Staff Stories, February 2020


Mr. Solomon Tan


Senior IT Executive, Corporate Services




Q: What sparked your interest in social service?


Solomon:

I came to realize that I was no longer satiated with IT-related work. The satisfaction started to feel dull - like there was always something missing. After plenty of reflection, I decided that I needed a better motivator aside from just monetary reasons.

Hoping to find something with deeper meaning, I went as far as to consider restarting as a frontline staff in social service. That path somehow led me to Boys’ Town, where the interviewer was curious to hear my story. Instead of turning me away as I expected, I was blessed with two offers of very different positions: to be a Youth Worker, or an IT Executive. Her advice was that if I were to take the latter position, I could stay in it for as long as I needed before deciding when and whether to transit into a direct social service role. Whatever I would need for the transition, she promised her best in supporting me.

It was with that same warmth from her and my current colleagues that I joined and kept to this sector, and it is the mission of helping people that has made even the most mechanical of my work feel deeply meaningful.

Q: What are the challenges of running an IT department in a social service agency?


Solomon:

Boys’ Town, like a lot of other Social Service Agencies (SSAs), surprisingly do not settle for less just because of the scarcity of resources. The “do more with less” culture is strong not only for our IT unit, but with the rest of the organization as well.

This culture challenges us with these questions:

  • How do we keep our SSA technologically competitive even when comparing ourselves to our for-profit counterparts?
  • How do we decide and carry out tech projects without being disruptive and intrusive to our direct social service colleagues and our children and youths?
  • Do we justify the consequences of working with low-cost (or no-cost) solutions to save on our very limited resources, or go for a high-cost project that will compromise and or delay the deployment of other important systems?

Though these questions often have easy answers, the lack of resources and the sensitive nature of Boys’ Town’s work often push us to constantly realign with government prerogatives, grasp at alternative solutions, and to be quick to grab completely unrelated project opportunities that present themselves - even when our schedules are absolutely maxed out. The situation definitely isn’t unique to us – I do believe that it’s a sector-wide dilemma to produce miracles when backed to a corner. With our highly-understanding, highly-involved colleagues however, these challenges can be overcome and are often overcame.

Q: What do you enjoy the most for working in BT?


Solomon:

That would be the people – the family here in Boys’ Town. There are the youths that I have had the privilege to befriend (despite being in IT), as well as the wonderful colleagues that have made every working day since I joined immensely fun.

It’s a home not just for the youth, but it has also become one that I love returning to everyday. Work should and will always be tough, and tough times aren’t that bad when you have another family to brave through with.