The Ministry of National Development (MND) aims to make Singapore an endearing home and a distinctive global city, by developing world-class infrastructure, creating a sustainable living environment and fostering rooted and cohesive communities. It works with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), Housing & Development Board (HDB), National Parks Board (NParks), and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), to ensure Singapore remains a special home for one and all.
To achieve its vision, MND grooms a team of talented individuals through a range of developmental opportunities including training, cross-agency secondment and scholarships. Under the MND EDGE Scholarship, the MND Family offers seven undergraduate scholarships to attract and groom talented youths to a career with the MND Family. It also provides the MND EDGE Postgraduate Scholarship to give MND employees the opportunity to develop their capabilities.
MND EDGE Postgraduate Scholar, Tai Jo Fen, who is currently seconded to AVA as Deputy Director, Engagement & Outreach, Animal Management Group, shares how she has benefitted from this opportunity.
Jo Fen first joined MND in 2009 because of her interest in sustainable development and the desire to make a difference in the world. She was part of the Eco-City Project Office team that oversees the implementation of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city project. This is the second government-to-government project between China and Singapore after the Sino-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park. She had the opportunity to be posted to Tianjin from 2010 to 2012 to facilitate the progress of the project, which helped her to understand China’s urban development better. She muses, “When I was based in Tianjin, I learnt to be resourceful and independent in managing issues on the ground. I also learnt to engage a wide range of stakeholders, and to identify and promote opportunities for collaboration across organisational boundaries.”
In 2012, Jo Fen was posted to the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), a knowledge centre on liveable and sustainable cities. As a Researcher, she helped to drive collaborations with relevant stakeholders. “Singapore’s transformation into a thriving global city has drawn considerable interests worldwide. It was a privilege to meet many city leaders, urban experts and officers through my work at CLC. Such engagements have deepened my understanding of international urban policies and practices”, she said.
To develop herself further, Jo Fen participated in CLC’s City EXCEL programme in 2013. It was a five-day milestone programme where she engaged in dialogues with industry experts and government leaders, and brainstormed on projects that could help to enhance the liveability and sustainability of cities.
In 2015, she decided to pursue the Nanyang Fellows Master of Business Administration at NTU. The one-year course appealed to her as she felt it would help her to improve her understanding of the business environment, and to learn to assess issues from different perspectives.
She recalls excitedly, “There were many rich insights gained and meaningful discussions held during the programme. I also had the opportunity to network with many fellow public officers from across the sector. This deepened my understanding of Singapore’s development and future plans.”
Jo Fen thanks MND for giving her these opportunities, and adds that the organisation has always provided her with multiple avenues to learn and develop in her career.
Tai Jo Fen
MND EDGE Postgraduate Scholar
Engagement & Outreach,
Animal Management Group, AVA (On secondment from MND)
A Dynamic Role
Jo Fen believes these experiences have broadened her perspectives and honed her stakeholder engagement capabilities, which have been particularly useful in her current portfolio driving engagement and outreach efforts on animal welfare and management issues at AVA.
She explains that her work at AVA is a challenging portfolio because of the diverse stakeholders involved - each with different concerns. It is also a delicate balance to tread between animal lovers, and those who are less tolerant of animals. Notwithstanding this, she revels in the challenge of translating broad strategies into practical, customised solutions to improve animal welfare. “A lot of the time, the question is ‘how to do it’, rather than ‘what needs to be done’,” she muses.
She is also excited about developing her management skills. Although her team is small and the workload can be heavy, she enjoys being able to meet the needs of her team members and support them in building their careers. A major takeaway for her, she says, “is about transitioning from an individual contributor to a strong team leader and facilitator who creates value for an organisation.”
Be Driven to Create Value
Jo Fen shares that the MND EDGE scholarship accords officers with learning opportunities to develop themselves further. “Being a scholar does not automatically put one on a faster career track. At the end of the day, everyone will be assessed fairly based on their performance,” she said. She believes that in this complex and challenging environment, it is important for officers to be willing to continuously learn and improve. Only then, she says, will they be able to add value to their organisations, and in extension, to the development of the nation.
“Focus on the learning, stay grounded, be open to new ideas and develop a humble attitude towards the people around you,” she advises.