Left: Cheong Qin Xue has a Bachelor of Business Administration Second Class Honours (Upper). In his second rotation with MINDEF as Assistant Director (Data Science), he manages a team of three data scientists handling anywhere from four to six data projects. In addition to overseeing their work and suggesting improvements, he is always on the lookout for new technologies to help him and his team work more efficiently.
Right: Tim Min Hui (pictured here, second from right) is a Defence Policy Officer who applies her Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours (Distinction) in Political Science in a practical context, formulating international defence policy and strategies.
A career at MINDEF is a career at the forefront of innovation and development, as Cheong Qin Xue, Assistant Director (Data Science), and Tim Min Hui, Defence Policy Officer, can attest to. In MINDEF, they have found a place that enables personal development while achieving career fulfilment in service of the nation.
In Qin Xue's role, he introduces new and relevant technologies to his team and ensures that their output is in line with realistic goals based on current advancements. Min Hui's position also requires her to keep her finger on the pulse of the political and defence arena, as she proposes timely solutions to dynamic situations in our ever-changing security environment.
A Fulfilling Career in Service
At MINDEF, fulfilment and an exciting work environment go hand-in-hand to create a career destination unlike any other. Qin Xue did not want to be "just an operations guy in a large MNC", which led him to MINDEF and its many opportunities. "The variety of jobs available in MINDEF appealed to me because it meant that I would have the chance to explore and find something that suited my interests," said Qin Xue.
He started with only some basic programming and analytics skills, and felt ill-suited to call himself a "data scientist". But MINDEF supported his potential so that he could grow into the role, giving him technically challenging projects, opportunities for interaction with other professionals in National Laboratories (DSO) and sending him to overseas conferences such as those organised by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).
Qin Xue highlighted a particularly fulfilling moment when his team developed a customised enterprise search solution for the Defence Policy Office (DPO). While the learning curve was steep, to Qin Xue, it was all worth it when he saw his DPO colleagues take to the solution.
For Min Hui, her pride comes from seeing how her efforts translate into practical actions which enhanced defence relations and interests with other countries. Currently, she is part of the team that covers Oceania and Southeast Asia, formulating defence relations policies and strategies that best represent Singapore's interests.
The work keeps her engaged, as it is an evolution from her academic background in Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours (Distinction) in Political Science. She explained: "In my academic training, I was a third party who analysed countries' actions from a theoretical point of view, based on academic theories and research, as well as open-source information. However, in my work, we have access to real-time information and data points from many other sources, which we use in making assessments and recommendations to advance Singapore's defence interests."
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Working in Defence
Knowing that their decisions make a difference in Singapore's future keeps officers like Min Hui and Qin Xue on their toes. Min Hui described the work culture as "work hard, play hard", elaborating that many of her colleagues enjoy the adrenaline rush and eventual satisfaction that comes with working through an urgent but difficult issue. This also creates a transparent and collaborative environment where everyone is open to ideas and willing to listen.
Timeliness is of the essence for these two officers, who revel in their ever-evolving work. "Many issues that we face are critical, dynamic and time-sensitive in nature, and it is both exciting and challenging to be the lead officer to oversee and make progress on some of these," enthused Min Hui.
"It is satisfying to conclude a successful visit or agreement which strengthens our defence relations and people-to-people ties with a foreign defence partner."
Qin Xue concurred: "There are moments when the pace gets hectic, but the effort we put in usually translates into some tangible change in policy or the production of a solution that helps someone else do his or her job better."
Learning in Defence
He was quick to highlight another characteristic of work at MINDEF – the importance of self-directed learning. "The DXO career scheme was constructed around the concept of self-empowerment," he elaborated. "As DXOs, we apply to positions that we think best suit our individual needs, and have access to a HR deskhead who offers advice. We can also apply for sponsorship for overseas graduate courses, and candidates assessed by the MINDEF HR professionals to be of high potential will be awarded."
Min Hui agreed: "Being a large organisation, there is a huge variety of portfolios [in MINDEF], and it is up to you to shape your career journey in the organisation. There are opportunities to attend courses to gain new and relevant skills, in preparation for other potential roles in the future. There are also opportunities to be rotated to other parts of MINDEF for exposure to different portfolios."
Joining the Ranks
Qin Xue hopes that others will be attracted to the breadth of opportunities at MINDEF the same way he was. "The breadth usually means that there is something for everyone," he enthused.
"During your interviews, remember to ask about the work culture and your managers' expectations. Finding the right cultural match is usually difficult but when you do, it will make work much more enjoyable."
Officers in MINDEF can take pride in their careers, as Min Hui concluded: "If you are interested in security and defence issues and have an interest in serving our country, do consider joining MINDEF."