Tan Joo Gian and Darren Tan Zhi Wei, recipients of the National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship, share their journeys and how they have benefitted from the opportunities designed to groom talented individuals for a sustainable Singapore.
Why did you choose to apply for the NEW scholarship?
Joo Gian: I took the internship route to explore my interest in the environment and NEA further. I enjoyed the process of learning how NEA does regulatory and policy work that impacts the environment.
Darren: The turning point was when I visited Marina Barrage in JC during a trip organised by PUB. They showed us how the pumps and gates work, and how Marina Barrage was formed. That was when I learned more about the NEW Scholarship as well. Since I have a passion for the water sector, applying for the NEW Scholarship with PUB was a natural choice.
What were the opportunities the NEW Scholarship has afforded you with?
Joo Gian: I did my master’s in Environmental Technology with a specialisation in Environmental Economics at Imperial College London. It was a programme that was highly established there and hence, I had very valuable takeaways from my education. The extensive and all-rounded modules taught me how different types of processes can apply to Environmental Management.
Darren: I went on to pursue a direct Masters in Civil Engineering at Imperial College London. The modules I took were challenging but highly applicable to my work at PUB. For my summer programme, I went to Harvard University and took two non-engineering courses in Finance and Psychology. All these were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I would not have been able to have if it was not for the scholarship.
How did your academics help you in your role today?
Joo Gian: As a Senior Executive in the Environmental Public Health Division, my work includes operations planning, statistical support, conducting inspections and enforcement. In Operations Planning or Data Analytics, it is rigorous and forces me to think hard about the steps of execution, its implications and how to structure the data and findings. To excel in these roles, I draw upon from what I have learned in environmental economics to apply them in these real life scenarios.
Darren: My current role in the Reservoir Management division of the Catchment & Waterways department includes planning of daily reservoir operations, optimising reservoir water stocks, and providing technical inputs for various engineering projects at the reservoirs. I am able to relate and apply what I have learned in many aspects of my work, as the scope of studies in Civil Engineering is wide – from design of foundations and structures to learning about catchment runoff characteristics and hydraulics of pipes; these have prepared me well in understanding and carrying out the various operational works of PUB.
What do you find rewarding about your work?
Joo Gian: I find great fulfilment when I see the immediate impact of our actions. It is motivating to observe reduction in littering cases and dengue clusters in my current role in Sanitation and past role in Vector Control.
Darren: I find the interaction with the public challenging yet enjoyable. Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where reservoirs are open to the public. Engaging and educating them about reservoirs may be technical at times, but it gives me a sense of fulfilment whenever they show their appreciation.
What are your career aspirations with NEA and PUB?
Joo Gian: My career aspirations with NEA is to be a part of environmental policy-making in Singapore. I would also love to be a part of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources’ policy drafting.
Darren: I am looking forward to being given the opportunity to manage Civil Engineering related projects and work in all five core operational departments in PUB. This will provide me with a holistic perspective of what PUB does as an organisation.
What advice do you have for those exploring their scholarship options?
Joo Gian: I urge future scholars to look into the public sector as a career option as it has a lot to offer. There are many opportunities for rotation in the public service.
Darren: I would advise you not to apply for the scholarship solely for the financial sponsorship. You have to be passionate about the career. I feel very strongly about water and PUB is a forward-looking and innovative water company.