HTX Intern Stories: “I took an unconventional detour and it opened up an array of career opportunities”

Mechanical engineering student Neo Yu Yang made an unexpected choice for his internship, and this bold decision made him gain a whole new perspective on his future career choices.

Yu Yang 1-min
Neo Yu Yang (Photo: HTX)

Armed with a diploma in Aerospace Electronics course and currently a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate, Neo Yu Yang had his future cut out for him in manufacturing, aerospace or automotive sectors. The natural choice for internship was in those sectors.

Instead, he interned at HTX’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives Centre of Expertise (CBRNE CoE), which develops and uses the latest technologies to secure Singapore’s borders against chemical and biological threats, among others. What seemed unfathomable was that coding and chemistry were not his strong suits.

“I wanted to try working somewhere different just to see what it’s like. You never know what experiences you’re missing out on if you follow a predictable path,” Yu Yang says.

Yu Yang knows first-hand how unexpected decisions can lead to self-discovery. He recounts, “The first time I played pool was because my friends and I chanced upon a pool table while we were overseas. At the time, I figured that giving the game a shot wouldn’t hurt. Looking back, I realise that if I had never even tried the game, I never would have discovered my passion for pool.” Indeed, he was so consumed by the game that he perfected it well enough to enter competitions in the sport.

Daring to veer from the “predictable path”, Yu Yang applied to intern in HTX in the hope of uncovering new passions and even deeper career insights.

Taking the plunge into the unknown

Because he didn’t have deep knowledge of chemistry and coding, Yu Yang faced multiple challenges during his internship. “I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, but I persisted by doing research online and I even asked ChatGPT for assistance,” he confesses.

But my colleagues and supervisors were the ones from whom I learnt the most, as they treated me as part of the team, and their generous sharing made me want to step up and contribute more.

“But my colleagues and supervisors were the ones from whom I learnt the most, as they treated me as part of the team, and their generous sharing made me want to step up and contribute more,” Yu Yang says. “For example, I had to help with the set-up for the Chemical Plume Mitigation field trial at the start of my internship. I was so lost during the first few days, but the guidance of my supervisors, Dr Ma Yifei and Sheldon, and colleagues, Yeow Chien, En Rui and Tian Luck and more really helped me find my footing.”

Yu Yang also gamely played a part in a fun video that showcased the set-up of the field trial. (Video: HTX)

After the field trial, Yu Yang was tasked with cleaning the data gathered and coding it to derive better insights and models. “I had to use a statistical test method, which I’ve never heard of before. My team lead showed me how it works, then I spent two whole weeks performing the task, and finally managed to get it done,” he proudly states.

“I found that I learnt better when I am given the space to explore, and allowed to set my own pace for learning. This was why I was able to deliver a stretch target for this 6-month internship by working and completing three projects,” he elaborates.

Yu Yang 2-minYu Yang learning new skills from his colleagues on the job. (Photo: HTX)

The other two projects Yu Yang worked on included the eNose Deployment Study, where he had to analyse where to deploy eNose sensors which detect dangerous chemicals in the air, and LiDAR, where he studied the weather data in Jurong Island to identify wind patterns to develop countermeasures in the case of a chemical threat. Both of these projects put his data analysis skills to test and deepened his knowledge in this field.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Yu Yang 3-min
Yu Yang and his friends from the CBRNE team. (Photo: Neo Yu Yang)

Yu Yang’s internship exceeded his expectations on all counts.

“My teammates were friendly and open to me making mistakes. That was where I learnt the most, as I went through a lot of trial and error to find the right solution,” he says. “I also didn’t expect to get included in company and department events such as a barbecue and gathering organised by the CBRNE team, as well as a learning journey to other units in HTX, as I was an intern. But because I was invited along, I felt more bonded to the department and people I worked with.”

“The open and conducive work culture at HTX opened me up to working in defence or public sector jobs, besides letting me gain hand-on training for data analysis, chemistry, as well as coding. So, my advice to aspiring interns is to try working in different industries within your domain to open up your career opportunities,” he shares.

Ready to try out and discover something new like Yu Yang? Apply for HTX’s Internship here!

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