Two years ago, a personal website he created to test out programming was hacked by a Nigerian syndicate.
They erased all the data and even taunted him by leaving a link to their Facebook group on his web page as a calling card.
But that turned out to be a turning point for Singapore Polytechnic (SP) student, Mr Shawn Pang, 18.
The first-year Infocomm Security Management student said: "I was very frustrated when I found my website defaced, with my plug-ins removed.
"I wanted to find out why and how they did what they did - whether they acted out of fun, or if it was a reminder to me about my lack of security measures."
He roped in a friend during the school holidays to try out different hacking software like Kali Linux.
Still, he wasn't initially keen on going to a polytechnic.
Mr Pang, who was from Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), said: "I had always wanted to go to Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) because of peer influence and also because I thought I would stand a better chance of getting into a university.
"It was a huge dilemma for me, but I knew that pure academics was not what I wanted to do."
He eventually did well enough to qualify for ACJC, but went to SP instead to pursue his interests in IT.
With encouragement from his father, he applied for and got the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's (IDA) iPoly scholarship. (See report above.)
"Both my parents retired a few years ago, so I had concerns over the tuition fees and things like the laptop which I needed for school," said Mr Pang.
"The scholarship helped my family financially, and it also has good perks - which quelled most of my initial worries."
He hopes to be a penetration tester after he graduates in April 2018.
The job would require him to help companies find vulnerabilities in their computer systems to ensure they are well protected from threats like hackers.
He said: "My website which was hacked into was a small issue. But if companies were to experience the same thing, there would be greater consequences such as downtime on their servers, leading to lesser productivity.
"I wouldn't want them to experience what I had gone through."
And Mr Pang has high hopes for the future of IT in Singapore.
He said: "As time progresses, IT will be a hot topic of that age. We shouldn't neglect it as we're all interconnected because of IT.
"We need IT in everything we do, and it's something we can't survive without."
The Infocomm Polytechnic (iPoly) Scholarship, launched last year, hopes to attract more outstanding O level students to pursue an infocomm-related course at the polytechnic level.
Software and application development, data analytics and cyber security, for example, are key areas driving growth in the infocomm sector.
And Singapore will need more professionals who are skilled in these areas, to contribute towards efforts to become the world's first Smart Nation.
According to IDA's Infocomm Manpower Survey 2014, there were about 150,000 tech professionals working in Singapore that year, with about 15,000 vacancies that needed to be filled.
From 2014 to 2017, companies have projected demand for another 15,000 tech specialists in the areas of development, data analytics, cybersecurity and network & infrastructure.
The aim of iPoly is to broaden the skill sets of the students, and ensure that they are industry-ready upon graduation.
The scholarship pays for the entire three-year course of the student's diploma studies in an infocomm-related course in a local polytechnic.
It encompasses full tuition fees, a one-time laptop allowance, support for courses and certifications, as well as overseas internship expenses support of up to six months.
The overall quantum of scholarship is estimated at $20,000.
There is no quota on the number of scholarships conferred annually.
For more information visit www.infocommtalent.sg/ipoly or write to email@example.com to indicate your interest.
This article was first published on Feb 5, 2016.
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