There is only one way, and that is to join us and be in the thick of action at Metamorphosis!
KEY EVENTS SPORTING EVENT: TUG-OF-WAR
By: Kevin Quah
Every year the different schools in SMU engage in a series of sporting competition such has handball and basketball as part of the Inter-Faculty Games (IFG). Here, we feature the final event of the SMU IFG, Tug-Of-War, and this is a tradition of Patron’s Day in SMU since 2003. All six schools came together to face off against each other for the crown of Tug-Of-War Champion. And boy, did Team SIS pull.
By: Lee Wee Nee
As an incoming freshman, you will experience a series of events such as school camps that will mark the start of your SMU journey. For SIS students, the inaugural GLOW is the capstone bash that ends off the freshmen experience for the fledging SIS student. I have had the opportunity to speak to pageant winners Hoi Chuen and Wen Qian who emerged king and queen of GLOW 2012, where they shared about their intriguing experience from being approached by seniors to join the SIS pageant to eventually becoming the king and queen of SIS. Fame aside, it is also the friendships formed with not only the freshmen, but also the organizing committee. GLOW is one of the many events in SIS that gives freshmen a chance to better integrate into the SIS community. Wen Qian shared about their preparations for the GLOW, where they stayed till midnight outside the Research Lab to prepare for catwalks, and put on a good show at GLOW 2012. Integral to GLOW as a pageant contestant is the numerous outfits that you have put on and this means working out the correct combination to the perfect fit for each theme. “Amongst the freshmen, we are the pioneers of staying back in school till late” added the humourous Hoi Chuen. While many say SIS students are the geeks and nerds among the vibrant SMU community, GLOW shows you that different side of SIS students. To Wen Qian and Hoi Chuen, GLOW gave them a chance to meet many friends and seniors who not only had a lot of fun together, but also who would lend them a hand at school work. To them, this became a wonderful reflection of the camaraderie and friendships that GLOW, as part of the freshmen experience, managed to foster.
Led by the enormously formidable Max Wang, and anchored by the equally enormous (but much more Teddy-bear-ish) Marcus Lee, the team assembled at 4PM and prepared for their first showdown against the team from the School of Accountancy. We took the first game against SOA, but our opponents took the second game as soon as the sides were swapped. It was down to the third game, and everyone thought it would be a tough fight, but we dispatched our opponents easily. Between games, the SIS team took the opportunity to take plenty of photos, with their throngs of loyal supporters and amongst themselves. Team SIS proved to the rest of the schools that big spirit comes in small packages too, by fielding the petite Beatriz as one of their female pullers. It was time for their second match, this time against the School of Law. While they wielded plenty of determination and moxie, Team SIS soundly defeated the Bar in a quick succession of two games. I always have conflicted feelings when that happens. Team SIS was made up of SIS students from all years with ‘oldies’ like Brennan Neoh and Bryan Tan coming back to yank for SIS one last time. If there were an award for best integration between years, we’d win it for sure. With the group stages out of the way, Team SIS went on to face Team Bondue from the School of Business in the semifinals. Bondue was visibly exhausted from their previous bout with Sosci, but they had big guys. Really big guys. Undaunted, Team SIS routed them 2-0 to earn a place in the finals. On the other end of the field, SOA went on to beat Sosci to earn their spot in the finals. This meant that SIS had to face their very first opponents again.The two teams faced off in a tense, highly supported finals. Team SIS pulled the rope closer towards SIS, and Asoc pulled theirs towards SOA. But the match was over as quickly as it began. While both teams were visibly exhausted from their previous matches, SIS showed greater might, determination and coordination. The victory was swift, precise and methodical; almost like a piece of modularized, object-oriented code. As if by cue, the moment Team SIS were declared the winners, the clouds erupted in a heavy downpour. It was like the weather was waiting for us to win. Thank you, Mr. Raincloud! They earned $500 in cash, and 10 Inter-Faculty Games points. Congratulations once more to Team SIS for reclaiming the title of Tug-Of-War Champions!
