Defence Science & Technology Agency Reviews

Updated May 11, 2022

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Found 403 of over 482 reviews

3.6
63%
Recommend to a Friend
85%
Approve of CEO
Defence Science & Technology Agency Chief Executive Tan Wei Ming Mervyn  (no image)
Tan Wei Ming Mervyn
59 Ratings
Pros
  • "Good work-life balance and remunerations(in 52 reviews)

  • "Good pay, attractive staff benefits(in 41 reviews)

  • Cons
  • "Red tape can be better streamlined(in 122 reviews)

  • "Be prepared to navigate through lots of red tape(in 35 reviews)

  • More Pros and Cons
    Pros & Cons are excerpts from user reviews. They are not authored by Glassdoor.
    1. 5.0
      Current Employee, more than 8 years

      Pay

      May 6, 2022 - Senior Procurement Manager 
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Competitive pay and remuneration, good bosses

      Cons

      Happy busy kind of work environment

      1 person found this review helpful
    2. 5.0
      Current Employee, more than 1 year

      Highly recommended to join

      Apr 28, 2022 - Manager in Singapore
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Good colleagues, good environment, and people-centric culture

      Cons

      Highly classified work, tight security

      Continue reading
      6 people found this review helpful
    3. 5.0
      Current Employee, more than 8 years

      Work has its challenges but ultimately the people make up for it

      May 1, 2022 - Senior Software Developer in Singapore
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Great bosses and friendly teammates. This cannot be overstated as its something people often take for granted. In particular, there is very understanding environment here when life events e.g. marriage, major illness, family matters crop up compared to private sector. Pay obviously not as high as private sector but more generous benefits such as leave, family care, medical. Standard government perks such as job security etc. apply here too. If you are lucky, opportunities to work with universities for computer science research or commercial companies for software engineering exposure provide variation to your daily job and gives you new skills and contacts.

      Cons

      Well, salary not as high as private sector obviously but once u consider total annual cash its (slightly) more palatable. Maybe.. Unlike companies where there can be big teams maintaining a single ecosystem supporting a few core user experiences or services, here every system is bespoke and meant to support a totally different user with totally different requirements. This means your team of 5 or 6, at most 10, will need to take care of everything from development of the entire stack, interacting with users, purchasing the hardware and maintaining the system as it is in use. This is obviously a pain and your job can then become very varied and unfocused. Compare this to some of my friends, who are typically very focused on a particular pipeline, module or feature, and don't have to deal with crap like getting budgetary quotations, writing procurement evaluations, getting the vendor to setup the server infrastructure, manually changing the server hard disks as an urgent fix all while training your AI model and tending to your whiny user who can't stop complaining about having to click twice instead of once for a feature. I've literally done all of the above in a single project during a 6 month period. Well, I guess what don't kill you make you stronger (and more knowledgeable).

      4 people found this review helpful
    4. 5.0
      Current Employee, more than 10 years

      Good place to work

      Apr 27, 2022 - Senior Programmer Manager in Singapore
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Good place to start work

      Cons

      Does not have any downside

      4 people found this review helpful
    5. 4.0
      Current Employee, less than 1 year

      Open culture

      May 11, 2022 - Deputy Head in Singapore
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Management listens to employees. Competitive salary packages and benefits.

      Cons

      Heavy processes and paperwork involved.

      Continue reading
      1 person found this review helpful
    6. 4.0
      Current Employee

      Good people

      May 11, 2022 - Senior Engineer 
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Good bosses and good colleagues

      Cons

      Demanding users Understaffed Scholar oriented progression

      1 person found this review helpful
    7. 1.0
      Former Employee

      Not for devs. Tech-hesitant, change-resistant culture with limited learning opportunities

      Apr 20, 2022 - Senior Software Engineer 
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Good place if you're a dev who wants a slow working pace and not have to keep learning new skills all the time. You can transition to a manager/architect and not have to touch code and still get paid well. Great for people who want to start families, but not for advancing a tech career. It's at most an okayish place for fresh grads to get started to learn the bare fundamentals; but get out quickly once you've learned them. See below. Relatively easy to get in as a fresh grad. Possible to coast along, not do much and still get paid well.

