Three SMU female leaders recognised for their contributions to tech in the 2021 Singapore 100 Women in Tech List

Two inspiring women and a young rising star from SMU have been included in the 2021 Singapore 100 Women in Tech (SG100WIT) List and the new SG Girls in Tech 2021 respectively, in recognition of their achievements and contributions to the tech industry.

They are Professor Jiang Jing from the School of Computing and Information Systems; Ms Vetrivillalan Vennila, Assistant Director (Data Analytics), Office of Integrated Information Technology Services; and Ms Desiree Low, a fourth-year student at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

The list was unveiled by Mrs Josephine Teo, Singapore’s Minister of Communications & Information, and Patron of the Singapore Women in Tech movement, at the 2021 Tech3 Forum on 15 October 2021.

Organised by the Singapore Computer Society, in partnership with SG Women in Tech and Infocomm Media Development Authority, the list seeks to highlight the rich diversity of roles and spotlight the role models in Singapore's dynamic ICT sector, promote greater gender diversity in the tech sector so that women can pursue their career in IT, and   nurture a more active community among female tech leaders, practitioners and students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

More than 600 nominations were received from members of the public as well as from schools and universities. They were evaluated by a panel of influential leaders from the business, technology and academic communities. The nominees were assessed by the following qualities: Visionary, Achievements, Innovation, Inspiration, and Demonstrated Expertise.

Let’s take a closer look at SMU’s three honourees.

Professor Jiang Jing

Prof Jiang Jing is a respected researcher and academic in natural language processing (NLP). In her work on the application of NLP, she proposes new solutions for a range of areas including information extraction, topic modelling, sentiment analysis, social media analysis, and most recently question answering.

A current topic she is researching on is the study of AI models especially for visual and verbal question-answer systems. This is necessary to enable machines to work together with people interactively through natural communications for joint problem solving.

Prof Jiang has published over 100 papers in many top-tier conferences and journals. This is evidenced by the more than 11,900 citations listed on Google Scholar, corresponding to an H-index of 42.

She has also chaired and spoken at various academic conferences, such as being the keynote speaker at the International Conference on Computational Linguistics and Intelligent Text Processing in 2018.

In a global study by Stanford University last year, Prof Jiang was recognised as among the top 2% of scientists in the world in the field of Artificial Intelligence & Image Processing.

Her other accolades include:

  • ECIR 2021 TEST OF TIME AWARD at the 2021 European Conference on Information Retrieval for her co-authored paper titled “Comparing Twitter and Traditional Media Using Topic Models”.
  • Test of Time Award, ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) 2020 for her co-authored paper titled “TwitterRank: Finding topic-sensitive influential Twitters,” published at WSDM 2010.
  • Lee Kuan Yew Fellowship for Research Excellence, Singapore Management University, 2020.
  • Lee Kong Chian Fellowship, Singapore Management University, 2017.

Besides her teaching responsibilities, Prof Jiang was Deputy Director of the Living Analytics Research Centre conducting research on large-scale data analytics to support Singapore's Smart Nation initiatives. She is currently Director of the Artificial Intelligence & Data Science Cluster of the School of Computing and Information Systems.

“I’m extremely honoured to receive this award, and I’m grateful to many people around me including colleagues, students and family members for their support. I see this award not only as a recognition of my own achievements, but more importantly as a recognition of the increasing number of excellent female researchers in Singapore in the field of computing and IT who have overcome the daunting challenges of balancing work and family and made significant contributions to the field. I want to share this honour with all of them.”

Ms Vennila Vetrivillalan

Vennila has 30 years of experience in the AI, Analytics and Technology space. As an agile and adaptive leader with a proven ability to lead projects and propose innovative solutions, she has implemented data analytics solutions for the public and higher education sectors in Singapore.

As a programme chair / AI and Analytics track chair for Asia Higher Education User Group (Asia HEUG) and captain for Higher Education Analytic Meetup Group in Singapore, Vennila regularly shares her domain expertise on Advance Analytics framework and Data Analytics solutions that can be applied in universities and other institutions.

She is a sought-after speaker and panellist, and has participated in many international conferences held in Hong Kong, USA and Singapore, such as IHL CIO Forum 2019, EduTECH Asia Virtual 2020, Ministry of Education Analytics Day 2020, and Future Tech: Women in Tech 2021. Her views on data governance and analytics adoption for successful data driven journey were published in Forbes Insights in 2016 and Gov Insider in 2019.

At SMU, she is heading the Data Analytics team, where they create dashboards that offer strategic insights on operational areas for Schools, Offices, Centres and Institutes. With the strong support from SMU and IITS senior management, SMU Analytics initiatives have been widely recognised.

