IT phobia? “Change or you lose”

Feb 03, 2017 07.00PM |

by Suhaile Md

WITH four promotions in five years and earning two and a half times her starting salary, you’d think Ms Gloria Loh started her career on a fast track graduate programme, like a management traineeship.

Not so. The 44-year-old Senior Supervisor joined Mothercare, a parenting products retailer, four months after finding herself unemployed when her small business shut down in 2011.

Ms Loh said she “had no knowledge of retail” when she started. The change was not easy at first.

Patrons of The Middle Ground enjoy priority access to our best stories. To become a patron, click here.

It’s all in the head

“I had IT phobia”, said Ms Loh.

“There are a lot of changes in IT” and very often at that, she said. Her previous job required little to no use of computers. So in the 20 years since she got her O-levels and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) certificates, she did not pick up any IT skills. As a result, she had “really lost confidence”.

Ms Loh knew she needed to get past it or she’d not find a stable job. So she approached the Community Development Council (CDC), which then signed her up for free basic computer training courses. Successfully completing the training was a key turning point for her. It was there that she “gained confidence”.

“I had IT phobia”

The experience of overcoming her fear and learning something new got her hooked. “I wanted to upgrade some more.” That was when she signed up for a certificate course in retail supervision at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS), with the aim to enter the retail industry.

Her commitment to learning grew strong. So much so that she “always requested” for two fixed off-days when she went for retail job interviews even though she had been jobless for months. In the retail business, there are no fixed off days and people work in rotating shifts – making it hard to attend classes.


The journey to skills upgrade

Ms Loh joined Mothercare as an entry level sales assistant in 2011 while she was still studying for her skills certificate course.

It took about “six to nine months” to complete the certificate and she promptly signed up for an advanced course which eventually led to her diploma in retail management in early 2013.

Throughout the nine-month course, Ms Loh attended classes from 9am to 6pm, twice a week. And she continued working full-time the remaining five days. Life was “just work and study” and taking care of her mum during that time.

When asked why she did not take a study break as it would have been easier, she laughed and said: “I cannot afford to have a study break. I have house loan to pay… I’m the sole breadwinner, I pau ka liao [do everything].”

“I cannot afford to have a study break. I have house loan to pay… I’m the sole breadwinner, I pau ka liao everything.”

The effort pays off

Ms Gloria Loh, Senior Supervisor, Mothercare. Image by SkillsFuture Singapore.
Ms Gloria Loh, Senior Supervisor, Mothercare. Image by SkillsFuture Singapore.

Ms Loh started in sales. And since she had no previous experience, a lot of her focus was on learning what was right in front of her.

The courses “show the various angles”, from specifics like how to do stock taking to broader trends like online retail. She also picked up relevant practical skills like how to analyse the various information her company gives her.  It “helped me understand my job more”, she added.

As a result, she rose through the ranks quickly: From sales advisor to senior sales advisor, assistant supervisor, supervisor, to her current role as senior supervisor. Four promotions in five years.


You can’t do it alone

It was not easy to work for five days, only to spend the next two days attending classes full-time, and then repeat that cycle for a few months.

So “most important”, said Ms Loh, is that both the company and family “give moral support”.

“Most important… somebody to give moral support”

The company encourages staff to go for training. Mothercare also made allowances for her to have fixed off days. “I’m very fortunate to have good managers.”

Financially, she had support from the various G programmes. Up to 95 per cent of the course fees were subsidised under Workfare schemes. She does not recall how much she eventually paid for the certificate courses that led to her diploma but it was affordable enough for her to enrol in her very first certificate course in 2011 even though she was unemployed at that time.


Keep learning

Even though Ms Loh’s job is secure and her career is progressing well, she still keeps an eye out for learning opportunities.

“The world is changing, so either you change or you lose”, said Ms Loh.

Last September, Ms Loh embarked on her six-month specialist diploma in retail management course at SIRS. She took advantage of the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy (MES) to reduce her costs. The scheme covers up to 90 per cent of her course fees (read more here). The MES is specifically for Singaporeans aged 40 and above.

There are other schemes Singaporeans qualify for that can be combined with the MES, like the Workfare Training Support Scheme. The balance after all subsidies can be further reduced using the $500 SkillsFuture credits all Singaporeans get when they turn 25. After subsidies, Ms Loh only forks out $700 even though the full fees were over $10,000.

For two decades, she did not need to use a computer. Now, she uses it daily. Previously she did not source for learning opportunities until she was forced to. Now, she’s hooked to learning. Change can be hard. But it’s necessary.

Said Ms Loh: “Be brave to step out. Even if you fail, try again… It’s not the end of the world.”

“Be brave to step out. Even if you fail, try again… It’s not the end of the world”


This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:



Featured image Keyboard by Flickr user Toshiyuki IMAICC BY-SA 2.0

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.