DSTA scholarship holder Lincoln Cheng says the most satisfying aspect of his job is seeing users put systems he helped design to good use every day.
As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on traditional ways that companies operate, many firms scrambled to switch to a digital-first approach.
For Mr Lincoln Cheng, a software development programme manager at the Defence Science and Technology Agency's (DSTA) Information Programme Centre, that approach was not entirely new.
Having been on an exchange programme at Linkoping University in Sweden under the DSTA scholarship seven years ago, the 29-year-old was already familiar with what it means for firms to digitalise and transform. There, he had the opportunity to experience the vast impact that information technology (IT) has had on Swedish society.
“I saw how entrepreneurship was highly innovative and tech-oriented in Sweden and witnessed the impact that IT had on the economy and people’s lifestyles. It reaffirmed my belief that it was important to be IT-savvy, to understand how technology works, and to develop the relevant skills and mindset," he says.
The overseas experience would prove to serve him well. At the onset of the pandemic, Mr Cheng and his team of software developers adapted quickly to work-from-home arrangements by procuring new tools, so that they could share, sync and edit technical diagrams easily and efficiently for their virtual discussions.
This was critical, he says, as “defence and security operational requirements change rapidly as world events and paradigms shift”.
“We have to stay agile, and my days at work are often exciting and fast-paced,” he adds.
Keeping up with technology
Mr Cheng’s passion for technology fuels his enthusiasm for his work. His team is involved in building robust, web-based software for Singapore’s defence and security forces like the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The software systems are integrated with data analytics, and ingests large amounts of data to reveal hidden patterns and relationships that the SAF can then use to manage their operations more efficiently.
“We once did coding for a multiplayer simulation that enables SAF personnel to test and validate new concepts and future technologies while improving their operational concepts in a virtual environment, against a multitude of scenarios. It was very rewarding to see the users actively engaged during the simulation and in debrief sessions.”
Mr Cheng, who studied electrical engineering at the National University of Singapore under a DSTA Scholarship, had always been drawn to the versatility of technology.
“Defence encompasses not only the air, land and sea domains, but also across cyber, financial, infrastructural and psychological domains. The potential to work on advanced technology across multiple disciplines and domains for Singapore’s defence was what drew me to the scholarship,” he says.
As an intern at DSTA’s C3 Development Programme Centre, he gained hands-on experience in using virtual reality and developing a multiplayer virtual world as a proof-of-concept for soldiers to interact in the digital space. This, in turn, further fuelled his passion for IT: For his final-year project, he developed a speech therapy mobile application.
These learning opportunities and experiences, he says, are still aplenty now that he is a full-time staff at DSTA. “Being plugged in to the latest tech developments and having access to learning resources such as specialised training and courses (Integrated Systems Engineering & Management Course, Leadership Development Programme) enables me to explore my personal interests in tech. Whenever I encounter a challenging project that stretches the limits of my knowledge, I get motivation and help from my skilled colleagues, mentors and our dedicated SAF and industry partners.”
To help scholarship recipients become more all-rounded professionals, the DSTA Scholarship also provided support for personal growth, which Mr Cheng says he is appreciative of. “For example, besides providing support during our studies, they also organised useful courses such as culinary and grooming courses to prepare us for university life. These made me more confident in a professional capacity.”
For the greater good
Mr Cheng says the most satisfying aspect of his job is seeing users put the systems he helped design to good use every day. As quickly as technology continues to advance, he is already looking ahead to see how he can continue to better himself.
He says: “I plan to deepen my understanding of 5G technology and explore real-life applications that leverage it. Like any other emerging technology, it presents potential opportunities to be applied for defence that should not be overlooked.
“Amidst the tough times, the pandemic has brought many opportunities that could change and improve the way we live. I hope to be able to find solutions to these challenges and make a bigger impact on the lives of Singaporeans in my own way,” he adds.
Visit https://www.dsta.gov.sg/join-us/student/scholarships-awards for more information.