Poly students Pursuing their passion for IT
Singapore needs 15,000 more tech professionals and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore wants more polytechnic students to work in the IT industry. TNP meets two poly students who have taken up the challenge...
His interest in the field was piqued when his personal website was hacked by a syndicate two years ago
Two years ago, a personal website he created to test out programming was hacked by a Nigerian syndicate.
They erased all the data and even taunted him by leaving a link to their Facebook group on his web page as a calling card.
But that turned out to be a turning point for Singapore Polytechnic (SP) student, Mr Shawn Pang, 18.
The first-year Infocomm Security Management student said: “I was very frustrated when I found my website defaced, with my plug-ins removed.
“I wanted to find out why and how they did what they did — whether they acted out of fun, or if it was a reminder to me about my lack of security measures.”
He roped in a friend during the school holidays to try out different hacking software like Kali Linux.
Still, he wasn’t initially keen on going to a polytechnic.
Mr Pang, who was from Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), said: “I had always wanted to go to Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) because of peer influence and also because I thought I would stand a better chance of getting into a university.
“It was a huge dilemma for me, but I knew that pure academics was not what I wanted to do.”
He eventually did well enough to qualify for ACJC, but went to SP instead to pursue his interests in IT.
With encouragement from his father, he applied for and got the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s (IDA) iPoly scholarship.
“Both my parents retired a few years ago, so I had concerns over the tuition fees and things like the laptop which I needed for school,” said Mr Pang.
“The scholarship helped my family financially, and it also has good perks — which quelled most of my initial worries.”
He hopes to be a penetration tester after he graduates in April 2018.
The job would require him to help companies find vulnerabilities in their computer systems to ensure they are well protected from threats like hackers.
He said: “My website which was hacked into was a small issue. But if companies were to experience the same thing, there would be greater consequences such as downtime on their servers, leading to lesser productivity.
“I wouldn’t want them to experience what I had gone through.”
And Mr Pang has high hopes for the future of IT in Singapore.
He said: “As time progresses, IT will be a hot topic of that age. We shouldn’t neglect it as we’re all interconnected because of IT.
“We need IT in everything we do, and it’s something we can’t survive without.”
As a kid, he wanted to automate daily chores
EARLY START: He joined his school's Robotics Club when he was in Primary 3.
When he was nine, he would imagine automating things he did every day.
Daniel Lee, 17, a first-year Information Technology (IT) student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), said: "I wondered if there could be a robot which could get me a drink from the fridge."
That was what piqued his interest in IT, and spurred him to join the Robotics Club when he was in Primary 3 at De La Salle School.
In secondary school, he joined the Micromouse Club where he learnt about programming robots and designing mobile applications.
He also participated in competitions, both locally and internationally. Daniel added: "Being in the Micromouse Club in St. Joseph's Institution (SJI) cemented the IT path for me.
"I want to use IT to solve some of the problems which the world might face in the future."
Yet, before joining NP, Daniel had always thought the junior college route would have been an easier way for him to pursue an IT course in university.
He said: "Out of my entire class of 30 students, only six of us went to a polytechnic after O levels."
Most didn't choose IT but went for courses like banking and international business.
His secondary school friends questioned his choice, but Daniel has no regrets.
He was recommended to the iPoly scholarship by his seniors from SJI and got it.
Daniel, whose father is a salesman and his mother, a dental assistant, said: "My parents are okay with what I'm doing as long as I do it well.
"Definitely, the scholarship has helped my family financially, and it has also helped to broaden my skill sets.
"If you've an inkling of what you want to do, make the big break to pursue your passion and go for it."
The Infocomm Polytechnic (iPoly) Scholarship, launched last year, hopes to attract more outstanding O level students to pursue an infocomm-related course at the polytechnic level.
Software and application development, data analytics and cyber security, for example, are key areas driving growth in the infocomm sector.
And Singapore will need more professionals who are skilled in these areas, to contribute towards efforts to become the world's first Smart Nation.
According to IDA's Infocomm Manpower Survey 2014, there were about 150,000 tech professionals working in Singapore that year, with about 15,000 vacancies that needed to be filled.
From 2014 to 2017, companies have projected demand for another 15,000 tech specialists in the areas of development, data analytics, cybersecurity and network & infrastructure.
The aim of iPoly is to broaden the skill sets of the students, and ensure that they are industry-ready upon graduation.
The scholarship pays for the entire three-year course of the student's diploma studies in an infocomm-related course in a local polytechnic.
It encompasses full tuition fees, a one-time laptop allowance, support for courses and certifications, as well as overseas internship expenses support of up to six months.
The overall quantum of scholarship is estimated at $20,000.
There is no quota on the number of scholarships conferred annually.