Advice, Diversity & Inclusion

Women@Singtel – Felicia Tan

Published 19 May 2020 by SANDRA AU


Not one to ever shirk from a challenge, Felicia’s got a competitive glint in her eye. She cuts a petite frame, but her sharp acumen makes you hesitant to square off with her in anything. Except maybe, well, fixing electronics. (Highly common misconception - working in IT does not mean she can fix your phone when it goes kaput!)

Unfazed in a specialisation that is dominated by men, Felicia once called out a then-superior prior to joining Singtel.

“His language was just not work-appropriate. People seemed a bit stunned that I would be so daring, but I see it as righting a wrong.”

While he also seemed taken aback, he was apologetic for unintentionally making his colleagues feel uncomfortable.

“We still have an amiable relationship today,” she assures me laughingly.

It is this resolute spirit that has seen her building an illustrious career over the last two decades, working in global MNCs such as the likes of DHL in supply chain logistics, forging robust partnerships and using technologies to create differentiators for business. One example: a first-of-its-kind automation system in Asia, which uses 130 robotic shuttles to pick and store products spread across 26 levels across its two warehouse blocks. 

In 2017, she entered the telecommunications industry, joining Singtel as the Vice President of IT (Business Partner & Operations).  

As a trusted advisor on IT matters and a strategic conduit for technology and Singtel’s business objectives, Felicia’s extensive duties include the delivery of innovative IT systems and services that enable business process transformation and growth, as well as the management of strategic projects and major IT incidents.

IT AS A PARTNER, NOT AN ORDER-TAKER

When asked what makes her work at Singtel so gratifying, she replies, “Group IT is entrenched within the business in supporting the digitalisation agenda ahead. This makes for a great dynamic, with IT as a partner rather than an order taker.”

She explains how IT has emerged from a culture of being a support function.

“I’m proud that IT has evolved to become its own vehicle of innovation, in not only building up its ability to streamline via platforms but to also be more open to partnerships and making processes more intuitive and efficient for greater value-add,” asserts Felicia.  

She cites UNBOXED as one of her favourite projects to date. Launched in 2019, UNBOXED is Singtel’s first ever unmanned pop-up store, designed to facilitate a seamless digitalised retail experience in a customer-friendly physical environment. The novelty of customers consulting a roving live bot powered by facial recognition and video-assisted self-help kiosks was a breakthrough for Singtel, and Felicia enjoyed the wow factor of driving a first-of-its-kind initiative.  

GET A CUPPA AND RUN WITH IT

IT Operations and being on-call 24/7 is a critical aspect of Felicia’s daily work. She manages major IT incidents to ensure minimal service downtime for business and consumers. All it takes is one power outage at a data centre, then chillers turn off, servers shut down and poof, critical services could be suddenly rendered inaccessible. This could result in significant impact to customer experience.

Not one to back down from a challenge, Felicia is pushing for a 50% improvement in monthly incidents as part of her 2020 KPI.

She’s already gotten a head start on that process, setting up Singtel’s Group IT Command Centre which enables proper visibility via dashboard monitoring of all applications and infrastructure. The next step she’s embarking on is using tools to automate incident management. Through leveraging AI to reduce incidents, track recurring issues and implement similar recovery solutions, the platform continues to evolve and get smarter every day, allowing Felicia and her team to recover impacted services quickly and efficiently.

It surely is cool to be able to say ‘hey, I helped my company save a couple of million dollars’. Felicia and her team collaborated with Consumer Operations to migrate Singtel’s iconic Shirley 2.0 chatbot to the cloud seamlessly, with zero system downtime and no impact to business. The substantial cost and efficiency benefits realised from this successful migration amounted up to S$5 million of savings in operating costs over four years.

GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY

Felicia’s spirit goes hand in hand with her immense heart for giving back to society. Besides being a dedicated supporter of the Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society Race Against Cancer, she enjoys spending time teaching children in lower-income families how to code as part of Singtel’s community outreach and engagement. Felicia gains personal satisfaction in helping to equip these youth with a valuable skillset that enables them to actively forge their own path.

“I remember being a fresh graduate and being so hungry and eager to prove myself as a programmer,” she reminisces. “There was this stereotype that guys were stronger at programming than women. My cohort saw a 70:30 ratio of male Computer Science graduates to female Computer Science graduates. Hence, it wasn’t surprising for me to enter male-dominated environment in an MNC.”

However, she stresses that there was no overt discrimination; it was more about the opportunities that were made available.

“My personality makes me go fully into my work, I love getting involved and relevant, but was also conscious to bring value and tangible returns back to the table. As women, we need to be firm. I’ve never had a moment where I’ve felt that I’m smaller than someone else because of my gender, and I think that’s a good attitude to have.”

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