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Is passion overrated? What it takes to build a rewarding career in IT.

Joel Chin, Chief Executive Officer

December 27, 2023

Is passion overrated? What it takes to build a rewarding career in IT.

Key Takeaways

    1. The myth of “follow your passion”

    2. Diverse roles and skills fuel technology advancement   

    3. Self-excellence is key 

How often have we heard "Do what you love" and "Love what you do" when we are at a career crossroads, especially if our current path is not fulfilling?

In today’s technology-driven world, many attribute success to passion, but is passion the sole key to success? We sat down with Joel Chin, CEO of Activate, to get his views on building a rewarding career in the IT sector.  

Finding passion within the company 

As the head honcho of a fast-growing company with a staff strength of 200, Joel prioritises creating a proactive and cohesive work environment that encourages open communications among team members across roles and responsibilities. All staff, regardless of age, educational background, skills, or experience, receive comprehensive onboarding experience and ongoing guidance on their professional journey with Activate.

Joel firmly believes that a healthy work-life balance improves work performance. Thus, Activate offers the Journey with Wellness programme, which aims to enhance physical and mental well-being and strengthen the bonds among the team members. Nonetheless, the programme is not an obligatory workplace social event.

Joel understands that genuine job satisfaction relies on cultivating a positive community spirit within the workplace, not just through mandatory social events. He emphasises the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive work culture, considering the significant time individuals spend at work.

In line with Activate’s mission, Joel supports the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s vision of building a “City of Good”. Through Activate’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme, REACT, staff are given opportunities to participate in meaningful volunteer work. This involvement infuses work with purpose and enriches staff’s lives in rewarding ways. “Not everyone can easily discover his or her passion in life, but at Activate, we strive to provide opportunities for our staff to explore different roles and experiences, hoping they can find their passion within our company.”  

“Not everyone can easily discover his or her passion in life, but at Activate, we strive to provide opportunities for our staff to explore different roles and experiences, hoping they can find their passion within our company.”  

Inside the mind of a leader

Joel’s journey commenced in an era vastly different from today’s tech-savvy landscape. In the 1990s, opportunities for tech professionals were considerably limited, compelling Joel to prioritise securing his bread and butter.

With no scholarships or financial resources to pursue an overseas education, Joel enrolled in the Applied Science and Computer Engineering programme at Nanyang Technological University. His choice, diverging from the more conventional Computer Science at the National University of Singapore, was fuelled by his genuine interest in both the software and hardware aspects of computers.

As a fresh graduate, Joel sought a decent-paying job rather than seeking an ideal job that allowed him to learn more about product development. This pursuit led him to a Senior Programmer Analyst position at Singapore Computer Systems.

Driven by his profound love for computers and intrigued by their impact on reshaping society, Joel spent a decade navigating diverse roles in the IT sector. After several jobs at large and small companies, Joel took a leap of faith in 2002 and co-founded an IT start-up with his two colleagues. In 2015, an opportunity arose that prompted him to divest his interests in Activate and explore new ventures. He was confident that he could leverage what Activate had done to put the company on a different growth trajectory.

Under Joel’s leadership, Activate thrived, expanding three-fold. Beyond efficiency and accuracy, Activate harnesses technology to transform sectors like health, urban living, government services and businesses, aligning with Singapore’s Smart Nation vision.

Today, as a leading IT technology consultancy, Activate advocates better living through preventive health solutions and games, reflecting Joel’s commitment to realising a better society with technology.

Joel highlights that success in the IT sector requires a multifaceted ecosystem, encompassing not only entrepreneurs but also computer scientists, administrators, financiers and government support to fuel the advancement of technology. It would not have worked if any piece of the jigsaw was missing.

While passionate individuals may excel in their roles, Joel, as a CEO, remains impartial toward displays of passion as he recognises the unique roles different personalities can play. For instance, those passionate about IT often bring forth innovative ideas, while other team members focus on excellence in driving implementation and delivery.

It begs the question – is passion overrated?

No one can deny that having passion in what you do makes the doing more fun, even if not necessarily easier. On the other hand, not having a passion need not hinder your life path. Yet, it is crucial not to mistake passion for enthusiasm and positivity. While some career counsellors may urge that discovering your passion is the ultimate key to success, the truth is - it is not the only key. Passion does not guarantee consistent success, and work can be rewarding for those whose passion lies outside their profession.

Would Joel attribute what he has accomplished with Activate to his passion for IT?

Joel specifies, “I’d say that my passion is solving problems using IT. I love to see how IT can be used to improve the way we live, hence our company motto – Living Technology, Changing Lives. At the same time, I also love to apply my problem-solving skills to various aspects of life, whether in business or at a personal level and always pursue the philosophy of self-excellence.”

Pursuing self-excellence is the foundation of a rewarding career, whether in IT or any other field. Passion, in this context, is the icing on the cake – a delightful addition that enhances the overall experience. 

"Pursuing self-excellence is the foundation of a rewarding career, whether in IT or any other field. Passion, in this context, is the icing on the cake – a delightful addition that enhances the overall experience."

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