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Jobseekers’ Diaries: I couldn’t keep up with tech changes, so I quit my job at 62 to upgrade myself

In this instalment of Jobseekers’ Diaries, quantity surveyor Catherine Pak, a veteran of the built environment sector, recounts her struggles with the pace of digital transformation in her previous workplace.

Jobseekers’ Diaries: I couldn’t keep up with tech changes, so I quit my job at 62 to upgrade myself

Quantity surveyor Catherine Pak.

Catherine Pak

As jobs are a top concern for Singaporeans in the Covid-19 crisis, TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts from jobseekers in which they reflect on their experiences and what keeps them going.

In this instalment of Jobseekers’ Diaries, quantity surveyor Catherine Pak, a veteran of the built environment sector, recounts her struggles with the pace of digital transformation in her previous workplace. At age 62, she took a leap of faith and quit her job to upgrade herself, and returned to the workforce armed with the necessary digital know-how. 

Based on Chinese astrology, a person completes a life cycle at age 60 and a new cycle begins at 61. 

Three years into this new life, I was blessed with a new job opportunity that I never thought would come.

I have been working in the built environment sector for more than 40 years, and was a senior quantity surveyor doing project contract administration for more than 10 years in my last job. 

I consider myself to be diligent and I am also unafraid of challenges. 

I was aware that my O Level qualification was insufficient and had upskilled myself many times while working, including earning a nine-month specialist diploma in building cost management in 2019. 

But I found myself struggling to keep up with the rapid advancement of technology. 

I heard about digitalisation wherever I went. 

My boss told me about plans to transform the built environment sector, which emphasised digital skills. 

My younger colleagues seemed comfortable, yet I was like a fish out of water. Worse still, I was expected to be their mentor.

In June 2020, I took a leap of faith, quit my job and plunged myself into the deep end to gain the digital skills needed to stay relevant.

It was a decision that took lots of courage. I was already 62 and could retire. 

Many people asked why I wouldn’t just rest or look for an easier job. 

But I am not one to give up. My family, especially my daughter, was supportive and encouraged me to pursue my goal. 

From June to September 2020, I went through brochures on courses related to building information modelling and digitalisation. 

And in October 2020, I enrolled in BCA Academy’s SGUnited Skills conversion diploma in integrated digital delivery (built environment). It had all the elements I needed in one programme. 

The course lasted 10 months and cost about S$800, which could be offset further with SkillsFuture Credits.   

The building information modelling skills I learnt gave me a good foundation in how work processes were being digitalised in the sector. 

I was exposed to programming and had a much better understanding of how costing software works.  

I am no longer just taking the software’s data at face value. I can now analyse and add value to a project. 

More important, I no longer have to be envious of others as I am more confident about using such software programmes on my own. 

The course required me to do an internship. I sent off a few applications and a multinational infrastructure construction firm called me in quickly. 

Perhaps they saw my willingness to transform through the course. 

I started not as an intern but as a full-time quantity surveyor under probation in March 2021, worked hard, and was made a full-time employee because of good performance during the probationary period.  

I am writing this article to encourage those at the career crossroads.  

Change is never easy. Take charge of your career and take that first step.  

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Ms Catherine Pak, 63, has been working in the built environment sector for more than 40 years. Overwhelmed with the pace of digital transformation at her workplace, she resigned from her previous job as a senior quantity surveyor and enrolled in a course to build her skills in integrated digital delivery. She is now a quantity surveyor at a multinational infrastructure construction company.  

If you are a jobseeker with an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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Jobseekers' Diaries job built environment quantity surveyor Technology

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