HTX Intern Stories: How Cybersecurity intern Aqmar “broke rules” to join HTX

Cybersecurity intern Aqmar counts himself lucky to be able to use the skills he'd learnt in the classroom during his internship at HTX because most of his peers end up with jobs only tangentially related to their studies.

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Aqmar Haziq (Photo: HTX)

To the eloquent Aqmar Haziq, who has a soft spot for the written word, his Cybersecurity internship at HTX can be described as a “saving grace”. Currently a Year 3 Singapore Polytechnic Infocomm Security Management student, Aqmar is completing a credit-bearing internship that is mandatory for graduation.

This internship at HTX was a "saving grace" for me. 

“The range of jobs in the intern portal is vast, but the majority of them are unrelated to the course. That’s why it’s not uncommon for students to end up in an internship that’s only tangentially related to their area of study. I wanted to do well during my internship and work on something that’s related to what I’m learning in school, so I took things into my own hands and looked for internships beyond the portal,” he elaborates.

Chancing upon the perfect opportunity

Serendipitously, a friend of Aqmar’s got accepted into HTX’s internship programme around this time, and this prompted Aqmar to look into the agency and what it does. After researching, he found out that an internship under Cybersecurity would not just let him hone his existing skills, but also allow him to contribute to the nation’s safety and security. This was exactly what he set as his goal, which prompted Aqmar to describe the whole sequence of events as his “saving grace”.

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Aqmar and his friends from Singapore Polytechnic. (Photo: Aqmar Haziq)

Since HTX internships weren’t listed on his school’s job portal, Aqmar had to jump through a few hoops to land a position. First, he had to reach out directly to HTX’s HR through email to express his interest. Then, he had to push forth and seek permission from his school to complete an internship here since it wouldn’t be allowed otherwise. 

Now at HTX, Aqmar is able to apply the things that he had learnt in school, including a module on malware reverse engineering. At the start of his internship, he created a sandbox to facilitate analysis of malware using automated extraction, rather than doing things the caveman way like he did in the classroom. Since he had to create his own environment from scratch, Aqmar says that the process allowed him to improve his troubleshooting skills. 

Going out of his comfort zone and never giving up

In his first monthly report, Aqmar received a “B” – a grade which he had succinctly and very Gen Z-ly described as “mid”. Rather than being disheartened, he went to his supervisor, Leonard, and asked what he could improve on. From there, Leonard concocted a training plan to help Aqmar develop and polish his skills, and one such activity was HTX’s recent Capture The Flag (CTF) competition.

In the context of cybersecurity, as outlined by CyberSecurity NonProfit, CTF refers to a competition where hackers uncover “hidden clue[s] or file[s], a.k.a. the flag, by using cybersecurity tools.” During the CTF competition, Aqmar and his team did so well that they ended up placing third. And to further bolster and validate his skills, he also enrolled in a free online course that certifies his knowledge in cybersecurity. Although working from home meant that Aqmar initially faced a bit of difficulty when reaching out to his colleagues from help, he eventually stepped out of his comfort zone to do so. This proved to be beneficial as he not only got to improve his interpersonal skills, but he also got to connect with a Deputy Director, who kindly helped Aqmar with installing his sandbox during the second week of his internship.

Moving forward and looking back

photo_6176697802906778608_yAqmar and his Cybersecurity team colleagues. (Photo: Aqmar Haziq)

Moving forward, Aqmar is set to pursue Infocomm Security Management at the undergraduate level, though he is considering business analytics and psychology as well. The latter may come as a surprise, though Aqmar explained that he has a soft spot for analysing text and report-writing – a love that stems from his interest in English Literature. “I’m more of an analytical person, and the modules that I do well in tend to require lots of analysis, like digital forensics,” said Aqmar. Now nearing the end of his internship, Aqmar looks back on his experience fondly and would even return to HTX as part of his undergraduate studies, should the opportunity arise. 

“The working environment at HTX is pretty chill. In a way, this increases my productivity as there’s no one ‘pushing’ me. At the end of the day, I know what I have to do, and I can rely on my supervisor for proactive guidance when I am struggling with my workload. For example, when Leonard realised that certain elements of my project couldn’t be handled by one person, he finetuned my workload to a manageable level.”

If you’re curious about what life as an HTX intern is like and want to shoot your shot, check out our HTX Internship page. Applications are now open and will close on 31 January 2024.

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