A conversation with Kelson Ho, a trainee on SGInnovate’s PowerX Cybersecurity programme. The traineeship is a 12-month, full-time programme split into two phases – modular training with a capstone project, and full-time on-job-training with a partner company.
You had extensive experience in both the military, and the oil and gas sector, before joining the PowerX programme. Can you share with us more about your career journey so far?
I joined the RSAF (Republic of Singapore Air force) as a combat officer after earning my diploma back in 1996. During this time, I took on responsibilities in both military and administrative operations. I also completed a part-time degree in Computer Studies to keep my skills and capabilities competitive. Eventually, I decided I wanted more private sector experience, so I left to pursue other career paths after about 12 years of service.
While I tried my hand at a few different jobs after leaving the force, I did not find anything suitable until an old friend introduced me to a role at a company where he was working in the Oil & Gas sector. I did not have any relevant experience but decided to give it a shot after speaking with my friend. After undergoing training with the company, I started work as a service engineer. I worked with this organisation for another 12 years before the company underwent a restructuring exercise in 2020 as the industry saw a downturn due to the pandemic.
Now, I’m a trainee with the PowerX Cybersecurity programme, ready for the next phase of my career.
What drew you to cybersecurity, and why did you choose to get started with the Power X programme?
After leaving my last job, I made use of the downtime to take a short break and ponder my next move. I decided to pursue a career in the IT field, as I felt it would allow me to leverage on my background in computer science and be part of a sunrise industry. After taking on a six-month full-time programme with IBM which was supported by SGUnited with a focus on cybersecurity, I began applying for jobs but faced challenges because I lacked real-world experience. It was also during this time that I came across PowerX Cybersecurity, which provided an opportunity to undergo a six-month on-the-job-training (OJT) phase with a partner company.
I’ve just completed our capstone project, which gives us more hands-on experience, and am about to start full-time OJT with Attila Cybertech.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role at Attila Cybertech?
I have been reading up the materials they have shared with me, and participated in the online training conducted by the team.
Some of Attila Cybertech’s areas of specialty include industrial control systems and operational technologies, which are similar to the instrumentation equipment I used to work with during my tenure in the Oil & Gas sector. My understanding of the operations has given me a greater appreciation for the environment that they are operating in.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in building a new career path?
When I switched from my first career (in the Air Force) to a role in the Oil & Gas sector, I felt like I was dealing with a ‘black hole’ of unknowns, not having any relevant experience to rely on. At the same time, while some soft skills are transferrable from one job to another, I also had to recalibrate my expectations of my own performance, without any real-world experience. It’s very important at this stage to be earnest and humble, and to pick up as much knowledge as possible, working from the bottom up.
I’m also glad that my experiences in both the Air Force and my Oil & Gas role taught me that change is a constant, which has prepared me mentally for the continuous learning required to succeed in cybersecurity.
What advice do you have for others who are considering starting new careers in unfamiliar fields?
Do your research and ask yourself honestly if you have an interest in this field. If the answer is yes, go for it with your heart, mind and soul. If you do not like what you do, you will not be giving your best, nor will you enjoy the process. It can be tricky picking up new skills, but I believe that as long as you are willing to commit and put in the work, then you will be able to find opportunities.
Find out more about talent programmes such as SGInnovate’s PowerX here.
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