      Cons

      == For those in acquisition == -- Red tape and lack of transferable skills -- Much of what you'll learn are company-specific skills and not transferable outside. There are many layers of bureaucracy and Byzantine rules you have to navigate to get things approved. More experienced colleagues will stop trying to take initiative because its so painful. After many years, the only skills you learn are how to use Word and Powerpoint effectively. Actual hands-on work? Very little. Even the content of technical papers meant to clear forums are provided by the vendors. You'll realise very quickly the flashy systems they show off at recruitment fairs are mostly done by the contractors, not yourself. Hello, imposter syndrome. Technical specialists do administrative work rather than anything requiring technical skills. Sometimes they play consultant and all they do is talk without making much sense and you're left to actually do the work. Staff shouldn't be considered subject matter experts in certain domains when their work is just managing projects and people or even just talking during meetings. More junior staff do the unglamourous work of having to arrange meetings, take minutes, do slides, write papers. Expect to play a ton of politics managing users' expectations and dealing with contractors. What transferable skills do you learn doing these? Don't be fooled by the low attrition rate; many are there not because they want to be there but because they can't get out. -- Prevalent silo mentality -- Teams who are supposed to work with you will push away work and say it's not their job. If your project has legacy problems, people who are supposed to take over your system will find all kinds of excuses to reject it. It's entirely in their interests not to help you resolve them so they don't have to take over. Technical staff supporting your project will draw lines very cleanly and take on very small specialised parts of it, leaving you to tackle the remaining problems you have no background in. When you bend over to do the work they choose to push away, you may find information you needed was right with the same party who chose not to tell you the full story. Long-time staff who have effectively burrowed into the system will use their institutional knowledge of convoluted processes, policies and precedence to frustrate you at every turn and send you on wild goose chases. You're pretty much at their mercy unless they choose to be helpful. -- Favouritism and grooming -- You've probably heard of the scholar/farmer dynamic in govt and GLCs. While you don't need to be a scholar to be groomed, it's a lot more likely if you are. The company treats favoured employees and non-favoured very differently. Complaints by non-favoured (or condemned) employees are sidelined, and these people also find it harder to transfer to other projects or depts, thereby becoming further stuck and unable to advance. Condemned staff are loaded with bad projects, thankless, mindless work for years and make limited progress because no one cares about them. Favoured ones are spared and have their every needs tended to. Those who score points with management get promoted and not necessarily the ones doing the ground work. Some bosses don't care enough to push for their staff's promotion and instead blame them for not doing more. If you're not favoured, don't expect to go above salary grade E3 if you can't make it to program manager/architect. -- Internal postings and career planning -- On paper, internal postings exist and you have the potential to transfer depts. Unfortunately, your current bosses have a huge say in determining whether you can go there. I've heard of cases where someone was blocked from returning to his previous dept by the PC (programme centre) head and he resigned in protest. Speaking of which, there's the problem of trying to find out what kind of work you'll be doing in potentially new depts should you try to transfer. Project work is highly confidential, and typically bosses will avoid disclosing much to someone who isn't yet security cleared. You pretty much have to agree somewhat blindly in advance, and may be thoroughly disappointed after transferring you learn that the nature of the work is not what you envisioned. Especially true if projects that need people misrepresent/obfuscate what they do to get headcount. Never prioritise internal postings over finding a new job; if you're condemned (see above), your past work performance follows you around like a criminal record. They will judge you harshly on your non-stellar past even if the new domain is entirely different. == For devs and hands-on technical staff == -- Disregard for technical skills -- DSTA is primarily an acquisition house and as such its competency framework is designed for managers and system architects. They do not correspond to SWE (software engineering) technical domains like frontend, backend, devops, mobile dev, various security specialisations etc. but rather to PC-specific competencies. Having your proficiency recognised in these competencies is crucial for career progression. Unfortunately there is widespread gatekeeping of competencies, each of which is jealously guarded by appointed domain owners in each PC. As a dev, you are involved in developing at most a few modules in any project. This is insufficient to have your competencies recognised because each of those software modules are specialised cogs in a larger project. On the other hand, managers/architects can easily claim they satisfy competency requirements because managing/architecting a project supposedly gives them exposure to the entire domain. As a dev, tough luck. A lot depends on whether your boss likes you enough to ignore requirements you don't meet and support your competency application. You can have SWE technical skills outside of your PC's competencies but you can't get recognised for those because the relevant domain owners in other PCs typically refuse to support your application unless you've worked in those PCs or collaborated with them. Your boss won't even support you since the domain is outside the PC's. Ironically job postings by HR list SWE technical specialisations they recruit for despite not matching their internal framework. Any outside industry experience you might have may be absent in the competency framework, or distributed over a few domains, leaving you unable to satisfy any in full. I know experienced hires who tried numerous times in vain to have their outside experience recognised within the competency framework, because domain owners and/or bosses gatekeep by insisting on recognising only in-company project work experience. -- Haphazard work assignment with no stack specialisation -- Devs get assigned work with little regard to whether they fit their specialisation. When I asked for work that fit my specialisation I was told bluntly that "no one gets to do exactly what they want". The company only cares about their inhouse technical competencies (see above). Focusing on a stack specialisation is critical for devs looking for senior roles. So don't be surprised when you're looking for your next job and the interviewer discounts a significant portion of your experience in unrelated domains; eg. frontend devs are not helped by taking on ML/AI work unless applying for ML/AI role. There's also no track for technical