CSIT - Work Hard, Play Harder
If you think civil service in Singapore is a synonym for boredom, think again. At the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies, they work hard and play harder.
By Lim Yan Wen
The spacious and well-equipped recreational room located on the second level of the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT) building looks like the perfect place to unwind after a day of hard work. With pool tables, comfortable couches, and a well-equipped gym, it is no wonder that Manager of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Operations Infrastructure, Teo Yong Kim, finds CSIT a rewarding place to work in, in spite of the serious nature of his work...
As an ICT Manager, Yong Kim’s team is responsible for ensuring that the major servers and networks are kept secure and without glitches. Liaising with IT vendors is also part of his job.
CSIT is an agency in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) that focuses on R&D and solutions development in information and communications technologies to fulfill the strategic needs of Singapore. Formed in February 2003, CSIT has deep in-house technological expertise spanning a wide spectrum of disciplines within the infocomm field to address a wide range of technological problems.
In recent years, the emphasis on striking a balance between working and having a life outside work has increased. At CSIT, there is a flexible window of time from 7am to 9.30am that you can go in for work, and if you reach at 8am, you knock off at 5.30pm. With such flexi-hours, beating the rush hour crowd need not be at the top of your worry list.
Engineer Ng Jun Ping is full of praise for this strong culture of work-life balance. “The time that you have to finish your work is reasonable. I would say this is very crucial. You don’t have to stay back late long after your working hours,” he said. “They treat us as professionals, and we feel empowered to do the things we do for the company and for your work,” Jun Ping, 28, added.
“This place is very pro-family, and it’s a good thing that if I need to get three days of paternity leave, it’s not a problem. The working hours are very flexible too, and the working environment is very friendly. Our recreational room is definitely not just for show too!” Yong Kim, 34, said.
The culture at the company is also one that is very relaxed and uninhibited. “We’re very relaxed around one another; there aren’t really a lot of barriers between bosses and employees, and we can communicate and exchange ideas freely,” Jun Ping said.
While work can be very stressful, the relaxed atmosphere at work helps to make things lighter, and the comfortable recreational room is perfect for taking a break when the going gets tough. “If you have to come here and take a power nap during your break time, no one is going to fault you,” he said.
The friendly working environment at CSIT has certainly left a deep impression on them. If you, like most people, have always associated civil service with adjectives such as ‘dull’ and ‘boring’, maybe it’s time to reconsider that notion.
“I have very interesting colleagues who are innovative at making the workplace livelier,” Yong Kim said with enthusiasm. One instance he found memorable was when some of his colleagues, being fans of the Korean drama, Famous Seven Princesses, spruced up the workplace by coming up with a poster of the seven princesses with their own faces
superimposed on it.
Both Yong Kim and Jun Ping had been scholars with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), a statutory board set up under MINDEF that is responsible for providing leading-edge technological solutions to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), during their university days. And choosing CSIT after they graduated was more a matter of matching interests than anything else.
“My interest lies in IT security, and only CSIT provided the match. I also liked the fact that CSIT provided me with chances for career advancement,” said Yong Kim, who graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Toronto in Canada.
Corresponding interests was certainly a key motivating factor for Jun Ping too. The National University of Singapore (NUS) graduate, who holds a degree in Computer Science, also feels that being able to do his part for national security was a driving force, as it brings great meaning to his job. “You do come to work everyday knowing that you’re doing something meaningful for the nation,” Jun Ping said.
His work involves helping to better secure the IT infrastructure of the nation networks, and this is something he finds very rewarding, as their work is helping Singapore in a positive way. While they’re more than happy to contribute to the nation beyond just serving National Service, CSIT, on its part, has allowed them to move along in their careers.
For Yong Kim, who has worked for more than four years at CSIT, he has moved on from starting as an engineer to a consultant two years later, and being promoted last year to a manager in the ICT team.
“The different aspects of the jobs are very challenging, and managing a team is a different ball game altogether,” said Yong Kim. Certainly, his responsibilities have increased, “Now, not only do I have to answer to supervisors but also manage my staff and their career developments, and manage resources to best support the organisation’s mission,” he added.
Clearly, job rotation has allowed Yong Kim to be exposed to different facets of the various positions at CSIT, and the fact that everyone can get a chance to do so after two years is something that employees at CSIT appreciate.
Apply What you’ve Learnt…and More
On top of a healthy advancement in terms of job progression, CSIT is also a place where you can further refine theoretical foundations acquired in school. As Jun Ping puts it, “Over here we get a chance to refine our foundations and shape them into useful skills.”
And that is not all. In its efforts to develop robust solutions for the country’s strategic needs, CSIT leverages on commercial expertise and works closely with local research institutions, defence R&D and support organisations.
In this vein, Yong Kim reckons that CSIT not only allows you to advance in skills, but it also keeps you relevant in the bigger scheme of things. In addition, CSIT allows you to acquire skills that are in tune with commercial technology, so your skills remain pertinent even when you move on to other organisations.
One way that this is done is through CSIT’s support of employees when they go for external courses to upgrade their skills. “Professionally, it’s a huge bonus that the company supports training and development and provides support for industrial certifications, as well as relevant courses and seminars,” Jun Ping said.
With technology advancing in leaps and bounds, innovation and creativity are essential qualities. To encourage this spirit of inventiveness, CSIT has in place the Staff Innovative Initiative, where employees submit completed project plans, competing to be the most creative. Winners are rewarded with various levels of prizes, up to $1,500.
For young graduates who are keen to work in CSIT, Yong Kim reckons that passion is very important, because “It’s about passion for infocomm technologies and serving the nation. You won’t get paid like bankers do, so you must be clear about why you want to join CSIT.”
Nevertheless, working at CSIT has been a joyful and fulfilling experience for them. As Jun Ping puts it, “Working here is a part of your life but not everything in your life,” however, the job satisfaction of doing a small part in protecting the country is beyond words. “It’s a nice choice to have come here two years ago,” he said.