“The artist in me has never left”: People of the Digital Economy

Raphael Yee is a community specialist at Carousell.

Raphael Yee was once a theatre student at an arts school in Singapore. He held a cursory interest in software development, and eventually dived into the tech industry, working as a programmer at Carousell. Yet that artistic touch never left; and he sees coding as an art form: “Many people think being an artist and an engineer is mutually exclusive but this doesn’t have to be true. There’s a lot of artistry in programming beyond just writing elegant, beautiful code.”

Yee landed in the tech sector after dabbling in film. He represented his educational institution in a film project organised by Temasek, and even enrolled in a private school to pursue a diploma in film-making. However, the prospects of building a career in the movie industry didn’t appeal to Yee, so he pivoted toward working in tech—he wanted to be part of processes that build new products, instead of working for a production house.

During his time as an intern for Carousell’s communications team, Yee noticed various workflow inefficiencies, and had ideas about how to fix them. He began writing scripts that automated some of his team’s tasks. Sometimes, he would stay in the office till late to finish up those projects. After countless shared meals and conversations with the company’s CTO, Lucas Ngoo, Yee decided to alter his career course and join Carousell’s data team instead of pursuing a career in the arts. Today, Yee wears many hats, doing data analysis as well as front-end and back-end development for Carousell. 

Though the clapperboard and camera are no longer part of Yee’s life, he still finds himself relating programming to the arts. “Data visualization as an art akin to cinematography,” he said, referring to how the presentation of information can be similar to framing and coloring a shot in a film.

During his transition, Yee had to overcome many hurdles. The biggest obstacle was the chip on his own shoulder—unlike his colleagues at Carousell, Yee doesn’t have a tech background, and that weighed on him. But he believes the way to power through is to constantly learn, soak up information, and develop new skills. As an ambitious young man, Yee hopes that one day he would be able to start his own company that makes as much of an impact as Carousell. To do so, Yee busies himself with reading about business and engineering. 

Yee has also received a lot of help and advice along the way. More than anything, he hopes to pay it forward in the future. Eventually, he wants to become a mentor to young people who landed in data science despite the backgrounds being rooted in other fields. He wants to offer the same opportunities that people like Lucas Ngoo and his previous supervisor gave him. 

Today, Yee puts his tech knowledge to good use. At Carousell, he is working on a program that removes counterfeit goods from the platform’s listings. Beyond that, Yee is the lead software engineer for Ironledger of the Singapore Armed Forces, where he refines a program to reduce time spent on the handover-takeover process. Ever experimental, he’s even working on an app to manage functions in his home.