Want to Be a Defence Technologist?
21 Mar 2022

Interested to be part of the defence technology community, but not sure if it’s your cup of tea? Get first-hand guidance from three of our technologists to see if you fit the bill.

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From left: Senior Engineer (Cybersecurity) Shawn Chua, Senior Engineer (C3 Development) Chua Hao Yu, and Senior Engineer (C3 Development) Chua Jin Guang.

1. You know you’re up for a career in defence tech if you like working with tech.

Shawn: At DSTA, we are interested to learn about the latest technologies and use them to shape Singapore’s defence. For instance, in the case of artificial intelligence (AI), it can enhance the decision-making process and result in faster and more informed decisions, bolster advanced soldier systems, among many others. All of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, including AI, have many potential applications. It is our job to apply them to defence and see how we can better leverage technology to support MINDEF and the SAF.

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Hao Yu: We get to scrutinise unique tech stacks of interoperable systems and use tech to harmonise joint operations. In DSTA, I’m able to dive into and discover how sophisticated systems work, and solve challenges unique to the defence industry. My teammates and I practise Scrum – an agile project management framework for developing products – and we’re always discussing tech, and new approaches and practices!

2. It’s a ‘Yes’ if you’re keen to work on exciting projects.

Shawn: I’m currently working on a field of research called adversarial AI, which is a machine learning technique that aims to exploit the way data models work to disrupt the behaviour of AI algorithms and create malicious attacks. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, and I’ve already gotten many opportunities to explore new ways to strengthen the security of AI models we deploy. I’ve also been able to share my knowledge with my colleagues and start more conversations about the topic, which has been incredibly helpful to my work.

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Shawn giving a lecture on adversarial AI during a DSTA Lunchtime Tech Talks.

Jin Guang: I get to see the direct impact my work has on Singapore. When COVID-19 first reached our shores in early 2020, there were hundreds of new migrant worker cases reported every day. There was an urgent need to stay on top of the situation and carry out timely interventions when needed. I was part of the team that developed and deployed a Command and Control (C2) system to support the Singapore Army in managing migrant workers housed across SAF camps which had been converted into community recovery facilities. The C2 system provided real-time visibility of the situation for holistic patient care, monitored movements across facilities, and kept track of swab tests. This provided an accurate real-time, common situation picture that supported decision-making and an efficient response. I’m proud to be part of the team.

Hao Yu: While I’m currently working on a complex C2 software application system, I’ve also been involved in various projects across several military platforms that involve AI, simulations, and full-stack development. Like Jin Guang, I was also roped in to extend my tech expertise to the C2 system for the migrant workers. It was a challenge to track the workers’ health statuses and facility occupancy, while also maintaining data integrity. What’s more, we had to ensure the system ran round the clock! Working in an agile team really spurred us to continue giving our best amid the changing requirements and workflows.

3. You’ll fit right in if you value a positive work culture and a supportive environment.

Shawn: A positive working environment stems from open communication. My mentor is extremely approachable, so I can confide in her if I feel stressed out. My colleagues are also very friendly, and we have lunch together regularly where we talk about interesting topics outside of work.

Hao Yu: We encourage supportive communication, which makes for a very conducive work environment. Regardless of job scopes, everyone’s opinion is valued. This helps to avoid any unwanted assumptions and allows us understand one another’s intentions and goals better. My colleagues are a fun bunch too. In fact, we have a running gag in our team – because we are always drinking coffee at work, we joke about how we turn coffee into code.

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Hao Yu (first from left) with his colleagues and lunch buddies!

Jin Guang: We emphasise the importance of good teamwork and having one another’s back. Whenever one of us hits a snag in our project or comes across a complex problem, we conduct brainstorming sessions and use the design innovation methodology to help break down complex problems. We also ideate together to find innovative ways to solve complex problems.

4. This is the place for you if you’re looking for opportunities to grow in more ways than one.

Hao Yu: I am given many opportunities to broaden my horizons. I get to work on multiple projects, and lead meetings in software design and requirements gathering, which is the process of identifying the exact requirements for a project before it begins. These allow me to grow my technical competencies and develop my soft skills at the same time. I’ve also been challenged to analyse issues and formulate sound and feasible solutions. That cultivates an effective working mindset in me – to raise vital questions, assess relevant information, and reach a reasonable conclusion while satisfying the given criteria.

Jin Guang: As an Electrical Engineering graduate, I did not have the full suite of skills required to grow as a developer. Fortunately, I was offered a mentor and sent on technical courses such as those in coding to help level up my domain knowledge and technical skills, which have helped kick-start my new role.

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Hao Yu (second from left), Jin Guang (second from right), and their colleagues at a team building event.

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Shawn (first from right) and his colleagues on a hike at Henderson Waves, which is just a stone’s throw away from our office.

If you have a passion for science and technology, join DSTA for a life-long career and make an impact on Singapore’s defence!