21 CASE COMPETITIONS
CASE COMPETITIONS 22
APEX Biz IT GLOBAL
I hope that with these prior experiences that I would become a better mentor for the next president and to be able to help him / her to better cope with the heavy responsibilities of the position.
By: Saiyidah Sainal Now in its fifth year, the APEX Business- IT Global Case Competition (APEXBiz-IT) which is hosted by our university is a highly anticipated student led competition which amalgamates various information systems and technology schools from all over the globe. This competition would not have been possible if not for the sacrifices taken by some outstanding individuals like Yao Guang, whoâ€™s here to tell us about his turn as president for APEX 2012. How did you come about to joining this student led activity (APEX)? It started out in year 1 when I was part of the subcommittee. My task was basically to organise and plan out the five day event. When I was in year 2, I was honoured with the position of president due to my prior experience with the event. There were however, certain setbacks that I had to overcome before getting said position. The dean was concerned that the responsibilities that came with the position would be too heavy for a year 2 student as it was a crucial year for us to clear our core modules. What made you decide to take up the challenge to organise APEX? I felt that what APEX does is highly relevant to what I am learning in my course of study (Bsc-ISM) so I decided to take this as an opportunity to further my knowledge. Having taken part in many cocurricular activities such as having been a prefect and a crime ambassador had also given me the confidence to take up the challenge. What motivated you throughout your journey with APEX? Organising an event of this scale was trying to say the least. Planning started from September and it was an eight month long process to put everything together by April. It was our dean, Steven Miller who kept us motivated every step of the way by offering words of encouragement to keep us settled. We also had a great team dynamic where everyone was taking the initiative to help one another so that we stayed on top of our tight schedule. Were there any difficulties you faced during your conquest? There were definitely difficulties that emerged throughout the process and they were both personal and collective in nature. Personally, I find myself questioning about the amount of control that I should exercise over my team without infringing on their autonomy. As I was in charge of overall decision making in all departments, I had a big leadership role to partake in. This in itself was a challenge as I was not used to having such a role. As for the team, we had to fully utilise our time as there were many tight deadlines to meet. We also had to ensure that we could improve on the work done in previous years.
What have you learnt from organising an event of this scale? Due to my undertaking as president, I have learnt how to manage people as I had to meet and interact with many different persons. This position had also provided me with many opportunities to reflect as I would always have to come back to earlier decisions to ensure that it was right or if I could have done better. I have also learnt how to handle larger responsibilities. Ultimately, it was an on-going process of learning from mistakes, and I believe that these are the crucial experiences that could help me in future. Any advice for individuals who are interested in joining APEX? Passion. Passion is what pulls you through the tough times of organising the event. However, I can assure you that once you have completed the event successfully, the rewards are satisfying. The bond that you share with other members is priceless as you work very closely with them. I strongly urge those with PASSION to take up this challenge. How would you describe this experience in a word or phrase? Unforgettable.
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Were there any difficulties that you faced? It was pretty smooth. It was a combination of reasons: I had a team of people that could work together, and I had a lot of support from the supervising professor which was a huge aid. I had also worked for a few years which made me experienced in certain areas of the process. To be frank, the main challenge of this project was how we had to coordinate with other departments. This was an area that would lead to a lot of disputes if any miscommunication arose. Other than issues on the admin side, the other parts of the process were handled quite efficiently. Any advice for other students who want to take up this challenge? A lot of freedom would be granted to you in such a project. As such, you would have to be intelligent in how you control this freedom. This freedom comes with a responsibility to complete your tasks efficiently. I would advise individuals who are taking up the same position or other similar positions that while being ambitious is good, don’t be overly ambitious. What learning points have you gotten out of this competition? What I got out from this competition is the aspect of managing people. I got to meet a lot of people from external sources. It was a good way to network with others in the industry and gain good exposure. Who knows, you might even find your desired internships through this networking.
