The Clerk Who Built a Bot

When she first joined the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore in 1972, a portable typewriter was considered state-of-the-art technology for then 18-year-old Valerie Yeong.

The company hired Valerie to be a clerk in the human resource department. And for her to be proficient at her job, she was sent for typing classes.

“Our training school back then was in a bungalow house at Stevens Road. We had a few foreigners to train the local employees. We learnt how to type training hand-outs. I still remember the instructor teaching us how to use cut and paste to correct any mistakes we did on the typewriter,” recalled Valerie, who is now 65.

Over the next 47 years with the company, Valerie saw her work change from using the manual typewriter to the electric typewriter to the personal computer.

The name of her company had also changed over the years. It is today known as SingTel.

“I think the first big transformation change came when we started using computers. When we started to use the computer, I had to learn how to use software like PowerPoint and Microsoft Word. But back then, everything was still on paper and had to be filed. Unlike today, where it’s all captured digitally,” she said.

Training Over the Years

With technology comes the need for employees to upskill. Valerie has gone for both on-the-job training and certification courses over the years.

Today, Valerie is a senior executive in SingTel’s learning and development department, which is part of the company’s human resource outfit.

“I am actually very grateful to be in this department. Being in the department, I had access to instructors. So a lot of these things, I learnt on the job,” she said.

Newfound Skill

Valerie’s training didn’t stop at learning how to use simple computer software.

Despite her age, she recently attended a four-day bot making training course conducted by Singtel.

She built her very first bot called Valbot and participated in Singtel’s ‘Build My Bot – The Bot Maker Hackathon’, where came second place. To put things into perspective, the first prize went to a professional developer.

“I was quite nervous. I went to the course not knowing anything about programming. But the instructor was very patient, showing us step by step on how to build the bot. I’m glad I did it, and now I have a newfound skill I can use at work,” she said.

Valerie’s Bot

Valbot now helps Valerie churn out budget reports for her business partners on employee training and development.

To generate 55 reports, it used to take her almost five hours with more than 300 clicks of the mouse. And the reports were prone to mistakes.

With Valbot, she now takes 12 minutes with only one click. And the reports’ data would be free of error.

“It used to take at least 10 working days to send out the reports. But now I can do within one day. With the time saved, I use the free time to do other tasks,” said Valerie.

On Training

Singtel had also recently invested $45 million on employees’ training and upskilling.

The company also formed a company training committee with the Union of Telecoms Employees of Singapore to make sure all its workers thrive in a digital economy.

With the new initiatives by the company and union, Valerie hopes she will get many more learning opportunities.

Doing her part, Valerie said she will continue to convince her fellow colleagues to train and take on new skills.

As for advice to her peers, Valerie said: “The opportunities for training are there. You must use them to take charge of your own development, career and future. Adopt a lifelong learning attitude. If we don’t do this, then we will fall very far behind. Train to remain relevant.”

Share this story: