Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Ru Hong

Seah Ru Hong will be receiving his Master of Computing in Computer Science degree this July. The thing he enjoys most about being a student here is the immense relief of completing a particularly difficult assignment. He’s an ‘East-side’ guy and loves the convenience of the East-West MRT line, when it’s actually working. He also did his Bachelor’s degree with us from 2003 to 2007, and can claim to have been a student of both the IS and CS departments.

What do you do now?
I co-founded my company QQstayQQstay is a website that helps people find reliable property agents through customer reviews. I’m the only software engineer on the team and I developed the website. 
For many, property is the biggest purchase of a lifetime and you want to entrust this important deal to someone reliable. Advertisements of property agents are very common, and yet, finding a reliable property agent is not as easy as it should be. Very often, we rely on our friends’ recommendations to engage a property agent. What if we can bring those recommendations online? Hence, we created QQstay, a community where people can share reviews of property agents in Singapore. 
We believe that customer reviews can also help property agents. Positive reviews attract more customers and constructive feedback help agents to level up their service. It is a win-win situation. No one can deny the influence of online reviews on purchase decisions. Nowadays, we don’t book an overseas vacation until we have read a TripAdvisor review. We want to bring the same effect to the property agent profession. 
Currently, I am working to add other service providers to the QQstay community, such as renovation contractors, electricians and plumbers.

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date? 
I was the regional winner of the Google Cloud Developer Challenge 2013. It was during this time when I started to learn website development on the Google Cloud Platform. The Google Cloud Platform is powerful, easy to setup and affordable. When our QQstay website was in the prototype stage, I did not have to pay a single cent for using Google’s cloud. That’s because the Google Cloud Platform is free to use so long as your application lives within its basic resource quotas. There are no limited time trials. That’s ideal for entrepreneurs like me who need to quickly iterate on prototyping, without having to worry about splurging on experiments. 
I reinvested the prize money of US$20,000 into my start-up QQstay. Google also disbursed an additional grant of US$18,000 to SoC as I was representing the school.

What was your academic path before coming to NUS Computing?
I enrolled in NUS through the ‘A’ levels route. SoC was my first choice even though I did not read ‘A’ level Computing. I was very curious about computers and the Internet as I spend a lot of time on these media (still do).  

Which NUS Computing faculty members made impressions on you? 
Several teaching staff have impressed me with their patience and dedication. Particularly, I want to thank Mr Aaron Tan, Prof Chua Tat Seng, Prof Yu Haifeng, Prof Ng Teck Khim, Prof Chan Chee Yong, Prof Heng Cheng Suang and Prof Tan Kian Lee. Last but not least, I want to thank Dr. Sharon Tan for her referral to help me gain admission to the MComp programme.
I also want to thank the school committee that decided to teach Java to freshmen many years ago. The Java programming language has been my steady workhorse throughout my career and I still use Java extensively at work now. The Java ecosystem is so mature that I can always find a tool I need without having to reinvent the wheel. 

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I got my Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems (E-commerce) but I pursued a Master’s degree in Computer Science. Moving to a more technical career is off the beaten track in Singapore. But I was determined to pursue a technical career out of passion, even though sometimes I feel like I am swimming against the tide. I hope that, one day, engineering and management would be equally viable career paths in Singapore, just like the top software houses in the US. 
I must confess that I was one of those ‘kiasu’ students when I was an undergrad. I was obsessed with my grades, so I felt insecure when I entered SoC with zero programming background. I remembered that I totally flunked an interview for a vacation job because I did not know how to create a database table in Microsoft Access! Thanks to SoC’s dedicated teaching team, not only did my confidence in programming grow but I fell in love with it. Even though I find the technical parts interesting, I hesitated to risk my grades by reading more Computer Science modules, which have a reputation of being really hard.   
So when I came back to do my Master’s, I gave myself a new goal; and that is to learn as much as I can. I wanted to take all the interesting modules, no matter how intimidating they may seem. The course requires 10 modules, out of which at least 5 must be in Computer Science. I took 9 CS modules. I have very humble grades but I’m satisfied with what I have learnt.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not studying or working?
To satisfy my own curiosity, I like to do data visualizations in my spare time. I have a side project SG Charts that showcases public data ranging from salary, COE prices to dengue clusters. Recently I read two great books that I would like to share with everyone: Peter Siebel’s Coders At Work and Brad Stone’s The Everything Store. 

Quick-fire! Most annoying word? 
When people ask you to “revert” to emails

Guilty pleasures?
I have only just discovered the Game of Thrones books and I recently finished A Clash of Kings. I can’t resist a good tiramisu, which is hard to find in Singapore!

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