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On wings of steel

Engineer Victor Kwan’s job at the Defence Science and Technology Agency enables him to contribute to Singapore’s air defence

On wings of steel

At the recently concluded Singapore Airshow 2012, many people were enthralled by the sights and sounds of the fighter jets in action.

For Mr Victor Kwan, such a tangible outcome of engineering teamwork at the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) is but one contributor to job satisfaction.

“Seeing our capabilities in action such as the aerial display of the F-15SG and F-16C fighter jets gives me a real sense of achievement that I have helped to make a difference to our country’s defence and security,” he says.

He is now into his fourth year at DSTA. In his current position as senior engineer at Air Systems Programme Centre, he focuses on managing the acquisition, testing and integration of sensor systems and technologies on the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) fighter aircraft.

On the job, he keeps on top of the latest technologies in aircraft sensors, such as radar, electro-optical and infrared systems.

Mr Kwan works with his teammates to acquire systems that fulfil the RSAF’s operational requirements, and also with defence manufacturers and vendors to integrate the systems on the aircraft platforms.

Active participation in system tests and evaluations is crucial. Together with the RSAF, his team manages the process of planning and conducting ground and flight tests, to ensure the sensors system work seamlessly with the aircraft and other complex systems on it.

Flight tests form one of the most interesting aspects of his job, says Mr Kwan. Besides ensuring that the test goes smoothly, he makes sure that the test area is clearly defined, identifying suitable terrain and flight paths through working closely with pilots.

Then it is identifying any technological shortcomings in the post-flight analysis, and proposing solutions to enhance the systems’ effectiveness.

He enjoys being able to make a difference and contribute to the collective success of the team. Much satisfaction comes from seeing the team’s solutions validated through rigorous tests and eventually put to operational use.

“Juggling deadlines, operational requirements and budgets is part of the process — I often have to think out of the box to come up with creative solutions to solve technical challenges,” he says.

“I also enjoy the diversity of projects and assignments in DSTA that equips me with a broad range of engineering skills and knowledge.”

The electrical and electronic engineering graduate was drawn to DSTA after a career fair at Nanyang Technological University. Then, he learned about the wide fields DSTA engineers are exposed to, including military platforms, sensors, weapons, networks, information technology, command and control systems, and protective infrastructure.

Besides the many learning opportunities on the job, DSTA organises specialised engineering courses and internal sharing sessions. External courses and seminars further help him keep abreast of the latest in his field.

Progressing in his career, he has also learned about aspects such as cost-benefit evaluations, risk management, and project scheduling, all the while building up his core competency.

Analytical and interpersonal skills are key to establishing and achieving success as a team, says Mr Kwan. Multi-disciplinary teamwork is important in DSTA as managing projects involves collaboration across different programme centres and areas of expertise.

Mutual trust and open communication underpins the effective working relationships and synergy, he adds. Innovation and creativity are also important to his job.

DSTA’s working environment is conducive for work-life balance, says Mr Kwan.

“As a father of a five-month-old, I appreciate the trust and flexibility given by DSTA to manage our projects efficiently,” he shares.

Before he became a father, he was able to find time to pursue interests in mountain biking and volleyball.

“I also believe that it is equally important to set work priorities effectively and strike a good balance among our commitments. In DSTA, there is a strong culture of continual sharing and cross-pollination of ideas between the various project teams to improve processes and minimise the pain-points,” he adds.

“A career in DSTA allows you to meet and engage a large network of engineering professionals which makes every day a learning opportunity.” 

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