HTX Intern Stories: “I secured my choice internship despite taking an unconventional path”

Suriya Ruthaman S/O Chandramohan chose to eschew the traditional path of getting an O-Level certificate, but he managed to land his coveted internship through diligence and determination. Here’s his inspiring and unique story of how he became a Tech Development intern at HTX’s Cybersecurity Centre of Expertise (CoE).

Suriya 01
(Photo: HTX)

When Suriya entered the Normal (Academic) stream in Secondary School, he made it his goal to get a placement in the one-year Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP), an alternative pathway for him to enter Polytechnic. Otherwise, he’d have to go on to Secondary 5 to sit for the O-Level examinations, a route that didn’t appeal to him.

People around him kept telling him that attaining an O-Level certificate was important, but Suriya was steadfast in his choice. He knew that he wanted to work in cybersecurity, as he admired his father’s field of work in technology. Suriya also did not feel that lacking an O-Level certificate would put him at a career disadvantage in future.

With his parents’ support and encouragement, coupled with his hard work, Suriya got a place at Singapore Polytechnic in Infocomm Security Management (ISM). He then secured an internship as a Tech Development intern at HTX’s Cybersecurity CoE during the third year of his diploma programme. How?

It all began before the 2022 World Cup semi-finals between Morocco and France.

He said “yes” before the semi-finals

Suriya’s diploma programme required him to complete an internship. At the time, his biggest worry was that he might end up at an unfulfilling one with tasks completely unrelated to what he was learning in his course. That was until he met Simon Eng, Head/Tech Development of Cybersecurity CoE at HTX.

The third-year ISM student recalled feeling excited during the interview call that took place in December last year with Simon and Ong Puay Son (Lead Engineer of Cybersecurity), both of whom would later become his internship mentors.

“They made the work sound fun and made it very clear what they were expecting of the interns they hire. They were jovial, which made me feel comfortable,” Suriya said.

The meeting left quite an impression on Suriya. After being told that they were keen to take him under their wing, Simon requested for Suriya’s answer in less than a day. “I was given until 3am before the World Cup semi-final game,” he said.

With 12 hours on the clock, Suriya found himself having to make a decision fast. But even with the tight deadline set, it was actually a no-brainer. Simon’s charm and the promising outlook of what an internship with HTX had already persuaded the 20-year-old soccer fan during the call.

Where he’s dribbled the ball on the field

Commencing his internship in March 2023, Suriya started working closely with the Cybersecurity team on several projects. One of the highlights includes being part of the launch of Hatch, an innovation hub to connect global startups with Home Team Departments to co-develop homeland security innovations. The launch was held during the 5th TechXplore event, a quarterly held exhibition of tech demos for colleagues to explore the latest R&D work and projects together.

Working with the Ukrainian-based cybersecurity startup called Eclypsium, Suriya and his team researched topics to pitch for the roundtable tech talks that were organised for guests at Hatch to enjoy. In the end, topics on 5G and spam were chosen instead of his team’s proposed topic on IoT firmware and vulnerabilities. Despite that, Suriya was not too disappointed as he found the overall experience enriching.

Suriya 02Roundtable discussions with some of the startup representatives at Hatch/TechXplore 5. (Photo: HTX)

Another project that he was tasked with was to give a presentation to the entire division, together with another intern, on the development of ChatGPT. They explained the growing use of AI and how it can be used for work and life in general. The boardroom where it took place has now become something of a memorable place to him.

“It was my first time giving such a huge presentation to people who are not my classmates,” Suriya said. “Seeing others understand my presentation and laugh at my jokes in a workplace setting was a different experience, so that felt nice.”

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We test Suriya and Zhi Xian, another intern at Cybersecurity, on their knowledge of tech jokes. (Video: HTX)

He was also roped in to work on projects such as Cyber Deception and the HTX Cybersecurity Maturity Model, both of which are still in their early stages of development. His current work these days revolves around firmware analysis and documentation on third-party firmware analysis tools, which he usually does when he works from home.

“Firmware analysis can take anywhere between four and six hours,” he said. “So I usually let the software run in the background while I work on other projects and tasks that have been assigned to me by my supervisor. Firmware analysis is quite technical, but it’s been my favourite thing to do because I like the challenge.”

What the player has to say about his coaches

Far from the fears he had had at the start of his internship, the cyber tech intern found his experience at HTX to be fruitful. He said that he owes his growth to his mentors.

“I must credit this to both Simon and Puay Son. They both placed a lot of trust in me to work on several projects with them.”

Suriya 03Suriya and his supervisor Puay Son. (Photo: HTX)

One thing that stood out a lot to Suriya was the inclusive culture.

The learning environment here has been a nurturing one and I like coming into work because I can feel that what I do is relevant and meaningful.

“Simon made sure that I felt involved in every meeting and interaction,” he said. “He created an inclusive environment by reminding our Chinese colleagues to switch to ‘Channel 5’—that is, to switch to speaking in English, so that I could also understand what was being said. Puay Son also made the effort to frequently check up on me. I feel that she has pushed me to be more confident about the work I produce. Both my mentors have provided me with a lot of insight into how the cybersecurity field works and how we can excel in it in the future.”

The final score before the playoffs

As his internship came to an end, Suriya reflected on his journey.

“Working at HTX has made me realise that the cyber scene is always evolving and that we must constantly be ready for a wide range of security threats, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures,” he said. “The learning environment here has been a nurturing one and I like coming into work because I can feel that what I do is relevant and meaningful. I’m really glad that I said ‘yes’ to this internship opportunity amongst my other options.”

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