A project which she led - SMU Corporate Analytics and Reporting (SMUCAR) – won the Finalist award in the IT Excellence Award 2013 by International Data Corporation for Best Deployment of Emerging Technology, and the CIO 100 Honouree Award in 2014. SMUCAR is the first university-wide business intelligence initiative which provides a single view of information through the use of technology to consolidate disparate information sources.

In addition, Vennila has been recognised globally by Qlik Tech International as among the 50 Top Qlik Luminary in the last six years, from 2016 to 2021, in recognition of her expert use of Qlik technologies and analytics solutions, vision for data strategies across the organisation, and track record of advocacy and accomplishments.

As a grassroots leader, she volunteers her time at the Residents’ Committee of her estate. She also mentors and leads the parent volunteers at the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society, as well as young girls who aspire to pursue a career in technology.

Vennila said, “I feel elated to be recognised with this award which will motivate me to further innovate and contribute to the development of AI and Analytics. Playing a multifaceted role as a mother of two children and with an IT career demands lifelong learning and constant upgrading on my part. I would like to be looked upon as a role model for the upcoming generation, as a successful career woman who mastered the art of balancing the varied roles of caring for my family, self-learning, as well as sharing my experience and knowledge that was gained in last three decades. I am always guided by the encouragement from my late father and mentor whose words are forever etched in my head and heart – ‘It does not matter which field you go into, you just need to ensure you leave a lasting positive impression that people will remember you for’.”

Ms Desiree Low

Desiree is a senior member in Cognitare, the SMU Business Case Club. During her training and participation in case competitions, Desiree was exposed to business case problems where technology had to be leveraged in her team’s proposed strategies. Through these cases, Desiree learnt the salience and potential of technology in bettering the world.

She is the Co-founder and Head of Partnerships for the Women in Business student initiative and a mentor in the third cycle of The Mentoring Circle, a peer-to-peer mentoring and networking programme that focuses on early professional development between senior and junior students in SMU. Through these co-curricular activities, she met several mentors and peers who have continued to inspire her and elevate her passion in technology.

Desiree did two internships at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and one at Grab which she credited for her immense personal and professional growth. At AWS, she was an Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) Programme Management Intern, and devised strategies that would drive the adoption of cloud technologies for independent software vendors, digital native businesses and small medium businesses across APJ. At Grab, she was a Programmes and Investments Intern, where she assisted in the selection and onboarding of the third batch of start-ups in the Grab Ventures Velocity accelerator programme.

Passionate about contributing to the technology community, Desiree was a member of the founding team which built the AWS APJ Women’s Connect Fireside Chats Series as an avenue for AWS and Amazon female employees across APJ to hear and learn from the experiences of senior leaders in the organisation. The series has reached more than 800 female participants since it began in 2020.

Desiree was also a member of the founding team for the AWS APJ Women’s Connect Mentoring Circles, established as safe spaces for female employees to discuss topics such as work life balance and career planning. This initiative started during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was incredibly helpful in bringing together female employees and providing additional support while everyone was working from home.

In partnership with Tech for She (a Singaporean organisation for women interested in pursuing a career in Technology), Desiree spearheaded the AWS x Tech for She: What’s Your Hustle panel, a webinar that connected nine senior leaders in AWS to university students across APJ for a discussion on AWS Leadership Principles, Cloud Computing and Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at AWS. Some 180 students across Singapore, Japan, Australia, Myanmar and India attended the event.

At SMU, Desiree co-founded the Women in Business (WIB) student initiative with four other female students in her year. WIB aims to become a female-centric career exploratory platform, where students can learn about different possible careers, establish career goals and gain the knowledge and skills needed to pursue their desired career paths. The WIB @ SMU community started in August 2020 and has now grown to 371 members. The team held 10 events, reaching around 350 participants. The team also released five Career Guides, which provide insights into the different career paths in the industries of Finance, Technology, Consulting, Marketing & Communications and Accounting. Four videos have also been created in which student mentors shared about their summer internships and learnings, garnering around 3,400 views to date.

Desiree said, “I am incredibly honoured to be recognized as one of awardees in the Singapore Girls in Tech list. This is the first year that the SG100 Women in Tech featured an all new “Girls in Tech” category, which is heart-warming for me as it signals that there are increasingly more opportunities for female students in Singapore to be exposed to Tech at earlier ages. I’m grateful to Singapore Management University and the mentors I’ve met through school, for helping me realise my passion for Tech. I’m also thankful to Anna Green at Amazon Web Services for being an inspiring mentor and her nomination for this award.”

Our heartiest congratulations to Prof Jiang, Vennila and Desiree on this well-deserved recognition!