By: Saiyidah Sainal
InnovateIT is a business IT competition organised by our school that aims to foster an interest in the use of IT to add value to businesses. It hopes to cultivate an interest in IT by inspiring students to utilize information technology as a tool to enhance businesses creatively. PRISM talks with Aloysius Lau, the president of InnovateIT 2012 to learn more about what it takes to manage this business case competition. How did you wind up joining the organising committee for InnovateIT? I was in the subcommittee of the business case executive competition before being nominated by the previous president to take up the position of president for InnovateIT 2012. What motivated you to take up the challenge of running this competition? This was new to me so I took it as an opportunity to try out something that would give me a challenge. While other CCAs offered a variety of different experiences, I was more inclined to engage in one that involved IT as I have a passion for it and wanted to do something that is in sync with what I am learning in SIS. Although I would usually prefer to be a follower because I could get to know the leaders and learn how they lead and delegate, I wanted to stretch my leadership capabilities as a personal challenge. While I am comfortable with either position, I felt that there was much to learn from being being in a leadership position and running this competition.
Aloysius yielded many benefits from running the competition and was able to gain insights while sharpening his IT skills. There are also great opportunities for individuals to network with big names in the industry through this competition. And with that, we conclude Aloysius’ journey with Benjamin Disraeli’s impactful quote, “The secret of success is to be ready when YOUR opportunity comes.”
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By: Lee Wee Nee & Saiyidah Sainal Arranged By: Clarissa Goh 24 hours of coding? Does that even sound possible? Well, nothing is impossible for team Terabytes who emerged as victors of CodeXtreme, an annual competition where industry professionals and students from various institutions are pitted against one another in a coding battle royale. The key to Terabytes’ success was the endearingly named ‘Speechify’, an application they built from scratch which was aimed at closing communication gaps between older and younger generations. It comes with a suite of language translators and incorporates the use of images to make it useful for the elderly to utilize. As the main event venue for the competition, SMU gave them a home ground advantage by showering them with avid support from their peers. Friends in SMU provided them with heartening food that not only filled their stomachs but also fuelled their morale. Of course, this win would not have happened without the encouragement and advice given to them by their mentor, Professor Lee Yeow Leong. His support was one of the major reasons they decided to take a dive and join this competition in the first place. The road to victory and glory is rarely smooth, and the three of them had to overcome many obstacles to achieve this. Their summer holidays were devoted to preparing for the competition, and team confidence dipped when they realised that a new programming language had to be used. Besides, it didn’t make things any easier that it was their first time building an application from scratch. All of the sacrifices paid off when the Terabytes reclaimed the title that had eluded SMU for six years by clinching first place in CodeXtreme and bringing the accolades back home.
The axioms “you reap what you sow” and “never give up” pulled them through the competition, and these are the little glints of insight that they would like to share with everyone. Some friends eat together, some friends play together, but the Terabytes? They code together.
Prepared By: Puan Youshuang & Ong Zhi Min
IS101: Seminar on Information Systems
IS201: Object Oriented Application Development
I enjoy taking this module as it helps me understand the Contributions from my classmates also allow me to understand the cases from different perspectives. Another different concepts of business and IT. skill that I found helpful was learning to write a convincThe topics covered such as IT governance, knowledge ing IT related proposal, which I am sure will be of use in management and enterprise systems allow me to under- my future IT career. stand how IT can help to create business value. Throughout the course, we are given the chance to facilitate a real world case study and this allows me to develop my case analysis skill as well as understand the difficulties faced by professionals in respective industries.
Did you know that Steve Jobs was a huge proponent of Object-Oriented Application Development (OOAD) back the 1980s? That’s right, his vision for developing software in this manner made today’s popular Mac OS X and iOS operating systems possible!
Gaining such knowledge and experience will definitely help when I am placed in a similar predicament in future.
TEH KAI WEN YEAR 1
IS103: Computational Thinking Computational Thinking is a course which introduces a new way of thinking. It builds our capability in formulising complicated problems into a computationally solvable problem. One such example is recursion, an elegant way of solving repetitive problem type. With recursion, you could reduce the time spent on writing countless lines of codes and minimise unnecessary errors. The best part of this is that it doesn’t involve coding and the knowledge acquired could be applied in other fields. Personally, my main takeaway from this course is definitely the technical ability in approximating a problem size. In addition, I learnt to identify the type of problem I am dealing with, by breaking a large problem set to smaller ones, so that it becomes clearer and solvable.
