1 December 2019
SkillsFuture Singapore
Institute for Adult Learning
Singapore Polytechnic, School of Chemical & Life Sciences
Institute of Chemical Engineers

PI: Mr Poon King Wang (LKYCIC, SUTD)
Co-PI: Dr Thijs Willems (LKYCIC, SUTD)
Team: Ms Cheryl Tang Jia Wen, Mr Foo Heng Tong, Mr William Liu Shu Yuan, Ms Ang Jia Ying, Ms Norazrina Muhammed Mustafa (LKYCIC, SUTD)

This research explored the mastery of technical professionals when jobs and workplaces are being digitalised. The very core of what it means to be good at one’s job is challenged and may fundamentally change when technology takes over crucial tasks. In the 4IR, change happens at an increasingly faster pace. However, mastery has long been understood as the step-by-step, incremental development of skills over a long period of time as individuals gradually progress from novice to expert. This poses a paradox that suggests the need to re-evaluate the meaning of mastery given the implications it has on Singapore’s policies involving workforce development.

Our findings show how the modern workplace involves many relationships between humans and machines, with a fluid division of labour. Technical professionals coordinate and collaborate across a network of people and technologies. To do their jobs, they need to access expertise distributed across this network. This distribution has been accelerated by the digital age, and how well professionals navigate this network reflects how deep and wide their expertise is. By identifying these specific interactions, between people-people and people-technology, that characterize the work of technical professionals, we show how exactly expertise is distributed and what professionals can do to develop their mastery in a digital age. This is an important update to the prevalent view on mastery as a linear and incremental process, and advances both practice and literature on how workers can create robust and customized pathways to a resilient future.

Misc. Information


  • SkillsFuture Singapore. (2021). Mastery in the Digital Age: Reconceptualizing Expertise, Developing Deep Technical Mastery, and Accelerating Effective Workplace Learning. Poon King Wang, Dr. Thijs Willems, Ang Jia Ying, Cheryl Tang Jia Wen, Foo Heng Tong, William Liu Shu Yuan.


  • Muhammad Mustafa, Rina., Willems, Thijs., Chea, Sin Moh (2022). Rethinking engineering internships in times of disruptions. Accepted for: 18th International CDIO Conference.
  • ‘Smart Citizenship In And Beyond Singapore’ – Organized by the Singapore Research Nexus, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences – 12 May 2021
  • ‘Brown Bag Lunchtime Talk’ – Organized by the LKYCIC, SUTD – 11 May 2021