This Ex-Military Guy Has New Missions - In Cybersecurity And Fatherhood
You'd think his origin story began in a basement computer lab somewhere, but in fact, it began in the military, where he was a key member of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)'s Cyber Incident Response (IR) Unit.
“Before NS, I never considered a military career,” he admits. “I felt I did not have the necessary discipline to be in a uniformed group, and that the culture was too rigid. I only started considering a military career when I was in Office Cadet School (OCS), when I met a ‘garang’ instructor who had performed UN peacekeeping operations in Timor-Leste. I was inspired by the thrill of doing real military operations in such a setting, and the stories of how he was able to help the people there as part of the peacekeeping force, and fly the Singapore flag high. The cool UN medals and beret he had might have contributed to my decision too!”
Despite his initial misgivings about entering the military, Benjamin credits it with leading him toward his new career.
Sounds like you had a very fulfilling career - so why make the switch?
But when Red Alpha Cybersecurity Singapore approached me with an opportunity to join them, to provide opportunities for Singaporeans from any background to do a career switch into cybersecurity, and address the persistent cybersecurity workforce gap, I felt that it was a great opportunity for me to transit outside the military and see how I could contribute to cybersecurity in Singapore in a different capacity.
Benjamin (pictured fourth from the right) with graduates from Red Alpha's 4-month cybersecurity training bootcamp | IMAGE: RED ALPHA CYBERSECURITY
What are some challenges you face as CEO of Red Alpha Cybersecurity?
Every day has the potential to bring on new challenges. However, one of the challenges in my current role with Red Alpha Cybersecurity is probably in the recruitment of new trainees/cohorts and convincing them that this industry could potentially give them an iron rice bowl career.
Cybersecurity is still a rather new sector in the tech industry and while its importance and demand are rapidly increasing, there are still many vacancies in the workforce available. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore estimated a global cybersecurity job shortage of 3.5mil openings, with an approximate 3,400 shortage in Singapore alone and we are striving to train people with the right aptitude and attitude to provide them with the knowledge and skills to fill that gap.
Would you say your previous career helped prepare you to tackle these issues today?
In the military, this quote from Churchill is often quoted: “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential”. At Red Alpha Cybersecurity, we are a young company and a small team, with a unique business model. There are constantly new opportunities, new challenges and new ways of doing things. To be on top of things, we need to plan, be prepared to adapt when things do not move according to plan, and be focused on the outcomes. I believe that this upbringing I had in the military will help me and the team at Red Alpha to navigate these opportunities and challenges better.
Benjamin with his two-year-old daughter, Clara | IMAGE COURTESY OF BENJAMIN TAN
Finally, happy (early) Father's Day! How has parenthood changed or made the concept of defence and cybersecurity even more significant for you?
To me, defence is about protecting your family and friends as much as it is about protecting the country. Now, as a father of a toddler who will turn two in September, I feel this even more strongly, because it is not just about securing the present, but also our children’s future.
Being a father has also made me think harder about how to manage my daughter’s online activities and education when she is older, given that it is inevitable that their generation will come online at a much younger age.