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Car chases, pulsating synthetic beats, and a compelling cybercrime drama. That’s the stuff that helped Infocomm Polytechnic Scholarship (iPoly) scholar Ms Chua Min Min discover her passion for cybersecurity.

An Act of Passion

The Korean TV drama series, Phantom, follows a young detective posted to the cyber investigation department. Filled with unexpected twists and horrific murders, the protagonist unravels crimes which have permeated from the cyberworld.

Min Min was hooked. What intrigued her most was the behind the scenes investigative work featured on the show. Her favourite episode was when a powerplant got hacked and the city experiences a total power outage, causing havoc on the streets. The analysing of digital evidence in labs was of interest to her since most cybercrime dramas omit this crucial process.

Little by little, the girl who had initially turned up her nose against IT, developed a passion for cybersecurity.

“Initially I was planning to go into accountancy – something I was confident in,” said Min Min. “[But] I wanted to do something which is my passion, and not just something I am confident in doing.”

The teen is now a first-year student at Singapore Polytechnic’s Infocomm Security Management course. She hopes to be a cybersecurity specialist to safeguard information in the cyberspace.

The Infocomm Security Management course is a three-year diploma program which prepares students in the areas of security technology, security management, information technology, law, and teamwork and communications. Students will mandatorily undertake a 17-week long internship. On top of their diploma certification, students also have the chance to receive industry accreditation such as the prestigious EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker and the EC Council Certified Security Analyst certifications.

Living for the Drama

Admittedly exaggerated and quite possibly more thrilling, Min Min thinks it is possible for cybercrimes to be as chaotic as the Korean drama. She cites the SingHealth data breach as a prime example.

But whatever unravels in the cyberworld, Min Min has her sights set on the opportunities being an iPoly scholar brings.

Part of the bond-free scholarship obligations include an overseas exposure in at least one of the following: an overseas internship, an overseas competition or a study trip/student exchange program. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will cover related expenses incurred. Moreover, IMDA will also help facilitate the process of the overseas exposure by sourcing for relevant partnerships.

The scholar thinks that overseas opportunities like these, especially the internship experience, is hard to come by. She hopes that through these, she will get to learn more about foreign cultures and experience different professional practices.

Min Min also says that the financial backing from IMDA will allow her to pursue courses and certifications which are not offered by her polytechnic. Freed from financial woes, she believes the scholarship gives her the freedom to explore different areas of the field.

Not Exactly Picture Perfect

As a ‘late bloomer’ in IT, the iPoly scholar puts in more legwork than some of her peers at school.

“I don’t have a lot of foundation in this technology thing,” she laments. “When it comes to certain terms and concepts, it is a bit harder for me to understand what they are about. Other classmates already know a lot about IT. Some of them even know how to build their own computers! They know everything already!”

Not one to be easily discouraged, Min Min continues to nurture her passion. Currently, her favourite course is programming. Venturing into online forums, the teen clues in on the latest programming buzz. The forums spark new ideas to solve confounding programming problems.

Furthermore, the fears of missing out are dissolved given the comprehensive diploma program. As a first-year, the basics of cybersecurity. These include classes such as programming in Python and C, fundamental of computing, and Linux administration and security. In the coming years, she will learn ethical hacking and defences, and more advanced capabilities like reverse engineering.

With a story like hers, Min Min advices young people who have little exposure to IT to do some basic internet searches on the field, even if their interest levels are miniscule.

“Question yourself: will this be something I want to put in effort for? If answer is ‘no’, perhaps wait for a few years and see if things change. If the answer is ‘yes’, just go for it. Though there is always a risk you may lose passion in it, but if you really have passion you won’t lose passion that easily.”

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