people who wants to stay hands-on, either you become a manager/architect or you stay content capped at E3 grade. -- Lack of technical depth -- DSTA faces severe problems attracting technical hands-on talents from private sector top tech companies. Savants with deep technical skills rightly steer clear of DSTA, knowing they prioritise managers/architects over hands-on SWEs. In tech, a great determinant of how much you learn isn't just whether you have the freedom to do things but also whether you're surrounded by highly skilled technical folks. Those who left for private tech have compared working in analytics as "the blind leading the blind". It's not unusual, for example, to find senior engineers with zero knowledge of ML/AI supervise interns majoring in it. -- Numerous security constraints -- Want to innovate and automate something? Tough luck. Many projects are siloed and disconnected systems are the norm. The default approach to security is to segregate systems (or even subsystems within the same project) and keep them offline. Don't be fooled by claims they have fanciful automated pipelines; if your project is sensitive it can't go on it. Don't be surprised if people are uninterested in your automation initiative. They will claim to be open to it, but don't want to comply with onerous security directives to implement it, especially those involving interconnecting systems. They'll tell you to focus on other things instead. Should you still try, you stick out like a sore thumb. Colleagues/bosses will dissuade you, and gatekeepers will wonder why you can't comply like everyone else. Due to the sensitive nature of work, you can't really talk about what you do in DSTA. How are you going to explain your technical work accomplishments to your future interviewers if you can't talk about it? -- Limited scale of projects/systems -- Projects siloed due to security concerns mean each system is designed to serve only hundreds or at very most thousands of concurrent users. These systems aren't designed to scale (only vertically), and any SWE worth their salt will tell you that designing and building systems for hundreds of (non-concurrent) users is very different from those with millions of (concurrent) users. After spending a few years, you may find yourself unable to answer system design questions in private sector interviews relating to complicated large-scale systems. -- Limited WFH privileges -- Stay away from depts running highly sensitive projects. Their systems are inaccessible from the Internet and limited to on-site access. In particular, my director was highly inflexible and views WFH strictly only as a pandemic control measure to be ended swiftly when the govt relaxes restrictions. When I inquired introducing more flexibility by allowing at least a day per week to allow employees to decide on WFH, he rudely dismissed it saying that I should have known better before I joined this was impossible because access is granted onsite. He even declared that everyone who signed the employment contract with DSTA should have known this from the start and not demand WFH privileges because WFH is just a temporary pandemic control measure. WFH is granted only on case-by-case basis, never mind the fact there are days devs don't need system access and just need their development laptop with Internet to do some preliminary testing; you still have to seek special permission. It's much more flexible in the private sector where the difference towards WFH attitude is like day/night in comparison. -- Extremely rude senior management -- When people tell you they are extremely direct and can come off as rude, believe them. They're telling you they're a jerk. This was my director. During both interviews (entry and exit), he repeatedly rudely interrupted, talked over me and raised his voice several times making snide remarks. He also mocked my replies. He has a vindictive reputation and was completely uninterested in listening but only sought to blame me entirely for leaving and to push his own narrative over why I left. As though resigning was a cardinal sin. I was asked why I chose to leave instead of looking for an internal posting. When I explained the organisation as a whole was hamstrung by security constraints and red tape, the director rudely claimed I did not ask around and should have escalated it to his level where he claimed he could have found one. It's understandable to be upset at resignations, but if your response is to raise your voice and rudely interrupt others you're only proving them right to leave. I don't see why I should limit myself to the company's internal postings and have to beg other depts to accept me. Don't forget, internal postings can reject you. They won't even tell you why you were unsuccessful. I was rejected a few times in the past when I sought to transfer. I also found it hard to believe he would have helped given how he didn't budge an inch on WFH arrangements (see above). They only claim this so they don't get blamed for your departure. I've also been around long enough to know DSTA has significantly more security constraints than companies outside, despite whatever they may claim. He disparaged me by saying they had accepted me despite myself having no skills (totally false), had been given training and was now leaving; insinuating I was an ingrate. This is incredulous because almost everything I learned was on the job, self-taught. The company gave me problems, and I gave them solutions, in return for a salary. This is how jobs work. To prepare for interviews, I had spent significant time outside of work learning skills that work could not offer. I also remembered how years before, during the entry interview he had rudely said I wasted time working in unrelated roles (harsh but true), and that it was too late for me to start in software devt (false). What training they did provide was extremely compressed, and could not be implemented at work due to security constraints and scores of regulations. I expended considerable time trying to convince people to automate systems and scale them better, only to be frustrated at every turn. When he heard this, he blamed me for not escalating it to his level. I was aghast. Why was it my responsibility to fix a broken culture where staff are resistant to innovate? When I gave examples of how technical debt accumulated because people resorted to quick fixes, he snidely blamed me for not escalating to even higher-ups (again, not my job to fix tech-hesitant work culture). He even scoffed at my privacy concerns when I refused to disclose my new company, condescendingly declaring I was the first not to disclose and demanded a "second chance" to disclose (which I again refused). Why does he feel entitled to know? The condescending and sneering conduct of the director in the exit interview only made me wish I had left sooner. I sincerely wish all the best to those who choose to leave and to say as little as possible in the exit interview. If you really want to join DSTA as a dev, avoid Info PC and look for either Enterprise EIT (PC12), C3D (PC8) or Cyber. While none may be as good as tech outside, they are better choices than Info. Get out quickly once you learn the fundamentals; any more time spent there beyond that only increases expectations future interviewers would have of you, one you may find increasingly hard to surmount.

