Left: Dillon Keshvani is a recipient of the CSIT Undergraduate Scholarship, and he scans the technology landscape to find emerging cyber threats in all domains as a Technology Exploration Specialist. He holds a Bachelor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from NUS.
Right: Marlene Koh is a CSIT Undergraduate Scholar, is an Infrastructure Software Engineer, who designs, builds, maintains and extends core infrastructure that supports systems critical to CSIT. She holds a Bachelor of Computing in Computer Science from NUS.
With accelerated digitalisation comes the advent of cyber threats, and this is where Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT) engineers play a critical role in Singapore's digital defence against sophisticated threat actors.
CSIT is the lead digital technology agency in Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) that conducts applied research and develop customised digital solutions to support national missions such as cyber defence and counter-terrorism. CSIT's areas of technical focus include cybersecurity, data analytics, software engineering and cloud infrastructure and services.
BrightSparks caught up with Dillon and Marlene, who gave us an exclusive insight on what it is like to contribute to Singapore's digital defence, and their career aspirations with CSIT.
Dillon and Marlene, how did both of you get interested in cybersecurity and software engineering respectively?
Dillon: I was initially quite intimidated by anything Cybersecurity-related because I did not have a Computer Science background. However, coming across some simple explanations of exploits piqued my interest as this was when I realised they were essentially puzzles with unconventional solutions, and I'm really into puzzles.
Marlene: After I got my first laptop, I was amazed that a digital screen could provide so much connectivity with the world, entertainment and value. Instead of just being a consumer, I wanted to create meaningful applications that can improve lives, and software engineering was the path to achieving my goal.
How did CSIT support you during your studies?
Dillon: Apart from the financial support, CSIT assigned an engineer to mentor and support me during my studies. I had opportunities to engage my mentor and other colleagues during my internship. They not only ensured that I was coping well in my studies but also included me in CSIT's events such as the annual Christmas party. I really felt like I was part of the CSIT family.
Marlene: Like Dillon, I was also assigned a mentor. Additionally, CSIT has a strong focus on continuous learning where we are encouraged to attend courses, conferences, and certifications to gain new knowledge and skills. We work hard and play hard together, bonding over fun activities such as quizzes and celebrating festive occasions.
How did you apply what you have learnt to your current work?
Dillon: Although my current field of work is different from my major in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, I can apply the same skills of independent research and systematic approaches to challenges in the course of my work now. Having said that, CSIT provided me with very good grounding in Cybersecurity which enabled me to perform my duties well.
Marlene: I often build applications and and gained experience through some projects when I was pursuing a Bachelor of Computing in Computer Science, which really paid off. Those projects helped me become more comfortable with the myriad of systems and tools used at CSIT and prepared me for robust discussions with the digital technology experts in CSIT.
Speaking of work, can you share with us about your current role?
Dillon: As a Technology Exploration Specialist at CSIT, I scan the technology landscape to find emerging cyber threats in any domain, analyse them for severity, and then perform security assessments through proof-of-concept simulations to demonstrate that severity. I also develop tools for the detection and mitigation of such cyber threats.
How about your role at CSIT, Marlene? Tell us more.
Marlene: I currently work as a Software Engineer (Infrastructure) in CSIT. I design, build, maintain and extend core infrastructure that supports systems critical to CSIT. This gives me a good understanding of CSIT's deep technical focus as I use a wide variety of in-house and open-source tools to ensure that our systems are reliable and scalable.
How does your work contribute to Singapore's cyber defence?
Dillon: My work protects Singapore from sophisticated cyber threats. This is an important part of our national security as the world becomes increasingly connected through technology.
Marlene: The customised digital solutions that I work on support CSIT developers in producing applications that contribute to national security, including but not limited to computer network defence and counter-terrorism.
Both of you have been working at CSIT for a few years. What is your most significant career achievement to date?
Dillon: My most significant career achievement to date would be the opportunity to lead a new project, which ran like a start-up. I was given the autonomy to decide on the direction of the project, while picking up new skills on the job. It was a stressful but ultimately rewarding experience.
Marlene: I was thrilled when I was able to build an on-premise platform to strengthen the collaboration between teams. The work in CSIT is complex, and everyone has a lot of knowledge to share. Through collaboration, the result of our work is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
What is the work culture at CSIT?
Dillon: The culture is very open, friendly, and most of all, collaborative. Our colleagues share their technical expertise and we often team up across different sections to work on projects. It is great to work in an environment where leveraging the cumulative experiences of the group is encouraged and actively practised.
Marlene: I agree with Dillon. We have a vibrant work culture here in CSIT where open sharing of knowledge is encouraged, and people are always ready to lend a helping hand.
In your opinion, what qualities are needed to excel in CSIT?
Dillon: Threats in cyberspace are constantly evolving. If you have the passion to innovate, are agile enough to find solutions to evolving threats, and enjoy working with like-minded individuals to protect Singapore's security, you will do well in CSIT.
Marlene: CSIT values integrity because we are entrusted with advancing national security. We also value the camaraderie of individuals working together effectively towards a shared purpose.
What would you say to convince someone to take up the CSIT Undergraduate Scholarship?
Dillon: If you have a passion for digital technology and want to join an organisation with many opportunities to work collaboratively as part of a driven and high-performing team while enjoying the autonomy to lead and direct your own projects, CSIT is the place for you.
Marlene: Take up the CSIT Undergraduate Scholarship if you are passionate about contributing to Singapore's security in the areas of cyber defence and counter-terrorism. After graduation, you will have a meaningful and fulfilling career ahead of you. Be prepared to continue learning and keep updated on the latest technology.