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An empathetic mentoring approach helping others advance in Singapore’s robotics sector


Tue, 10/24/2023 - 12:00


As a co-founder of Augmentus, a platform dedicated to simplifying robot programming, Yong Shin Leong has guided trainees through several apprenticeships with SGInnovate’s Talent Programmes. He has developed a mentorship approach rooted in empathy for others and is particularly eager to support individuals seeking to make career transitions into Deep Tech. 

How would you define your mentorship approach?

My personal experiences have shaped my approach to mentorship. I started my career in tech as an intern at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). 

That period was intense, filled with highs and lows, and I acknowledge that I made many mistakes. For instance, I frequently imposed my own standards and expectations on others, a mindset that led to considerable friction and lost opportunities for connection. I was also often reserved, which sometimes hindered effective communication. 

Since I lacked a mentor during that phase, I can relate to the challenges faced by students embarking on internships. I sympathise with their feelings of uncertainty as they navigate their initial experiences in the intimidating professional world. As such, I ensure that my interns understand that experiencing imposter syndrome occasionally is a common sentiment. 

WATCH: Shin's advice for those looking to move into a Deep Tech career.  

I would also emphasise to these students that challenging oneself is beneficial and that true growth begins when we venture beyond our comfort zones. Mentorship is not limited to technical advice; emotional support and encouragement are equally vital.

Yong Shin Leong

Tell us about your own mentors and how they helped you progress in your career.

Before founding Augmentus, I worked for four years as an engineer at the Advanced Remanufacturing Technology Centre at A*STAR. I was fortunate to have two mentors there who deeply influenced me. Both were always patient and empathetic, qualities I deem essential in a mentor. Their guidance bolstered my confidence and honed my communication skills, and they each contributed to my professional growth in distinct ways. 

Consider my group manager, Joshua Sim, who is now the Deputy Director in the A*STAR Project Management Office. I had been assigned the responsibility of establishing a new tech division from the ground up, a daunting task that seemed insurmountable at the time. Joshua was always available to listen to my concerns – those that kept me awake at night – and he offered practical advice based on his extensive experience as a seasoned manager. His support inspired me to persevere through the challenging transition from being an individual contributor to becoming a team leader. 

As I contemplated establishing Augmentus, Nicholas Yeo, who was then the Technical Director of A*STAR, was exceptionally generous with his time. He coached me on refining my vision for the company and emphasized the importance of crafting a product roadmap, among other invaluable insights. 

Owing to their mentorship, I felt more prepared to guide my own mentees. I aspire to emulate their example and give back by mentoring the upcoming generation of tech enthusiasts. 

Related: How CellVec’s Dr Paula Lam strives to give her mentees a competitive edge and why it matters in the long run 

What are the benefits of taking on candidates who haven’t worked in Deep Tech before?

We actively seek out individuals looking to change careers. One example is our robotics software developer, Roy Koo, who was employed at a virtual reality (VR) company before joining Augmentus. VR typically places a strong emphasis on user experience, so Roy was able to apply his expertise in that domain to our robotic platform, significantly enhancing its usability. I firmly believe that even if a candidate originates from a different industry and has never engaged in coding, they can still offer a unique perspective that can benefit our internal processes.