By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Focused. Analytical. Goal-oriented. These are all apt adjectives that may be used to describe SMU School of Computing and Information Systems (SCIS) student Charmaine Lim. However, her catalogue of attributes lies well beyond this list – not only does she actively participate in student activities and clubs, the third-year Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) undergrad also wields her analytical qualities and tech skills to forge a bridge to others and, in some cases, offer them help.
In 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down global borders, SMU students collaborated with i-India, a non-governmental organisation working with vulnerable women and children in less fortunate areas of Jaipur, India. Charmaine, who leapt at the opportunity to help, was part of a team who led a university-wide donation drive to gift the children with stationery, clothing and sports equipment.
She also personally took charge of the classes that the SMU students organised, to bring the women and children up to speed with English, basic Maths, and later, basic financial literacy and simple computer skills.
It was not something she had thought she’d do, going into SMU. She says, “As a freshman, I was rather reserved and introverted, only speaking up when spoken to, and focused only on my scholastic achievements.
“However, being immersed in the SMU environment – where my peers are all learning to be confident, articulate speakers, and participating in clubs such as the technology-focused group .Hack where I am now the Professional Development Director – they all motivated me to become a more well-rounded student.”
The former Raffles Girls’ School student and national air pistol athlete has made it to the Dean’s list at SMU twice and is an SMU Global Impact Scholar. Charmaine currently interns at the Mobile Engineering department at TikTok, and has worked at OCBC’s Frank division.
Hi Charmaine, please tell us about student life and CCAs at SMU.
Student life at SMU is especially vibrant, with a myriad of different clubs and programmes to take part in. In my freshman year, I was in the Data Associates’ Programme of the Business Intelligence and Analytics Club. Together with the team we built a machine-learning model that could churn out song lyrics for a given genre, under the mentorship and guidance of two SMU seniors. That was a really exciting challenge!
Currently, I am with SMU .Hack as the Professional Development Director. My duties include liaising with external stakeholders and organising career-focused events for our club members, and my role is training me to communicate effectively in the workplace, as well as to be more adaptable to changing circumstances.
We are now holding a software-engineering experience programme for SMU juniors, which offers mentorship opportunities from seniors as well as workshops conducted by engineers from top companies. It’s a great opportunity for students looking to pick up project management and technical skills.
My experience in .Hack thus far has taught me to do more with less – our executive committee is smaller than many other clubs, so this large-scale programme has indeed been a challenge. But we’re pushing through because we want our juniors to find the experience as fruitful as possible.
What are some soft skills you’ve gained at SMU?
I learned to communicate my ideas clearly and succinctly, and gained confidence in my speaking ability. These are some of my key takeaways from SMU’s seminar-style learning environment.
What is a module that has left a great impact on you?
Object-oriented Programming, which taught me the Java programming language and the object-oriented programming paradigm – all key skills that employers look out for in fresh grads! Plus, as an SMU-X module that tackles real-world problems for real clients, my project team and I built a full-stack remittance web app for an external client.
We spent days and nights trying out different frameworks, optimising our code and adding different features to improve on our app. I can still vividly recall the night I stayed up till 7am to complete an integral part of our project. The module not only honed my technical skills through its programming-heavy nature, it also sharpened my communication skills through the consistent liaising and sync-ups that were required with our client.
Last but not least, Prof Lee Yeow Leong’s engaging and effective teaching style was the cherry on top to make my experience in this module a most beneficial one.
What, in your opinion, are some uniquely SMU experiences?
Two-day school weeks! In semester two of my freshman year, I was taking four modules, with two lessons each on two separate days of the week. SMU’s timetable system is clean and simple, students enjoy quite a bit of flexibility when planning their modules, so there is no need to worry about having unnecessary and awkward breaks in-between classes, or having to go to school just for an hour-long tutorial. This has given me a lot more time to explore other interests and engage in activities outside of school.
“As an SMU student, I’ve learned to articulate my opinions and thought processes succinctly, giving me more presence in the workplace and helping me collaborate with others in a more effective manner.”
Tell us about working at TikTok, and how SMU has helped you to stand out in this role.
As an iOS engineering intern at TikTok, I am working directly on the messaging feature of the app. I am thankful I have an approachable mentor who prioritises my learning, and we work in a highly collaborative and close-knit team.
Before uni, I had not thought much about communication as a valuable asset, but it’s vital in the workplace; as an engineer working closely with many different teams in a fast-paced environment, I must liaise with multiple engineers to clarify, inform and enquire. I also need to regularly update my team on my progress, and on any blockers I may be facing.
As an SMU student, I’ve learned to articulate my opinions and thought processes succinctly, giving me more presence in the workplace and helping me collaborate with others in a more effective manner.
How has SMU challenged you both personally and academically?
SMU has instilled in me greater self-confidence and a love for interacting with people, and has encouraged me to open myself to new opportunities or experiences that come my way, and has equipped me with greater tenacity when facing difficult situations.
The interdisciplinary and rigorous Information Systems curriculum has also allowed me to broaden my skill set and overall, I feel I am now equipped with both hard and soft skills, all of which are equally important for me to excel in my future career.
If you could go back in time, what would you advise your freshman self to do?
To reach out and talk to more people. Coming into SMU, I suffered from tunnel-vision – I thought that obtaining a stellar GPA was the be-all and end-all of the university experience, and didn’t care much about experiences beyond school, or finding out about potential career paths. I’d advise my freshman self to have more curiosity, to actively seek knowledge, information and insight from those who have experience in areas that interest me, and to form more meaningful connections with like-minded people who can inspire me to do better. Most importantly, to be less afraid of failure and take on new challenges outside of my comfort zone.
Ready to embark on an SMU adventure? Matriculate now!