(i.e. domain diagrams, SSDs, SDs, class diagrams) to facilitate coding as well as adopting good design concepts like the MVC architecture and utilising the Object-Oriented design principle.
OOAD requires you to immerse yourself further in the While OOAD exposes you to advanced Java program- world of Java. Java, like any language, demands significant ming features, the main crux of it lies in preparing you to amount of hard work in order to achieve excellence. plan and document your software development process. We are after all in a “management” university! In OOAD, one will learn about translating business requirements into various documents
VICTOR CHUA YEAR 2
IS202: Data Management I would advise students to take this course as the things you learnt is hardly taught anywhere else. I applied to my Final Year Project the concept of approximation to resolve a problem involving an infinite number of solutions due to the abundance in probable outcomes. This is applicable as a viable solution and can help companies reduce cost.
YOSIN ANGGUSTI YEAR 4
Database management is a module which teaches the fundamentals of relational database theory and crucial data management concepts such as data modelling, database design, implementation and data access. There are classroom exercises, lab work and projects which allowed me to gain hands-on experiences on the concepts learnt based on real-life business scenarios. Besides being able to apply SQL and PHP language efficiently, I am now able to analyse data requirements at a higher level and to develop the best solutions to suit the business needs. At the same time, I learn to be more patient when handling the module as it requires me to spend more time
practicing before I am able to master all the concepts and be familiar with software I need to use. For students who are taking this module, PRACTICE! When you practice, you will have a better understanding of the concepts taught and will be able to apply them more efficiently overtime.
JANE LEE YEAR 2
IS200: IS Software Foundations
IS203: Software Engineering
For students that entered SIS without any background It is important to treat the problems as challenges that in programming, IS200 would be the very first time that you have to overcome to become better at programming. Certainly, being able to analyse problems well they would be exposed to programming. would help you along in IS200. Naturally it would appear to be a very new and often daunting experience. Personally, I took a fair bit of time to develop the programming mindset of having to break down a complex problem into smaller and more manageable ones. However, the course is structured well to slowly ease students into programming.
There are a few modules in SIS that students regard as My two cents worth; Dream big and aim high for your "milestone mods" - Software Engineering (SE) is one of project, as what you get out of SE depends on the them. No doubt, it is a tough module. But more than that amount of effort you put into it! are the skills learnt and valuable experiences gained. Next, start early and be consistent, as the scale and SE is the first module where we get to apply all our pro- scope of the project makes it impossible to complete gramming knowledge to building a fully functional web at the last minute. Finally, invest in your teammates application. In teams of five, we are tested not just on and do not try to do things alone, as SE is more about our technical skills, but how well we manage our project the development process than the final product. schedule, our team process, and our 'project client'. Some challenges include handling the ever changing requirements and software bugs. It can be nerve wrecking when these unforeseen issues cause delays to your project schedule.
That said, doing well in the course means consistent selfpractice and review of the concepts taught.
LAM KEE WEI YEAR 1
SE is the embodiment of ‘self-directed learning’, where many of the technologies required for the project will not be not taught in class, but found from online resources.
GEOFFREY GOH YEAR 2
Prepared By: Puan Youshuang & Ong Zhi Min
IS301: Enterprise Integration Enterprise Integration is a course that is very much technical, but don’t expect it to be the ‘next level’ following ISSF, OOAD and SE. You will learn the skills most relevant to putting a system for a business together. EI is the introduction of the concept of integration between applications within an organization as well as between organizations to enable business collaboration. My takeaway from this course is that systems are not always as stable as you expect them to be. Strange things that we can’t explain happen all the time. One moment something might be working and the next it could be irrevocably broken, and you spend the next few hours
IS304: Process Modelling & Solutions Blueprinting trying to fix it. Restart your TIBCO Service whenever you try anything new. It’s a hassle but gives you less of a headache in the long run.
