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Another Asian tech unicorn tipped to take talent from banks (it’s not Grab)

As Go-Jek launches its ride-hailing app in Singapore, it’s also hiring technologists to support its expanding operations – and that means more tempting job opportunities are opening up for developers currently working at banks.

Indonesia’s Go-Jek, which is valued at about $5bn and is backed by Google, Temasek and Tencent, started trialling a beta version of its app last week in Singapore and plans to roll it out island-wide in the first quarter. But while its need to recruit more drivers has so far dominated local headlines, behind the scenes the company is also ramping up its tech hiring.

Go-Jek, whose Indonesian operations now span 18 platforms including food delivery and digital payments, primarily uses its Singapore office in Shenton Way for data science and engineering work. It currently has six Singapore-based jobs on its careers site (all in tech), but that number is expected to gradually rise over the next six months as Go-Jek expands locally, says a Singapore technology recruiter who asked not to be named.

Go-Jek is recruiting only for high-end specialist jobs in Singapore. It employs most of its tech staff across its offices in Jakarta, Bangalore and Thailand, where labour costs are much lower than in Singapore. For example, Go-Jek is looking for a Singapore-based applied researcher in deep learning who will sit in the data science team and work on projects such as large-scale recommendation engines, real-time forecasting framework, and image recognition. Candidates need at least four years’ machine learning experience and knowledge of deep learning frameworks such as TensorFlow, Keras, PyTorch and Caffe.

While this job doesn’t require experience in a particular industry, Go-Jek could easily source a candidate from the Singapore banking sector, which is now one of the country’s major employers in data science and machine learning. DBS alone has hundreds of staff in its data and analytics team, while JP Morgan is hiring people with machine learning skills, for example.

Similarly, just as banks in Singapore are expanding their mobile-development teams, so is Go-Jek. It’s after an Android engineer with “strong foundations” in Java, OOPs, design patterns and clean code fundamentals. Go-Jek also wants an engineering lead for products, who will “maintain a balance between building sustainable, high-impact projects and shipping things quickly”. This role also hints at further recruitment within engineering – the manager will “work closely with the Go-Jek recruiting team to hire high potential candidates”.

While tech hiring is predicted to increase at Go-Jek, do not expect a boom. Its Singapore development team is unlikely to be as large as rival Grab’s any time soon. Niranjan Paranjape, chief technology officer, said in October that Go-Jek has adopted an “ultra-lean” engineering approach, partly shaped by a Chicago-based consultant ThoughtWorks. Go-Jek has about 200 engineers globally – about one per 500k monthly users. “Ten good engineers is better than 100 average engineers”, Paranjape added.

But why would a developer want to leave a large bank to join a company that is (despite being Indonesia’s only tech unicorn) still in the early stages of its Singapore build-out? One of the main attractions, according to the Singapore recruiter, is the sheer variety of development projects potentially on offer as Go-Jek attempts to become a so called super-app, offering a WeChat-like range of services, aside from ride-hailing. Engineers at the firm already work on a plethora of products – from hair styling to car maintenance and bill payments.

Banks in Singapore have faced increased competition for talent from Asian unicorns and US tech firms this year. Grab, for example, recruited Gary Wong from OCBC in May as the head of its mobile wallet app, GrabPay. AmazonFacebook and Google have also been staffing up their sizeable Singapore operations with help from the banking talent pool.

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Image credit:  afif c. kusuma, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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