Friday, January 2, 2009

NIS and Novell

As promised earlier, I’ll talk a bit on my experiences with the National Infocomm Scholarship (NIS) and Novell.

I first heard of NIS from my apartment mate in Beijing. He’s from NTU and we were both on attachment with Oracle at that time. He was applying for the partial scholarship (for third year undergrads) and encouraged me to do so too. Back then, I didn’t even know what a partial scholarship was. My grades weren’t that great, but I thought, hey, no harm trying. So after many tedious hours of form filling and essay writing, we both submitted our applications. Much to our surprise, we both received the good news several telephone interviews and weeks later.

After graduating from NUS in June 2007, I started work with Novell (my friend stayed on with Oracle). Initially, most of my time was spent working with the SUSE incubation team from home. It’s quite common for open-source software developers to work from home, but that's pretty unusual in Singapore.

Novell Singapore was mainly a sales office; there were technical pre-sales staff and consultants (among others), but no developers. Hence, I could work from home even though I had a desk there. I also got the chance to participate in meetings with clients and marketing events, which I found very insightful since it’s different from what I normally do. Team Singapore was a tightly-knit bunch, great fun to hang out with, and I learnt a lot from them.

Then my visa issues got sorted out and so off to Germany I went. Finally, I was able to meet everyone from the SUSE incubation team in person at our team meeting there. It's a small but global team, with people from USA, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy and Singapore (that’s me!). Everyone had different skill sets and experiences, from graphic & web designers, web developers, kernel hackers, to sales & marketing, making it a truly diverse and great team to work with.

The last month (Dec '07) of my overseas stint was one of the most memorable bits. I got to visit Novell sales managers and partners in Milan (Italy), Vienna (Austria), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Zurich (Switzerland).

What I'm trying to share here is the same as most past guest bloggers - work experience, particularly overseas ones, are immensely fun, enriching and sometimes even life changing. Moreover, it's an invaluable and outstanding additional to your résumé. Best of all, it's often not that out of reach as some might think. Grab the opportunities that come your way, be it NOC, ATAP or whatever. You owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot!


Alok said...

Hi James,
Your post on "NIS and Novell" was immensely insightful. I belong to the 2009 graduating class. I have myself been involved with Linux/Solaris application development throughout my university years, especially during my ATAP with Sun Microsystems, Singapore. I am very interested in open source development, especially at a place like Novell which is doing a great job with Suse. I would really appreciate it if you could give some guidance on how to capitalize on opportunities to join Novell.


James Tan said...

Hey Alok,
Glad that you found my post useful!
Do share your experience at Sun Microsystems with us as well.
You can apply for a job with Novell through and
If anyone has any questions, please ping me via jamestyj(at)gmail.