Class of 2021: From EM3 Student to Top University Graduate
SITizen Lee Zhen Hao’s desire to be a cybersecurity expert spurred him to attain a university degree.
Even though Lee Zhen Hao did not do well in his studies in his earlier years, his desire to be a cybersecurity expert spurred him to attain a university degree and paved the way to fulfil his dream.
Lee Zhen Hao, 28, developed a keen interest in Information Technology at the age of eight, when his father bought his family’s first PC. He learned to navigate around software such as Microsoft Excel using some basic formulas, and wanted to learn more. He was fascinated by the various aspects of computing, from programming to computer networking.
None of his family members had a background in computing, so Zhen Hao taught himself through trial and error, dismantling and assembling computers. He got his second PC from Sim Lim Square and assembled it by himself at the age of eight. “Soon, many of my friends approached me to help them assemble their PCs, or fix bugs and technical issues,” said Zhen Hao.
Now an SIT graduate from the Bachelor of Engineering in Information & Communications Technology (Information Security) with the highest distinction, Zhen Hao remembers that his path to success was not without hurdles.
Longer Educational Route
“It has been a long journey to get to where I am today. I was from the EM3 stream in primary school and my PSLE aggregate score was 99. I was only eligible for the Normal Technical stream, which was perceived as a ‘doomed’ pathway back then,” said Zhen Hao. Fortunately, he had a knack for IT, and enrolled into the NITEC ICT course in ITE College West, aiming to work his way up to a polytechnic diploma.
Zhen Hao admitted that he is a hands-on learner. “Rather than memorising theories and formulas by heart, I definitely prefer an applied learning approach,” he said. Zhen Hao did exceptionally well in his Diploma in Engineering Informatics at Nanyang Polytechnic, and was awarded the Singapore Digital Scholarship by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
From then on, Zhen Hao knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. “Ever since I stepped into the world of computer networking back in ITE and polytechnic, I have developed an interest in the security of networks and servers. Being able to block unwanted traffic from entering protected networks is exciting and it spurred me to dive deeper into the cybersecurity domain,” he explained. Zhen Hao chose to enrol into the ICT (Information Security) degree programme at SIT, even though he could qualify for other universities.
Applied Learning Experience at SIT
Zhen Hao enjoyed the industry-focused and applied learning curriculum at SIT. He and his course mates attended a security conference in Beijing, China under the Global/Regional Exposure to Advances in Technology (GREAT). He also participated in the Cybersecurity Investigators’ Challenge 2019, organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium. His team clinched the top prize and earned a trip to San Francisco to attend the RSA Conference 2020.
Zhen Hao did his Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) at a government agency as a Cybersecurity Engineer. “My experience there was very meaningful. My capstone project on Drone Vulnerabilities allowed me to work on a real-life problem and implement a solution. I uncovered vulnerabilities on a commercial drone and developed hardware tools to facilitate a penetration-test,” he explained. The stint allowed him to acquire new skill sets too. He made an effort to teach himself CAD and 3D printing during his IWSP, so he could develop a handheld penetration-test tool.
Zhen Hao (far right) was one of two winners of the Cybersecurity Investigators’ Challenge 2019. He won a $5,000 cash prize and a paid trip to San Francisco to attend the RSA Conference 2020.
Zhen Hao hopes to use the knowledge and skills he acquired at SIT to contribute back to society by working as a cybersecurity engineer. And, he has his sights set on upskilling himself at the institution he believes is best suited to his style of learning.
“As a believer in lifelong learning, I will continue to learn new skills beyond my field of expertise,” he said.
Zhen Hao (far right) at the SIT Graduation Ceremony 2021 with fellow graduates from the ICT (IS) programme.