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Upgrading for the future

A family man who has worked eighteen years in across telecommunications and financial sectors, Mr Balasubramaniam is ready to hit the books again. He will read a Master of Science in Security by Design, offered by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

School is Cool

Over the course of his career, he worked as a research engineer, a network security officer and in applications security. Collectively, these served cybersecurity functions. Some of his impressive professional accolades include Vice President, Technology Risk Manager, and Technology and Operations Risk Manager at multiple banks. To top it off, he has bagged an impressive suite of professional cybersecurity certifications such as CISSP, CISM and CISA. Paired with practical industry knowledge, one would think his wealth of experiences would suffice Mr Balasubramaniam for the future.

But for this NCPS recipient, it was the long held out dream of furthering his education that motivated him to apply for the scholarship and continue his studies.

His choice in undertaking SUTD’s Master’s program wasn’t a rash one either. The course places a strong emphasis on IoT and sensor devices, topics Mr Balasubramaniam thinks are the stuff of the future. These are also things he is familiar with but wants to take a deeper look at.

He said, “I know I won’t be putting in that much effort into learning something new…so that gave me the confidence to take it on amidst my hectic schedule because of work and family commitments…I had to choose my cards well and see what I wanted to play.”

After consulting his wife and conducting a realistic assessment of his family and work responsibilities, he decided to take the plunge. The National Cybersecurity Postgraduate Scholarship also provided him the perfect opportunity to delve into a field he had already invested years in and is deeply passionate about.

NCPS is jointly awarded by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the National Research Foundation Singapore under the National Cybersecurity R&D Program. The scholarship is awarded to working professionals and graduates who desire to play an integral role in shaping and safeguarding Singapore’s cyberspace.

As a scholar, Mr Balasubramaniam is most excited to contribute to Singapore’s cybersecurity landscape. He will work with high level industry players and public sector officials to synergise a collective intelligence to chart where the future will go.

Geeking Out

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Knowledge learnt in school yesterday might be obsolete. Given the growing importance of the digital world, be it in Smart Nation solutions, FinTech, Cloud or even disruptive technologies, cybersecurity forms what Mr Balasubramaniam says is the cornerstone to every technology initiative.

Speaking about the importance of cybersecurity from an end-user perspective, he said, “Taken as a necessity, it is a utility you would expect to be there when you turn on the button itself. That’s where the strategy is. It shouldn’t be an afterthought but baked into the design; it comes out of a product or it comes inbuilt in the product itself. That’s futuristic – but that’s also going to be the common denominator for all technology.”

Even the horrors of machine-led apocalypses might not transpire like in the movies might turn out to be true. The world as we know it is changing with technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Although they might be the driving engines of future growth, they will also be the source of many disasters. A strong cybersecurity strategy will be critical to protect humans against crazed and vengeful machines.

“You can’t be training up individuals and deploying them at the forefront to fight against cyberwars. It’s going to be a machine against a machine world, right? Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a huge part in shaping the world next,” says Mr Balasubramaniam matter-of-factly.

All Aboard the Magic School Bus?

Mr Balasubramaniam thinks the time is ripe for more people to join the field, especially younger students.

“Whoever enters the field now, [it] will be an exciting time for them because [they] get to shape what the next one hundred years will look like.”

For practitioners who have accumulated years of experience and have similarly acquired industry certifications under their belt, Mr Balasubramaniam thinks professional certification might be more important.

Employers recognise these certifications as indicators of an individual’s worth to the company and industry. However, the value of formal education institution certifications are not to be dismissed. A master’s or PhD program provides the knowhow of how far the industry has evolved, as well as specialised expertise. In turn, employees can better align themselves with the industry and be integral in shaping its future.

Perhaps it might be best for workers to bag both formal degree and professional certifications, posit Mr Balasubramaniam.

Whatever path one chooses, Mr Balasubramaniam advises individuals to brace the excitement, fuel their passions and curiosity. With these, the IT practitioner can thrive in the booming industry.

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