KEVIN QUAH YEAR 3
IS302: Information Security & Trust Information Security & Trust is an introductory course to a massive world of war and deception. From this course, students will learn the fundamentals to the ways of the information security professional, a ninja who is able to wield off a thousand internet attacks a day. How is information protected in the information world? How to protect networks and information systems? How can we break and decode secret messages? How can we ensure that our own messages cannot be decoded? These are what I’ve learnt from this course, together with an analytical perception of information security in our daily lives. When you have completed this course, you will see that information systems which are not protected are weak in security and can be easily exploited.
Learn the ways of the ninja! Students should not hesitate to plunge into the technical aspects of security. Information Security is all about the technical aspect! With an understanding of the systems that you protect, you will naturally be able to rationalize and perform the right technique to counter the attack. May you defend the honour of your systems and have fun in this course!
LAI XIN CHU YEAR 3
IS303: Architectual Analysis Infamous as the #finalboss of SIS, Architectural Analysis (AA) is the final core module that challenges the suite of skillsets you have picked up along your journey through SIS. Despite the testing times that you’ll experience from this module, probably one of the key takeaways from AA is that “No one is too good to fail”. Only with a combined team effort will the team succeed. It’s essential to embrace the module with an open-mind and be willing to “learn, unlearn and relearn”, at different ‘stages’ of the module. Besides being team-oriented, you are expected to learn independently and switch between roles either as a Project Manager, Developer Lead, Tester Lead, and other related positions, to help mitigate potential circumstances that might surface along the way. Teams will also be exposed to some fascinating frame
fascinating frameworks and solutions that have helped solved some of today’s growing technological issues. Do treat this module as a good training ground to ready yourself for the corporate world, as AA reflects real-life scenarios of the working world, where you’ll be presented with limited resources, inadequate knowledge and insufficient time, coupled with unpredictable and changing circumstances, to identify an eventual solution. Ending with a quote from Albert Einstein, always remember “You never fail until you stop trying”.
ROBERT CHAI YEAR 4
This course equips us with skills to analyse a company’s business processes. We learn to identify the strengths and bottlenecks of business processes, and with the aid of IT, conceptualise innovative solutions to optimise the process.
understanding the concepts and then adapting them into the business process in a relevant manner.
Just approach it with an open mind and do not be afraid to think BIG and try different things because there is no right or wrong in PMSB. As my Prof (Venky ShankararaThe project emulates a real life scenario that allows us man) always says, the answer is often, it depends. to put our learning into practice and experience process modelling and solution blueprinting for ourselves. It gives us insights into the job of a business process analyst. Having to conceptualise solutions that leverage on emerging technologies, it focuses on understanding the concepts and then adapting them into the business process in a relevant manner. Having to come up with solutions that leveraged on emerging technologies, it focuses on
KOH KAR CHIAN YEAR 2
IS305: Enterprise Web Solution Enterprise Web Solutions helped me to understand how to leverage SharePoint in a business. There are multiple functions for an enterprise management system, but many businesses do not understand how to use the features effectively. This course closes the loop.
their suppliers, subsidiaries and other stakeholders. The SharePoint portal, coupled with the right enterprise planning, will be able to ensure that all stakeholders and their business processes are fully integrated. At the end of the day, it’s function and not aesthetics that matter.
It has helped me to understand how to create web parts that integrate the SharePoint system with an external service – for instance, an SMS service. This is useful in business processes where there are many touch points. For this module, patience is required as running an enterprise system in a virtual machine is a slow process. I found that SharePoint is extremely versatile, especially in collaboration and coordination of different business departments. Every enterprise needs integration with
BRENNAH NEOH YEAR 4
IS306: Interaction Design & Prototyping Interaction Design and Prototyping introduces to you how to create user-friendly designs through a series of steps, from observing, to prototyping, then evaluation. Not only does it cover design concepts that will help us to reflect on the nature of good designs in a variety of contexts, we also apply these concepts in our weekly assignments. Due to the gaps between the designers’ and users’ mental models, users may tend to act differently from what we originally expect them to, so they might use the website differently from how we intend them to. It is important to pin point these differences and get external stakeholders to evaluate our prototypes in order to create user-friendly designs.
