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NTU EEE Alumnus: Shifting gears to accelerate progress

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ZHAO CHANG
Head of Engineering for Transport (GRAB)
Bachelor's Degree in Infomation Communication (EEE), Class of 2004
Master's Degree in Embedded Systems (SCE)

Zhao Chang, Grab’s Head of Engineering for Transport, is no stranger to the tech scene. Having dealt with search engine and mobile engineering challenges, as well as heading up gaming studio company Mozat as its Chief Technology Officer (CTO) he found his calling in Grab as a software engineer and people manager.

A Snapshot of Grab
Grab is one of Southeast Asia’s largest homegrown unicorn start-ups. It is focused on pioneering new commuting and payment alternatives for drivers and passengers with an emphasis on speed, safety, and reliability.

Q: Thanks for taking this interview! It’s significant we’re doing this on the first day of moving to our new office here in Marina One. What are your first thoughts?
It’s a welcome change! I feel like I’m in Silicon Valley, and this really reflects Grab’s tremendous scale of expansion. We now have many more meeting rooms, bigger dining spaces and more importantly a lot more room for creative collaboration.

Q: Speaking of moving, how was your journey into Grab like?
I did both my undergraduate and post-graduate studies in NTU, EEE (Infocomms) and CE (Embedded Systems) respectively. After my graduation, I went on to work in various companies as software and research engineers, as well as an Android Developer. I was also a CTO at one point and managed large teams. When I joined Grab, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and be an individual contributor again.

Q: What made you choose Grab?
Grab is exactly the opposite of what I’ve been doing, there’s a great emphasis on taking care of the underserved community by making their lives easier.

Being in the tech space, I wanted to work in Silicon Valley because it’s known to be the best. So I went there a few times and found it not as livable as Singapore as it’s hard to develop a social life. Besides, I wanted to be in a place where I could be valued and grow as an engineer. Grab hit the right spot for me.

Q: What do you do at Grab?
My team’s role is to orchestrate and streamline the engineering process, building efficiencies into the booking system.

Q: What drives you at work?
We have a brilliant team working on multiple matching strategies for our booking system. I’m excited to solve real world issues when we achieve enhanced booking rates for our passengers and driver-partners.

Q: Describe the challenges you face in your current role. How do you tackle them?
When you’re managing a large team, consistently keeping up with every single member is really hard. I commit not to miss any 1-on-1 with my team, so they can focus on solving business problems.

Q: How effective was your NTU education in helping you navigate the workplace?
NTU has many hands-on projects requiring collaboration. It served me well, as it was great training for real-world teamwork, where harnessing strengths and overcoming weaknesses of your team members is crucial.

Q: What do you look out for when hiring graduates?
Beyond having the technical competencies, I believe that people with passion is more important than having exceptional skills, as skills can be taught and learnt.

Q: What personal characteristics have helped you become successful?
I’m easy-going, and genuinely want to help others. In Grab, we call this the spirit of YPIMP (Your Problem is My Problem). This is very important in the engineering world, as we need the empathy and willingness to step up to make our product work on the whole.

Q: If you could use one word to sum up a similarity between Grab and NTU, what would that be?
Hunger. We remain tenacious in the most difficult and trying times, and bounce back from any adversity that comes our way.

Article Credit: NTU Career Tracks​

Published on: 13-Aug-2018​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​
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