S’porean woman, 24, who entered ITE after failing to get into a polytechnic, now works as a cybersecurity engineer

She went back to school to realise her dreams.

| Kayla Wong | Sponsored | March 29, 2021, 05:57 PM

When Carmen Lim first started working as a cybersecurity engineer in 2017 at the age of 21, she was often mistaken as an intern.

“I would constantly get questions from clients on why an intern like me is handling the project,” she said.

“Maybe it’s because I look young, or maybe it’s due to my petite frame, who knows!”

Looking at her pictures (we were conversing via email), it’s not hard to imagine why this sort of misunderstandings frequently happen.

Not only does Lim look like a regular university student, perhaps it’s hard to put her youthful image and the seemingly knowledge-intensive field of cybersecurity together.

While she mostly shrugs such questions off -- many clients were quick to understand after she explained her role to them -- it could cause her some inconvenience at times.

“I often get questions about my age too, which they inevitably link to certain opinions about my experience in the industry, as well as my capability and knowledge,” she said.

These unfounded preconceptions about her ability at work might hurt her feelings at times, but she has since learnt to brush them aside and simply let her work speak for itself.

“No one would be happy if others doubt them, but rather than spending time unnecessarily worrying about something that I’ve no control over, I think it’s better to focus my energy on something that can be improved upon, like my work,” she said.

While Lim has met her fair share of detractors who doubt her due to her young appearance and age at first, she credits her sense of confidence today to a client and a reseller she met while she was working on her first ever project as a rookie engineer in her first company.

Saying that it was one of her most memorable moments at work, Lim said she was “extremely lost” at that time as she was just starting out in the workforce. But she was also “very determined”. Her clients’ patience with her had really helped build up her confidence, she said.

Failed to get into her dream course in polytechnic

Lim’s career path hasn’t always been that clear-cut to her, she revealed.

While she has always been interested in the field of technology since secondary school -- access to her school’s audiovisual room, where digital equipment such as laptops and visualisers were stored, had first piqued her curiosity -- her path to her current vocation had its fair share of turns.

Having scored less than her desired grades for her ‘O’ Levels, Lim had to give up on an Information Technology course in a polytechnic that she had set her eye on.

She then turned her sights to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), graduating with a Higher National ITE Certificate in Network Security Technology in 2016 when she was 20 years old.

Soon after, she enrolled in PSB Academy and graduated with a Diploma in InfoComm Technology a year later.

Then came the gruelling job hunt that most fresh grads have to go through.

In the process of researching on the different paths she could take, Lim sent more than 20 resumes. Out of those, she received three interview offers.

She eventually got placed at a digital infrastructure firm as a Network and Support engineer, where she was the youngest engineer.

Google is her “best friend”

Being the youngest meant she had the least amount of experience in the team, which worked against her at times as she tended to require longer periods of time to finish the same tasks.

But Lim was able to overcome this with a bit of ingenuity of her own.

Lim said that ever since she started working, Google has been her “best friend”. Whenever she encountered a problem that she didn’t know how to get around, she would turn to the search engine for help.

And Google never failed her. Each time she managed to find the solution to the problem she was facing, not only could she tick the problem off her list, she is also one step closer to completing her project. And that gives her immense satisfaction.

“The sense of achievement I feel when I finish a project has always been my motivation,” she said.

While the days and nights could get rather long while she is in the midst of rushing to complete a project by the given deadline -- she credits cup after cup of coffee to help keep her energy up -- Lim said she always tries hard to motivate herself to carry on with her work, no matter how tough it gets.

“I tell myself that no matter how difficult a client is, I must always be determined to learn and adjust,” she said.

Promoted within a year

Perhaps it was this unwavering determination that allowed her to push on at her job, and become better by the day.

Besides picking up hard skills needed for her job, Lim also sharpened her soft skills, such as communication with her colleagues, being understanding, and dealing with stress while working with a tight timeframe.

Within a year, she was offered a chance at promotion to a “Level 2” engineer -- a rank higher than her previous one. Having had to choose a specialisation in a product out of the many she was dealing with at that time, Lim settled on SolarWinds, which is a network monitoring software that helps to detect and resolve network performance issues.

This was also when she decided to further her studies in Cybersecurity. In 2018, she went back to school on a part-time basis as she thought the extra academic qualification would serve her well in the future. It also allowed her to take the modules she wanted to take, as they were suited to her interests.

Two years later, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity with Coventry University.

On why she chose PSB Academy, Lim said she found that one of the institution's partner universities, Coventry University, allowed her to take the modules she wanted to take, as they were suited to her interests.

Although she was “a little nervous” if she could handle the stress of studying part-time while working full-time at the same time, her worries appear to have been unwarranted.

She eventually received an opportunity to work as a cybersecurity engineer at Inventivo, where she made better use of her specialisation.

The move saw a 20 per cent jump in her salary too -- made possible by her choice to go back to school to pursue a specialised degree.

One thing remained consistent, however. Currently at her new workplace, she is still the youngest engineer.

Cover image composite courtesy of Christopher Tan and Tan Tan.

This sponsored piece by PSB Academy makes the writer want to consider taking up a part-time degree too.