Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSP) Roy Lim and Khamisah Talip never dreamt they would become senior police officers with just their O-level qualifications to their names.
But after more than a dozen years on the force, DSP Lim made history through his investigation of three murders involving the discovery of body parts, while DSP Khamisah tackled the case of a white tiger at the Singapore Zoo which mauled a cleaner to death.
They spoke of their careers yesterday after the Public Service Division announced that graduate and non-graduate civil servants would see the gap between salaries and careers paths narrowed.
Both said they were grateful for the opportunities given to them in recognition of their work, regardless of their qualifications.
Said DSP Lim, 42: "Honestly, if you compare a degree holder and a non-degree holder, there has to be a difference. But it never hampered us. The police force gave us a chance to be up here leading a group of men, where usually graduates are in charge."
He investigated high-profile crimes where bodies were found dismembered: one in Syed Alwi Road this year, another in the Whampoa River last year, and another in the Kallang River in 2005.
DSP Lim believes he has come a long way for someone who joined the force in 1990, aged 18. He was given his breaks by bosses who noticed his flair in handling cases, he said.
"I'm pretty happy with what I am today, given that I started off with O levels. I would never have dreamt that I would be a senior officer," he said, a sentiment echoed by DSP Khamisah.
She, too, joined as a constable at the age of 21 after trying her hand at several jobs, including being a receptionist and cleaner.
Her most unusual case was a complex one, she said. In 2008, Malaysian cleaner Nordin Montong was killed by a tiger when he entered the animal's enclosure at the Singapore Zoo.
Besides its unusual nature, the case involved tracing tourist witnesses, who had to be interviewed at the airport before they left the country. "And, should I arrest the tiger?" DSP Khamisah, 43, said with a laugh.
It was opportunities to work on such cases that they are grateful for, said DSP Lim.
And despite encouragement from their bosses to upgrade and go for higher qualifications, neither chose that route.
"It's not my calling - to further my studies. I know I would have to be forced to study in order to excel. So why take that chance away from somebody else? Let the person who really wants to study, go and study. I'll just be myself," said DSP Lim.
As for the difference between graduates and non-graduates in the force today, he said some have experience and others have qualifications.
But each has to be assessed for what he can bring to the job, especially in areas such as investigating a case. "If you put a non-graduate there, his experience will be very important in how an investigation progresses. But I've seen many graduates pick up this skill, given time and guidance," said DSP Lim.