Every Friday is DSO National Laboratories’ Sport Hours and everybody is encouraged to leave by 4.30pm to exercise, says Ms Sim Hwee Kiang, a senior member of the technical staff at DSO.
Wellness and work-life harmony are an integral part of DSO’s culture, but the real incentive that spurs employees like Ms Sim to contribute their brightest ideas at work is the exciting nature of their jobs.
Ms Sim works in a team within the Sensors Division, one of DSO’s seven research and development (R&D) divisions, which looks into sensor technologies to improve soldiers’ senses by providing them with a battlefield situation picture.
For her, work is highly technological and confidential in nature but the final product makes a great impact.
She explains: “As one of the most established and largest R&D outfits in Singapore, DSO seeks to develop game-changing innovations that will make potential threats irrelevant.
“In other words, our work is all about transforming Singapore from the ‘little’ to the ‘lethal’ red dot.”
One challenge is to ensure that the final product must be effective and robust.
She adds: “At DSO, we deal with problems that do not have precedent solutions, so we have to think creatively out of the box.
“This is part and parcel of R&D work and I find the challenge exciting and that really keeps me going.
“Technology is also moving at an incredible speed, so it is important that we ensure our projects meet the deadlines to maintain their superior edge.”
One of her main responsibilities is the design and development of indigenous software applications for airborne missions.
“An example is a mission planning software — a ‘brain’ which activates and controls the different components of a radar operation.
“This allows surveillance and data collection missions to be autonomous,” she explains.
Her work does not follow a fixed schedule.
She says: “I could be anywhere. As a research engineer at DSO, we often get to seed our ideas and follow through to completion.
“Hence, we are involved in almost all stages of the project, and this includes meeting our customers to understand their objectives, designing the software and conducting trials, both in simulation and on the field.”
At times, she works late to troubleshoot the systems and to manage urgent requirement changes from customers.
“While this can be frustrating as we need to revise the design solution, the can-do spirit in DSO ensures the job gets done well,” she says.
Her happiest moment in DSO was three years ago when the project she was involved in won the prestigious Defence Technology Prize.
She says: “My job intrigues and inspires me. R&D is about discovery and learning in the process.
“DSO is perhaps one of the rare few places for researchers to explore their ideas and see through their development into a final product that makes a difference to the nation.”
Prior to joining DSO, she took up a six-month internship there while pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering in electrical and electronics engineering at Nanyang Technological University.
The stint offered a useful glimpse into an engineer’s life in DSO and sealed her decision to join its ranks five years ago.
“I love the fact that DSO has a very open culture where cross-sharing is strongly encouraged.
“We often attend sharing sessions organised by other divisions, and this is an excellent opportunity to learn from the other multi-disciplinary projects in DSO,” she says.