A Second Chance at a First Love

When a childhood passion reignites, and a cybersecurity degree paves new roads ahead


7 December 2020 — This is Stenley’s story. It’s a journey that starts with a love for IT, takes a detour, then comes full circle – where he returns to his first love, now better equipped and ready to embark on a lifelong career in the industry.  

Growing up as a tech tinkerer

To better understand Stenley, we should get to know his formative years. You see, young Stenley loved tinkering with everything related to IT. While his classmates were addicted to playing videogames, Stenley was engrossed with tweaking them – delving into the source code to grant players unlimited lives and in-game currency, and finding new ways of enjoying these experiences.

He also relished building PCs and setting up networks, and often earned a small income helping schoolmates with these requests.

One would think that Stenley would go on to pursue a career related to the world of IT, but his career path so far paints a picture of a daring adventurer who’s tried and done it all – except a role in IT. After he graduated with a Diploma in Electronics, Computer and Communications in 2000, Stenley “went with the flow” and decided to take up the various interesting opportunities that came his way. Through the years, he has signed on with the army, sold and rented property as a property agent, worked as a croupier, started his own trading business, and been a financial advisor.

And all that happened before 2016 – the year everything changed.

The turning point

Having had a nomadic career, as well as being “away” from IT for 15 years, being a desktop support engineer was not something that came to Stenley’s mind.

Fate, however, had other ideas. Not only did Stenley excel in his job, he eventually progressed to become a system tester and then an IT security engineer.

More importantly, his time in IT reignited the flames of his love for IT. For the first time in a long time, Stenley was excited about what he was doing each and every day. The challenges that cybersecurity presented, gave Stenley a buzz that he hasn’t experience since he broke into the source code of video games when he was younger – but with the added pressure of dealing with threats and consequences that are more real than simply attaining a high score in a game.

Unsurprisingly, he thrived in the role that he was in, quickly earning a promotion and stepping up to lead a team looking after IT security design, implementation and coordination of large projects.


Embarking on a part-time degree at NUS

Stenley decided that to further his career, a related degree is a must. So, he enrolled in the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Bachelor of Technology (Cybersecurity) programme.

Even though his interest in IT is strong, Stenley admits he isn’t naturally academically-inclined and thought he would struggle in the programme – especially when it comes to maths, and even more so, because he hadn’t touched the subject for 20 years. Although he struggled in the first year of his studies, Stenley soldiered on and worked exceptionally hard on his weak areas, even going as far as to engage a private tutor to ensure he not only caught up with his peers, but remained on pace


Balancing studies, career and… a new love?

As if his start to life in the BTech programme was not difficult enough, Stenley had to juggle another commitment outside of school – a bubbly baby daughter named Charlize, who is five months old at the time of writing.

While Stenley admitted it was difficult balancing the commitments of a part-time degree, a full-time career, and a new role as a father, he was determined to come out on top.

“Without a doubt, it is challenging enough to study part-time while working, let alone have a new addition to the family. However, I reminded myself that the reason I enrolled in the BTech degree programme was to increase my career prospects and give my family a better life. I knew that no matter what, I had to keep my eye on the prize. So I remained focused on the important things in life, stayed on track and remained on top of everything!”

What’s ahead?

His unwavering focus paid off. After the bumpy start to his time in the programme, Stenley grew from strength to strength, especially when the curriculum’s focus was shifted to cybersecurity.

A key takeaway was that the competencies he picked up in the BTech programme were applicable to real problems at the workplace as well. One example that he remembers fondly is a module he took up on risk assessment, which taught him how to devise a plan with clear knowledge of the risk involved at every juncture, before deciding on mitigation methods and surfacing it to respective technology owners. He faced a similar situation at work, and managed to identify a solution with minimal risk to the company and full approval from the respective stakeholders.

Looking ahead, Stenley is determined to do as best as he can in the BTech programme, and continues being the best parent and role model he can be to his new love, Charlize.

He also harbours dreams of forging stronger bonds with his “first love”. Intent on making the most of his reunion with IT, Stenley’s goal is to forge a successful career in IT and security management, with hopes of someday starting his own cybersecurity consultancy.

A dream he will be one step closer to, with a BTech degree in his hands.

26 January 2021