Engineering with a Purpose
17 Nov 2020

The work of engineers may not always be visible, but the opportunities to touch the lives of many make it a meaningful and impactful profession. Head (AI-Enabled C3) Akash Philip shared his work in artificial intelligence (AI), as well as his engineering journey, with students during National Engineers Day (NED) on 17 November 2020.

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Speaking virtually to students from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities, Akash outlined foundational concepts and applications of AI. With AI’s increasing prevalence in today’s world – from song recommendations in apps, algorithms that suggest friends on social media, to booking a taxi – it can assist and aid humans in many ways. Akash also gave a glimpse of what he and his colleagues get up to in Digital Hub, where they tinker and experiment with nascent technologies.

We chat with Akash to find out more, and discover why defence engineering is his ideal career.

How was your experience sharing at NED? What do you hope the students got out from your sharing?

I hope I was able to shed some light on AI, and help the students better appreciate the different AI-related areas of work that DSTA engineers engage in. By sharing my personal experiences in engineering as well as my life in DSTA, I hope to provide them with a deeper understanding of the joys of engineering, and interest them in a future career in defence technology.

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Streaming live to a virtual audience at National Engineers Day

You mentioned that you’ve been interested in defence technology since young, and had always wanted to get into engineering. Could you tell us more?

My interest in defence technology was probably sparked by the games I played when I was younger – such as real-time strategy video games – and my interest grew as I learnt more about the field. I also find it meaningful to be able to contribute to the defence and security of our nation.

I chose engineering as I wanted my work to be able to address real-world problems. I enjoy exercising my creativity to create and innovate, and it’s a bonus to be able to do it every day in a field which I am passionate about!

What do you do at work every day?

My role involves building AI capabilities for MINDEF and the SAF’s Command, Control and Communications (C3) systems. We scout for new and emerging technologies and identify areas that can be transformed with AI.

What challenges do you face as a defence engineer?

In defence, we face a wide spectrum of challenges and unique problems that are not typically seen in other sectors. We may not be able to simply leverage commercial technologies and apply them to our projects all the time. A lot of effort goes into technology adaptation, experimentation and designing solutions that fit seamlessly into our systems to aid our users ultimately.

As technology is rapidly evolving, we collaborate with industry partners and leading research institutions in order to keep abreast of the cutting-edge developments.

What keeps you going at work?

I am surrounded by driven colleagues who are passionate about their work. They are willing to share what they have learnt for the benefit of the team, and my mentors are always ready to guide and provide advice when needed, which makes for a great environment!

Besides this, there are many opportunities for me to hone my technical skills that enable me to upgrade my skillsets and contribute more at work.

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What does being an engineer mean to you?

Albert Einstein once said: “Engineers create that which has never been.” To me, being an engineer is about solving practical real-world problems. It’s about having the ability to identify and design robust solutions that ultimately aid users and deliver value. It’s also about working in multidisciplinary and even multi-site teams to deliver innovative and impactful solutions.

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