Exploring Future Possibilities

Keloth Sonia Nair

As a Defence Merit Scholar, Sonia Keloth has had the privilege of working with multiple departments in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). She believes these experiences will maximise her full potential as a Defence Executive Officer (DXO), contributing to the nation’s defence and security through policy formulation and other responsibilities.

Did you originally plan on having a career in the MINDEF/SAF? 

No, in fact I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at first. I was browsing through career and scholarship options in several scholarship guides (much like this one) when I came across the Defence Merit Scholarship and what a Defence Executive Officer does. I wasn’t aware that such a role existed, and I was immediately intrigued by it. Before this, I never thought about how non-military officers could also contribute to Singapore’s defence, but I am glad to have this opportunity to play a part in our nation’s defence and security.

Tell us more about becoming a Defence Merit Scholar and how it has helped to shape your thinking.

Becoming a Defence Merit Scholar has definitely been an experience I’m extremely grateful for. In the last few years, while pursuing my undergraduate degree, I had the chance to intern in several departments and help out at some events. 

One of these internship opportunities was a stint at the Transformation and Innovation Department (TID) where I learnt about the different initiatives aimed at encouraging innovation within MINDEF/SAF. I also interned at the Manpower Policy Department where I looked into various methods of encouraging and supporting upskilling within the organisation.

While I was initially quite nervous, I have learnt through these various experiences that growing along the way is all part of the process. You may not know everything in the beginning, but with the support of your fellow colleagues and friends around you, you will gradually learn and develop yourself further.

How can a Defence Executive Officer (DXO) contribute to Singapore’s defence and security?

Every single DXO contributes to Singapore’s defence in one way or another. All the departments in MINDEF must work well individually and together. There are many projects which will require the different departments to cooperate with each other in order to organise events, implement policies or carry out national campaigns. Thus, every single DXO plays a critical role in supporting MINDEF and ensuring our nation’s defence.

What responsibilities and challenges do you expect to face as a DXO in the near future?

I am aware that the role of a DXO is not an easy one. Depending on the department that you are in (e.g. finance departments, policy departments, or even innovation departments), there may be different types of content knowledge and policy backgrounds that you will need to acquire quickly. However, developing myself into a good and trustworthy leader is an important challenge I know I can conquer.

What would be the first thing you’d like to do upon returning from your studies?

The first thing I would like to do would be to learn and familiarise myself with all the different acronyms in MINDEF. (Trust me, there are a lot!) 

Additionally, as with any job, I am sure the transition from student life to working life will be one that takes some getting used to. After returning from my studies, I will strive to learn more about the department I have been posted to, the work they do, the work culture there, as well as get to know my colleagues and teammates.

What would keep you motivated at work?

I believe seeing the results and positive impacts of your efforts is one of the greatest motivations, and that’s what will keep me going.

What do you think makes a good, effective leader?

A good, effective leader is someone who makes their team feel motivated. It is someone who inspires their team to do their best and not give up when they encounter obstacles. It is also someone that their team trusts and feel comfortable turning to when they need help.

More importantly, a good leader is able to identify the various strengths of each team member and guide him/her towards achieving his/her fullest potential.

What do you aim to improve/achieve as a DXO for the Nation?

As a DXO, I hope to be a valuable team member and contribute towards the many different facets of our defence policies and infrastructures. Being able to gain exposure through various roles and responsibilities will allow me to make an impact in more than one area. We will also be able to learn a lot about the different departments in MINDEF/SAF and how each plays an important role for the nation. I hope to be able to do my best in each department I am posted to and play a part in achieving the department’s goals and visions.

What do you hope to learn from your MINDEF/SAF career?

I hope to learn more about myself through on-the-job experience, such as my strengths and my areas of improvement, as well as find out more about the different areas of defence and see how I can contribute in my own small ways.

Through the job rotations, which is one of the key features of the DXO scheme, I also hope to acquire various skills along the way and have a deeper understanding of the whole ecosystem behind MINDEF/SAF.

What’s your advice to aspiring scholars who wish to embark on a DXO career?

Just give it a shot! Come over and share what you are passionate about and how you want to contribute! The community here in MINDEF is kind, encouraging and supportive. 

If you feel a desire to give back to Singapore or to contribute in some way to our nation’s security and defence, then this scholarship may be the one for you.


KELOTH SONIA NAIR
2018 Defence Merit Scholarship Recipient, currently on studies at Nanyang Technological University
Recipient of The Defence Merit Scholarship, 2018
Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University