Be open to new ideas and concepts, as well as being enthusiastic in making improvements to your product! It will be an extremely fun, fruitful and enlightening experience.
JOCELYN TAN YEAR 3
By: Lee Wee Nee
Ever wanted to study in a top American university and experience life there? How about getting both a degree and a master’s degree in IT in 4.5 years? The SMU-CMU Fast track programme, joint initiative by SMU and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), will give you the opportunity to achieve both.
I even took Sound Recording last semester. We have a studio to do our sound recording, and it was very fun and interesting.
Q: How was your two years in SMU? Was it very hectic? My two years were very enjoyable. SIS is a place I feel loved. I have never pulled an all-nighter. And I was blessed with very good team mates who were very understanding about my curriculum (5.5 cu), and the professors all were very kind and helpful.
Q: Can you tell me something cool about studying abroad? During winter, I have to go to school in extremely cold weather. I have to wear very thick clothes and boots so that I do not catch a cold while walking to school. That’s what I never get to experience in Singapore.
Q: How does SMU differ from CMU? In SMU, classes are held in a seminar room, where students interact and ask questions as professors teach. But here in CMU, we have teaching and learning, which is like lectures and tutorials in Singapore. Also, here in CMU, we do not have a Kopitiam directly opposite school where you can get cheap cooked food!
Q: Being away from home, what is the most difficult issue you have to deal with? Being here in the United States without my family, I have to go out to pay for my own bills and rent, do my own laundry and housework, things I never did in Singapore. I have to be more independent. And thankfully I have a group of Singaporean friends in US to hang out with, and I still keep in close contact with my friends and family back in Singapore. The seniors from SIS who are also in CMU had been very helpful, they would help me whenever I have questions or problems.
Q: What is SMU-CMU Fast track programme about? It is a joint initiative by SMU and CMU, with supporting National Infocomm Scholarship under Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. Students enrolled in this programme will take approximately 4.5 years to complete their Bachelor of Science (Information Systems Management) degree from SMU and a Master’s degree in IT from CMU. After 2 years in SMU, students will move on to CMU to complete their degree and master’s degree in IT. Q: How do SIS students get into this programme? Students are eligible for this National Infocomm Scholarship with outstanding A level or polytechnic results or equivalent, and must also possess leadership, innovative and creative abilities. Q: What are the benefits of getting the National Infocomm Scholarship? This scholarship covers full tuition and miscellaneous fees during the period of study at SMU and CMU. SIS senior Chloe Lim, 13hours behind Singapore and all the way at Pittsburg, tells us about her Fast track experience.
Q: What modules did you take in CMU? Was it only IT related modules? Previously I took a variety of modules like Economics, business, and of course IT modules. I had to do programming too. One of the programming modules has a graded component on homework, and each piece takes like 10 hours to complete. Sounds crazy, but when I finally complete it, and when all my codes compile, there is really a sense of achievement.
Q: You’ve done really well in SIS, what’s your advice for our incoming batch of freshmen? In the beginning many people may think that they don’t know why are they learning programming and looking at the black command prompt during
IS200, but everyone needs that kind of fundamental training before we can really get down to the seemingly more meaningful stage where we design systems for people. Incoming juniors should not be daunted by coding, there is beauty in it, even if they have no back ground in programming and IT, so was I. SL-110* was basically all. Information Systems Management is a very useful course, and it is definitely not a back-up plan. I am here because I chose to be here. Information systems intrigue me because it can really help people and make life easier for everyone. Apart from Chloe, there are also many other SIS students who are also on the SMU-CMU Fast track programme. Want to join them on the exciting college experience? Check out the webpage for more information now. http://www2.sis.smu.edu.sg/programme/smu_ cmu_fast_track/index.htm *SL-110 is a foundation course in java programming for all incoming SIS students before school starts.
PRISM FRESHMEN EDITION