Putting Innovation into practice — Laura Wynter, IBM Research Scientist shares how she is making a difference in Singapore

By Laura Wynter

Laura Wynter.jpg

Tell us about yourself and what you do at IBM?

I lead a team of Scientists and Engineers in research projects. Before coming to Singapore, I was working as a research scientist at the New York headquarters of IBM Research. We have had a number of applied research projects in the field of analytics, in collaboration with some of the local government agencies in Singapore, as well as a few international projects. In parallel, we try to push the envelope by developing new methods that may be useful in future applied research projects down the road. My work spans the full life cycle of a research solution – from the definition of the research problem and its characterization, to the development of effective algorithms, to collaborations with the IBM software division, and culminating in the creation of commercial software products from the models and algorithms developed.

When and why did you choose to come to Singapore, and why did you choose to work at IBM?

I have been living in Singapore since January 2014. Before I made Singapore my current home, I had already spent time in the country during work trips over several years, so I was familiar with how clean, well-organized, and fun Singapore is. When the opportunity to take over the direction of the Collaboratory in Singapore arose, I was keen to make the move. Singapore’s strong vision to becoming a Smart Nation was one of the main reasons why I was attracted to come and work here. Its hard to think of a more exciting place than Singapore to work as a researcher in the field of applied analytics.

What is the most interesting project you have worked on?

Every project that we work on is interesting! This is the luxury of being in research. By definition, if a project comes to the research lab, it must be challenging and new, or there would be an off-the-shelf approach or software to solve it. We are fortunate to have a job that is always really exciting and challenges us to come up with complex mathematical methods for solving problems, as well as learn about the domains of application.

How would you describe your day-to-day schedule and work, and can you share how close you work with your US (or Global) counterparts at IBM?

My days are rarely ever the same! Over the course of a week, I typically have at least one meeting with our partners involved in projects from the Singapore Government agencies or international organizations. The majority of my time is spent with the research team discussing new ideas or challenging ourselves to come up with solutions to address new problems, as well as reading and working on research. We are used to working with international research teams – in some of our projects, we have had team members from the other IBM Research labs, such as the New York lab and Zurich lab. I also meet regularly with colleagues in IBM who are not part of the research division, but who are interested in knowing what we do.

What makes Singapore a unique place for any data analytics professional and how do you think this experience will help boost his/her career?

The concerted effort from the highest government levels towards becoming a Smart Nation makes Singapore truly unique. Before that, several Singapore agencies, such as the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), were already focused on innovation. With the creation of the Smart Nations Programme Office, many other government agencies have become involved and the range of topics that a data analytics professional can contribute to is truly vast. At the same time, because the agencies are keen to put innovation into practice, we have a genuine opportunity in Singapore to make a difference through the work we do. There is no doubt that working in Singapore is a big plus for any data analtyics professional seeking to make a difference.

What is it like working and living in Singapore?

It’s easy to live and work in Singapore – it’s safe, convenient, efficient, well-connected (both geographically and in terms of IT connectivity) and fun.

What do you enjoy doing most in Singapore for leisure?

I like to attend concerts, films, meet up with friends and enjoy sporting activities. There is almost always an interesting event or show happening in Singapore, and the  tropical climate means that outdoor activities are possible all year round.

If you can make a pitch to a potential candidate for a position with your team, what would you say?

If you are passionate about challenging research and seeing your ideas put into practice, are hardworking and fundamentally curious, and are keen to delve into and create new methods and approaches for solving mathematically complex problems, then the environment we have in IBM Research will be a perfect fit for you.

Laura Wynter, is Director, IBM Research Collaboratory in Singapore.

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