It was May 2000.

We had finally finished our last exam in university. We were prepared to graduate from the academic institution which we had spent our past three or four years in. We had celebrations. We bid farewells. The world was waiting for us, and we were finally there to say hello.

Just like most fresh graduates, I was excited to enter working life. But at the same time, I was feeling a bit intimidated about it. I wasn’t quite sure that whatever I had learned in the university was useful and applicable at work. I knew I was very good at programming, but I didn’t know how I would fare against the other experienced engineers when I started work.

After our exams, the university arranged for companies to hold interviews in the campus for fresh graduates from all disciplines. It was a very convenient arrangement as you did not need to go through the hassle of sending resumes, waiting for replies, and then travelling to individual companies for interviews. As fresh graduates, we were given a list of participating companies and their corresponding tutorial rooms. So we just need to go to the respective tutorial rooms to queue up for interviews.

I looked at the companies listing and felt a bit overwhelming. I didn’t know most of the companies listed there. Back in 2000, when there was no smartphones, google, facebook, and other social networking sites, I was actually quite ignorant about the society outside school other than the few big names like Microsoft, HP and IBM.

The very first interview which I went for is a company called Digisafe (if I remembered correctly). It was a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics, which was in turn a subsidiary of ST Engineering, which was in turn a subsidiary of ST Group. Anyway, I did not know about all these at that point of time. The reason I went for the interview was because they were looking for a software engineer (which is my expertise) who had knowledge in computer security. I had quite a bit of experience in computer security, particularly in cryptography. During my second year in university, I designed and developed a prototype of a hybrid cryptosystem that made use of a combination of bit-wise operations as the internal symmetric algorithm, with RSA as the external public key algrithm. Then when I was doing internship, I developed a smart card based Single-Sign-On (SSO) system that was deployed in National Computer Board (NCB), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and other statutory boards. My final year project was also about cryptography. It was a distributed decipher engine designed to crack encrypted data by utilizing a networked of computers. So quite naturally, the interviewer was very impressed by my experiences and the interview went very well and on the spot they arranged for a second interview at another date at their office.

After my successful first interview, I went on to other interviews in the campus. I had interviews with Procter & Gamble (P&G) for IT consultant position, Central Provident Fund (CPF) for an IT position, and another local company which I had forgotten the name for a network engineer position. My interviews with these companies went a bit flat because my experiences in software development and computer security were not what they wanted, and their job description were also less appealing to me.

After that, I went for interviews of two smart card companies. One was a French company called Gemplus, and the other was a German company called Giesecke & Devrient. Both were reasonably impressed and arranged for second interviews at their respective offices.

So, I was geared up for second round interviews at the three companies that short-listed me. I shall talk about that further in my next post.

Note:
Hello World is often used as the first sample codes in programming textbooks.

Hello World! The first step as an Engineer.

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