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DSTA – My Love For Programming

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Jerold Shawn Tan chose a scholarship that is at the cutting edge of technology.

Since young, I have always loved to build things, and it wasn’t long before I developed the aspiration to work in an environment that would allow me to continue learning and using technical knowledge. I was thus attracted to the DSTA Scholarship which I took up in 2005 as I knew it would provide me opportunities to work on a diverse range of exciting projects that would keep me on the technological edge. Working in the defence community was meaningful to me as it meant I would have a part to play in protecting Singapore’s peace and stability.

I began my studies for a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering) degree at NUS in 2007. As part of the orientation programme for scholars, DSTA organised a number of activities ranging from cooking classes to an Outward Bound School sailing expedition. The one-week scholarship orientation programme organised by DSTA enabled me to pick up key life-skills and allowed me to mingle with other DSTA scholars and build close bonds.

DSTA also assigned a senior scholar from NUS to serve as my mentor. He was instrumental in helping me understand the university system and helped me in my selection of courses. Over the course of my university studies, my mentor was a person I could turn to whenever I needed advice on any aspect of university life.

For the duration of my studies, I stayed in the Raffles Hall at NUS with the aid of a subsidy from DSTA for the hostel fees. Staying in the hostel helped enrich my undergraduate life, allowing me to have a hand in many activities which I otherwise would not have tried. For example, I composed one of the songs for our annual hall musical, performed as part of the hall band, and joined the technical team to set up and operate the audio systems.

Under the DSTA Scholarship, I also spent a semester on an exchange programme at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology in 2010. There is a Chinese saying that travelling is far more eye-opening than reading books. I simply can’t agree more. In my case, I racked up a list of ‘never before’ personal experiences – such as living independently, cooking, seeing snowfall for the first time, travelling to many countries on backpack, interacting with foreigners, and learning about the different cultures. The overseas stint took me out of my comfort zone in Singapore and turned me around 180 degrees. It certainly made my life experience all the more richer.

Internship At CSIT
As a DSTA scholar, I was given the opportunity to intern within the Defence Technology Community.* (See footnote on page 18) I ­decided to take up an internship with the Centre for Strategic ­Infocomm ­Technologies (CSIT), whose focus is on the research and ­development of ­compelling solutions in information and ­communication ­technologies to advance Singapore’s national ­security.

During my internship, I tested and evaluated the performance of a commercial deep packet inspection tool. In the process, I also analysed some web protocols, wrote programmes and developed analysis and verification tools. I was fortunate to have a mentor to guide me. Despite his busy schedule, he was very patient as he spent substantial effort explaining various concepts to me. Before my internship at CSIT, I was completely unfamiliar with the technology. I was truly glad for the exposure to CSIT’s work and finding out that the job involved deep R&D expertise, which interested me greatly.

The internship at CSIT helped me to decide on a career at CSIT upon graduation. My current job scope includes protocol analysis, system architecture design and platform development, testing and maintenance. I love to do programming, and the job is great because there are plenty of challenging and interesting programming problems to tackle. CSIT also believes in offering staff continuous growth through extensive learning opportunities. There are opportunities for attending conferences both locally and overseas. I had the privilege of attending a MySQL developer course shortly after joining the centre. CSIT also provides scholarships for further studies.

Although work can be intense, it is made enjoyable by the supportive and cohesive environment that CSIT has to offer. My first impression of CSIT during internship was that the staff were very friendly and fun to be with and there was always laughter in the office. This holds true till now. People here are motivated and are willing to share their knowledge. More than being just colleagues, we have formed personal friendships. We often organise activities during lunch breaks or even after work. Sometimes I would invite my colleagues over to my house for board-gaming sessions.

Most scholarships offer similar benefits but what differentiates the scholarships is the job that is available to you after you graduate and the organisation that you will work in. The DSTA Scholarship has provided me with a job where I enjoy the work culture and where I am motivated by the work that I do. I am sure that those who take up the DSTA Scholarship will also find fulfilment in their careers just as I have.

JEROLD SHAWN TAN
DSTA Scholarship
Age: 28
Now: Engineer, Infocomm
Technology, Centre for Strategic
Infocomm ­Technologies
Attained: BEng (Electrical
Engineering), NUS
From: Raffles JC