The Human Capital Conversation

Human capital development for all

•Mr Foo says the principles that underpin Quann's human resources philosophy are competitive wages; meaningful work; inspiring supervisors; effective environment; and training, development and career pathways.
Mr Foo says the principles that underpin Quann's human resources philosophy are competitive wages; meaningful work; inspiring supervisors; effective environment; and training, development and career pathways. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

In the third of a five-part series where leaders under the Human Capital Partnership Programme share their thoughts on developing talent for a strong Singaporean core, managing director Foo Siang-tse of cyber-security firm Quann speaks to Xin Yun about how the firm grooms its talent.

Q What does human capital mean to you?

A We are a managed security services provider, so talent and human capital are the core of our company. One of the biggest misconceptions of cyber security is that it's a technology issue. The reality is that the adversary at the other end is a human being, not a computer or a bot. To defend against those, we need people as well.

Our work is service-centric and, at the end of the day, computers and technology only give you a basic read-out, like in healthcare, where they tell you if your blood pressure's high. But the doctor still needs to make a judgment call.

In the last few years, there's been an exponential increase in the level, volume and intensity of cyber threats, and there's a labour market mismatch. So people become the differentiator vis-a-vis our competitors.

Q Over the years, how has Quann crafted its employees' careers?

A In the last three to five years, cyber security has come to the fore, and the ecosystem has been built up in Singapore. In terms of training, the ecosystem has grown and matured.

Fresh graduates here typically start as security analysts at the security operations centre, where they get their foundational training and are exposed to a wide range of threats, techniques and procedures.


  • The Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme is a tripartite initiative to grow a community of exemplary employers focused on staying competitive by investing in human capital development. HCP recognises and supports employers committed to programmes that nurture a stronger Singaporean Core; maximises complementarity between locals and foreigners; and enhances skills transfer from foreign to local employees in order to increase the capabilities of the local workforce.

    To find out more on how you can be part of the HCP Programme, contact Tafep (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices), the HCP programme manager on 6302-2782, e-mail us at or visit capital-partnership-programme for more information.

They spend between two and four years on average in that environment. It's real time, on the front line and they work in shifts but they get tremendous exposure. From there, they progress to other roles within the company.

The sky's the limit. We also develop our core of people with deep cyber-security expertise.

There are multiple pathways. Depending on their preferences, we move them to different parts of the company. We've four tracks our people can grow into: operational and technical; research and development, where they deep-dive into technology; management; and sales. There's some porosity across the tracks.

Q With Quann being part of the Human Capital Partnership Programme, describe your people's development journey.

A It's still a work in progress and never ends. It's been part of our own internal transformation over the last 12 to 18 months. We've also grown substantially and formalised several structures, processes and frameworks. In the past, it was a bit more ad hoc and less formal.

The Human Capital Partnership Programme and other tie-ups help us in things such as matching with education institutions, and the profile of the firm.

There's no choice but to make sure developing talent is part of the business strategy. There's a chronic shortage of cyber-security professionals the world over, and Singapore is no different.

Companies that recognise this - and that it's important to not just hire but also retain and develop talent - will realise it's a necessary investment.

The rewards may not be immediate but in the security space, it takes time to develop talent and instinct. It's not something that can be developed overnight.

  • In the spotlight

  • Computer engineering graduate Nicholas Lim Yew Teck has chalked up a wealth of experience since joining Quann as a security analyst in July 2015.

    Mr Lim, 29, who studied at Nanyang Technological University, was trained at the Quann Security Analyst Course and was exposed to various areas.

    These included learning about hacking and intrusion methods, and going on a two-month stint on artificial intelligence research at the Quann Innovation Office. He became a security operations centre engineer last year - part of the development framework.

    He said: "At Quann, I picked up a wide range of skill sets, both soft and technical... to be able to investigate and creatively resolve root causes of hardware and equipment failure due to cyber attacks, rather than simply follow what has been done before.

    "My more experienced colleagues play a critical role in helping me grow in my career, and develop skills, instincts and experience that can't be easily acquired on my own."

Several in the management team are those who've been with us from day one. We've also had people who left and returned, or joined our clients. We invest in our people and some will come and go, but in a way, we're paying it forward in the small and tight ecosystem.

Q How does Quann's talent development strategies resonate with employees across all levels?

A We've five key priorities, including competitive wages and ensuring people find meaning in what they do as the fit is important.

We must also have inspiring supervisors, because people leave bosses, not jobs; so leadership development is key.

When you're younger, it's even more necessary to have inspiring leaders.

The next is to have effective and productive work environments, so spaces are optimised and people feel comfortable.

One of the things was creating a dedicated leisure and rest space for those who work 12-hour shifts. It's a simple space but they love that it's private; none of the corporate guys can go in there and it's important as a signal to them, that they are valuable. The majority of the young people are in there.

We also focus on training, development and career pathways. These form our human resources philosophy that drives recruitment and retention, regardless of age or nationality. These are the principles that underpin everything that we do at Quann.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Human capital development for all'. Print Edition | Subscribe