In life, inevitably we have to make a lot of decisions. Some decisions may create a little ripple in life, while some others might alter your entire path. And according to Dr Everett’s Many Worlds Theory extending beyond quantum level, maybe in one of the infinite parallel universes, I am a cryptographer.

In year 2000, when I went for interview at the German MNC which I eventually got hired, I was actually offered two different positions by two different department heads in the same company. One position was of course the software engineer position which I eventually took up. The other one, was actually the position of a cryptography specialist.

As I was involved in quite a number of projects on cryptography during my university days, my resume caught the eye of the department head in charge of smart card operating system, even though I was applying for the other position. So he interviewed me and subsequently offered me on the spot the position of cryptography specialist. One of the attractive points of that position was the opportunities to go to Europe for a six-months training. And to a “sua-ku” fresh graduate at that time who barely traveled out of his country, it was actually a very attractive prospect that provided me free tour to a region I always wanted to go.

So the two department heads left me there in the meeting room to think carefully which positions I wanted to take up (or none at all). And in my mind I was thinking about “Free tour, free tour”. But eventually, when I started to look beyond the temptation of free tour in Europe, I decided to choose the software engineer position instead. The position of Cryptography Specialist was too niche. I would have a difficult time finding another job because there wasn’t many companies looking for cryptography specialist in Singapore. And to really carve a career in cryptography, you would need at least a phd and be very, very good in mathematics. So pragmatism defeated temptation and I eventually accepted the software engineer position.

Sometimes, when I looked back, I wonder how my path would look like if I made a different choice? I would probably be researching on and writing cryptographic algorithms for my first few years in that company. I would get buried by all those mathematics formula, spending my time trying to factorize large prime numbers or forming algorithms with bit-wise operations and waiting for them to be cracked within minutes in the public domain.

But one thing probably will never change: I would still be a geek, be it a software geek or a mathematics geek.

I almost became a cryptographer!

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