In the fast-changing field of technology, the drive and motivation to keep learning plays a crucial role in staying relevant. This is something that 2019 BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation graduate Khoo Yong Kang firmly believes in. Though Yong Kang works as a cloud architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS) today, he’s cut his teeth in a variety of roles and industries to get to where he is.
Yong Kang has always been interested in computer science. During his polytechnic days, he pursued a Diploma in Electronic and Computer Engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and particularly enjoyed his software engineering modules. Knowing he wanted to further his studies in the field, Yong Kang started reading more about the different computer science degrees that were offered locally. He eventually chose DigiPen (Singapore), as he was drawn to the Institute’s strength in simulations and was keen to learn computer science fundamentals through the hands-on approach of creating custom engines for software projects like games.
While in his final year of degree studies, Yong Kang started looking out for internship opportunities as a way to gain some real-world experience before graduation. At that time, data science was gaining in popularity and Yong Kang wanted to give it a go. He successfully applied to Shopee as a data science intern. During his internship, Yong Kang had the opportunity to work on both a data science and a software engineering project. His experience while working on these projects made him realize he still preferred the latter, hence he decided to pursue a career as a software engineer after his internship ended.
Prior to graduating, Yong Kang secured a traineeship position with DBS as part of their Skill Enhancement Education & Development Programme (SEED). He had heard good things about the program from friends and fellow DigiPen (Singapore) alumni. During his time at DBS, Yong Kang was groomed into a full-stack web developer with the help of his seniors. Additionally, he was exposed to cloud computing and engineering, which greatly intrigued him. “I’m interested in the cloud because of its immense potential,” Yong Kang says. “Cloud offerings are able to help meet the various business needs of different organizations with different maturities, ranging from startups to multinational corporations,” he explains.
A few months into his journey with DBS, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Like many others at the time, Yong Kang started working from home. He decided to channel the hours saved from commuting into upgrading his skills further. Yong Kang started watching online courses on Udemy and YouTube to hone his technical breadth and depth in both web development and cloud engineering. These skills eventually came in handy for his next career move. After close to two years at DBS, Yong Kang came across a GovTech opening for a DevSecOps engineer. He was keen to go into the public sector, as he saw how GovTech had used technology to improve systems and lives during the pandemic, and their tagline “Tech for Public Good” resonated with him. He successfully applied for the role.
His transition from full-stack web developer to a DevSecOps engineer — though exciting — came with its fair share of challenges. The role was a multidisciplinary one that required the application and know-how from different software engineering fields. “As a DevSecOps engineer, I needed to have domain and technical knowledge in developer, security, and operational skillsets,” Yong Kang explains. “Additionally, I also needed a strong foundation in cloud-related technologies.” In order to get up to speed and become better at his job, Yong Kang spent many hours studying and deepening his knowledge. He is also grateful for his colleagues for guiding him and giving him the opportunity to become a stronger DevSecOps engineer.
While Yong Kang found his work at GovTech meaningful, he eventually realized he had an even bigger career goal — to work for one of the top global tech giants. He had his eyes set on AWS, as he was keen to see firsthand how they operated their cloud businesses. In preparation for this, Yong Kang used his free time to take online courses to further understand and improve his technical depth in cloud engineering. Within months, he studied for and completed multiple industry-recognized certifications. These certifications include the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate, AWS Certified Developer Associate, AWS Certified SysOps Administrator, Certified Kubernetes Administrator, Certified Kubernetes Application Developer, and HashiCorp Certified Terraform Associate. With a combination of working experience and multiple cloud certifications, Yong Kang applied for a position at AWS. His hard work paid off, and he soon began working as an AWS associate cloud architect in September 2022.
As a cloud architect, Yong Kang and his team help customers find targeted solutions to their needs, be it through suggesting the right infrastructure for their applications or giving technical advice. Yong Kang is thoroughly enjoying his role, as it provides him with many opportunities to deepen his cloud engineering knowledge as a technical consultant, while also allowing him to hone his soft skills as he engages and communicates directly with customers.
Looking back on his career journey so far, Yong Kang is grateful for the multiple role changes that have allowed him to gain experience in different domains and industries. He attributes his insatiable hunger for knowledge to his DigiPen days. “DigiPen (Singapore) has a saying that Dragons can start there and go anywhere after. This has definitely been true for me,” Yong Kang says. “The curriculum has a strong emphasis on problem solving and building up in-depth fundamentals. For example, we had to create software engineering projects from scratch using C/C++. The technical skills I learned and applied then have allowed me to pick up additional programming languages with ease.”
Yong Kang hopes to continue learning and deepening his knowledge as the years go by. He advises fellow computer science graduates to embrace picking up new concepts and technologies, since the industry is constantly changing and improving. “What we know today may be outdated in a few years’ time, and it is crucial to have a constant drive to keep learning,” he says. “This hunger will keep you going and make you a better developer in your chosen field.”