The enjoyment derived from being around nature, and a love for long-distance running at reservoirs, inspired Tan Ying Xin and Linn Yun Li, two National Environment & Water (NEW) scholars, to join the National Environment Agency (NEA) and PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency. These are their journeys as they strive to contribute towards a sustainable Singapore.
Give us a background of how your passion for the environment and water sectors was ignited.
Ying Xin: I have always loved nature and spent a lot of time in parks since young. As I was increasingly exposed to the various environmental issues threatening these green spaces, I wanted to learn more about how to mitigate these threats and protect our environment.
Yun Li: My interest in the water sector started when I was training for track and cross country races during my school days at reservoirs such as MacRitchie Reservoir. During runs of up to 16km, I was impressed at the long distance that we were able to run despite always being told that Singapore is land scarce. This got me thinking about how we manage the scarcity of resources such as water and land, and when I subsequently decided to pursue an engineering degree, I was interested in using it for betterment of the water sector.
Share with us the opportunities you had received as an undergraduate scholar. How were they beneficial to your roles today?
Ying Xin: As an undergraduate scholar, I had the opportunity to complete a summer programme in Costa Rica on Sustainable Development and Tropical Ecosystems, as well as a spring semester in Berlin focusing on Environmental Policy and Green Cities. These overseas opportunities helped me to understand environmental issues on a global scale, as well as to gain first-hand experience of how different countries dealt with similar issues and came up with solutions to fit their contexts. Now, I approach my work at NEA with a deeper and broader perspective.
Yun Li: PUB sponsored several summer classes at University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) where I worked with numerous professors and helped them with their research. The exposure and references I received helped me to apply for my Master’s where I specialised in fluid mechanics. This extended support by PUB has equipped me with necessary expertise to ensure that I had the knowledge for the smooth handling of the pumping equipment and piping systems to carry out my role effectively.
Tan Ying Xin
Senior Executive, Hawker Centres Division
National Environment Agency
In your current roles, how are you striving to serve Singaporeans better?
Ying Xin: As a Senior Executive in the Hawker Centres Division, I am currently involved in projects to help improve productivity and increase through leveraging technology, for example, the implementation of quick processing of e-payments, automated tray return systems and centralised dishwashing. These efforts directly boost efficiency and cleanliness in the hawker centres. Fundamentally, we hope that patrons can have an enjoyable experience dining in hawker centres.
Yun Li: I focus on improving existing water systems and boosting their resilience. Since water is a strategic resource, I strive to ensure there is minimal wastage and natural resources are saved. My daily routine consists of troubleshooting problems in the waterworks, and enhancing the design of the current system to ensure smooth water production and a more resilient water supply.
What are your career aspirations with the NEA and PUB?
Ying Xin: NEA is a large and diverse agency that addresses many different aspects of environmental management and protection. I look forward to job rotation opportunities to broaden my work experience. I also hope to contribute to environmental policymaking and outreach and education in Singapore, to increase the attention paid to environmental issues in the community here.
Yun Li: I look forward to gaining exposure in both the engineering and non-engineering areas of PUB’s work so that I can have a holistic view of how PUB operates and the various challenges associated with ensuring water sustainability. I believe working in various departments will allow me to glean more knowledge of the different aspects of water management.
Linn Yun Li
Engineer, Water Supply (Plants) Department
PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency
What kind of support has your company given you to achieve these?
Ying Xin: NEA supports and encourages the learning and development of every employee. I had the opportunity to receive training through study visits and courses to understand the industry in a more in-depth manner. For example, I attended a recent conference where I learnt how various technologies currently used in the food industries could also be adapted and applied in hawker centres. These programmes and the training I attended helped me gain insight and apply it to NEA’s context.
Yun Li: Every PUB officer is assigned a mentor. I am in constant contact with my mentor where we like to catch up with each other over coffee, be it for professional or personal matters. He guides me through the different roles and responsibilities of the job, along with providing advice when needed.
Why is it an exciting path for scholars to follow your footsteps and build their future with NEA and PUB?
Ying Xin: With greater public awareness of environmental issues, I feel that experience in environmental governance and management at NEA is increasingly relevant. The diversity of NEA’s work provides a multitude of valuable opportunities for officers to stretch their potential and hone various skills in different contexts.
Yun Li: Managing water has always been challenging, and it will continue to be a challenge in the years to come. As we strive to address these challenges and ensure water sustainability, we get to be at the forefront of the technological advances and solve various engineering problems. Future scholars will get a chance to make this happen, which is a meaningful opportunity indeed!