TThink of a career at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and chances are, you may imagine a job focused on optimising land spaces and state buildings in Singapore. Few would expect scenic Dempsey Hill, aflush with a sea of green and quaint looking buildings, to fall under the statutory board’s jurisdiction. Yet, it does. And that is just one of many old districts which SLA breathes new life into. BrightSparks sits down with 27-year-old scholar Toh Tian Feng who shares what it’s like working at SLA.
What was your motivation to apply for the SLA Undergraduate Scholarship?
For me, it’s about nation building. I’ve always wanted to be part of the team that will help shape the future landscape of Singapore, which is what drew me into real estate. Being in a government agency allows me to do so. This also led me to SLA being one of my main choices when I did my research on the BrightSparks website on scholarships midway through my studies at NUS.
What are the career and development opportunities at SLA?
We are encouraged to rotate to a different department or role every two years. This isn’t restricted to scholars. If there’s an opening, any staff can apply for it. This way, everyone gets opportunities to try different portfolios and gain as much exposure as possible.
I was also involved in the formulation of the corporate work plan, where I was able to work with the senior management directly and understand their vision and thought process. It lets me see where our organisation is heading and what their plans for the future are.
Toh Tian Feng
SLA Local (Mid Term) Undergraduate Scholarship
Senior Executive (In-house leasing)
Bachelor of Science (Real Estate) – National University of Singapore
How else does SLA support your growth?
You’ll get to meet and work with people from both within and outside your department. I’ve had the opportunity to take part in organisation-wide events and projects where I worked with the senior managers from other departments. In addition, I also get to interact with colleagues from other ministries.
Outside my role, I’ve been appointed secretary of the organisation’s recreational club, where I help to plan events such as the Dinner & Dance and durian festival. We also organised a company event at My Tampines Hub, where we booked several facilities (tennis courts, rock climbing wall, and karaoke) to cater to the different age groups within SLA to bond and enjoy their day together.
How does your work live up to SLA’s three pillars of Innovation, Adaptability, and being Customer-centric?
Currently, I am part of the project team that looks into the digitalisation of my Department’s work processes and how to make better use of technology to help us in our daily work. I am involved in the user acceptance testing and have contributed inputs and ideas to automate the routine work processes.
There is some overlap between adaptability and being customer-centric in my current role in tenancy management. I handle the arts and commercial sectors, as well as foreign system school users. Each user has a different tenant profile and you have to learn to work on their requirements and adapt to their needs.
We also engage with our tenants on a regular basis. We try to understand the difficulties they face on the ground and partner them to work on solutions to improve their operations. We listen to the customers, help them come up with suggestions, and support them through the process.
Repurposing old buildings is also part of your scope. What is that like?
For my department, our main job scope is to manage old buildings which have been returned to the government but are pending redevelopment plans. In the meantime, we have to come up with new ideas to improve the usability of these state buildings so as to optimise their usage. It’s not just about getting a tenant though. We want them to be able to bring new life into the properties. To achieve this, our prospective tenants will go through a price and quality tender, and we’ll evaluate their proposals and assess how they can rejuvenate the place before we lease it to them.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
My goal in the short term is to gain exposure to diverse portfolios within SLA, including land acquisition and geospatial. The 3D mapping of Singapore is interesting and I would like to explore and learn more.
Do you have any advice for aspiring scholars looking to follow in your footsteps?
You must have a passion for real estate. Get your hands dirty and take the initiative to talk to people and get to know the industry more. Real estate isn’t just about learning what’s in the books. You need to know what’s on the ground and engage with people to gain this experience and knowledge.