      Continue reading
      83 people found this review helpful

      Defence Science & Technology Agency Response

      Hi there, We are sorry to learn about your personal experience. We hope to follow up on the points you have raised and would be grateful if you could write to Ms Chng Lay Theng (claythen@dsta.gov.sg), Director Human Resource, for a confidential chat. Your feedback is valuable to us. We thank you for your service and we wish you all the best in your endeavours. Best regards, DSTA Human Resource

    8. 4.0
      Current Employee, more than 10 years

      Real Software Development Work

      May 3, 2022 - Software Development Engineer 
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Can do real software development work in government, high quality colleagues, good culture

      Cons

      Managers generally have a hard time managing complexities

      Continue reading
      2 people found this review helpful
    9. 4.0
      Current Employee, more than 3 years

      good work life

      May 8, 2022 - Anonymous Employee 
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      good work life balance and benefits

      Cons

      bureaucracy and red tape in certain departments

      Be the first to find this review helpful
    10. 5.0
      Current Employee

      Good Place to Work

      May 7, 2022 - Anonymous Employee 
      Recommend
      CEO Approval
      Business Outlook

      Pros

      Meaningful work in public service. Good benefits and compensation package

      Cons

      Tend to be very process centric as is government jobs.

      Be the first to find this review helpful
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    Defence Science & Technology Agency Reviews FAQs

    Defence Science & Technology Agency has an overall rating of 3.6 out of 5, based on over 482 reviews left anonymously by employees. 63% of employees would recommend working at Defence Science & Technology Agency to a friend and 59% have a positive outlook for the business. This rating has improved by 14% over the last 12 months.

    According to anonymously submitted Glassdoor reviews, Defence Science & Technology Agency employees rate their compensation and benefits as 3.8 out of 5. Find out more about salaries and benefits at Defence Science & Technology Agency. This rating has improved by 5% over the last 12 months.

    63% of Defence Science & Technology Agency employees would recommend working there to a friend based on Glassdoor reviews. Employees also rated Defence Science & Technology Agency 3.3 out of 5 for work life balance, 3.3 for culture and values and 3.5 for career opportunities.

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