Sam Kee is a recipient of the EDB Scholarship and holds a Bachelor in Mathematics from the University of Chicago as well as a Master of Philosophy in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge.
Singapore’s economic growth since its independence has been impressive. Much of the credit has to go to the foresight of the leaders, and the continuous work done by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).
Since its establishment in 1961, EDB has played a pivotal role in guiding our economy through the different phases over the decades. As the lead agency that plans and executes economic and industrial development strategies for Singapore, EDB is currently responsible for over 30% of Singapore’s annual GDP, across manufacturing and tradeable services sectors.
In addition to attracting quality investments and transforming existing industries, such as Electronics, EDB also works with large corporates on new businesses to capture growth opportunities.
Indeed, Singapore’s strong economy continues to attract and support a diverse range of industries. EDB officers continue to engage companies in their Singapore business journey, to broaden and deepen their activities in Singapore. EDB’s work brings about sustainable economic growth, with vibrant and good job opportunities for Singapore.
Speaking of jobs, Sam Kee is currently embarking on a career with EDB that he finds engaging and meaningful. He is in the Semiconductors division, where his key objective is to sustain a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem in Singapore.
The nature of Sam’s work allows him, a relatively young officer at 27 years old, to interact with key decision-makers and C-suite executives of Fortune 500 companies. He shares the other unique aspects of his role and his experience as an EDB Scholar.
Accepting a scholarship is a big decision. What made you decide to join EDB?
I have always been interested in international affairs, as cultivating a global orientation was something important to me. With that in mind, I was drawn to EDB as it provides its employees with many opportunities to engage and learn from international clients. What sets EDB apart from other organisations is that it offers its employees career pathways to work abroad in one of its overseas centres, while remaining connected with businesses, stakeholders, and family members back home. This was a very appealing prospect for me.
What does your job encompass?
As part of the Semiconductors division, my team and I work with industry stakeholders and other government agencies to formulate strategies to ensure that Singapore has the necessary elements to be a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem. In implementing these strategies, I work with international businesses that have an interest in establishing or expanding their presence here, and find ways to support them in growing their global business from Singapore.
It’s a collaborative effort. We brainstorm with clients on how they can expand and deepen their presence in Singapore. Such activities can range from fostering collaborations between companies and research institutes in important growth areas such as 5G and autonomous vehicles, to ensuring a diverse base of qualified suppliers that can support semiconductor manufacturing operations in Singapore. The end goal across all of my work is two-fold: to ensure sustainable economic growth for Singapore, and to create desirable jobs that are aligned with the aspirations of Singaporeans.
Closely related to EDB’s mission of creating good job opportunities, I am also part of the team that works on talent initiatives with other stakeholders. Similar to many other technology-intensive sectors, talent is one of the most important factors driving the success of semiconductor companies. My team and I collaborate with universities and corporates to ensure a pipeline of well-trained graduates, who are ready to take on high-value and research-intensive roles in the semiconductors industry.
EDB looks at different industries. How did you end up in the Semiconductors division?
Before joining the Semiconductors division, I had the chance to work in different divisions in EDB under the Associate Programme. In addition to learning more about EDB’s work across a mix of industries, I also had the opportunity to be mentored by my seniors. The Associate Programme has undoubtedly enriched my experience in EDB.
I chose to join the Semiconductors division as I felt I could make a difference there. Semiconductors is a crucial industry that contributes to Singapore’s economic growth. To put things in perspective, it accounts for about 8% of Singapore’s GDP.
In addition, the future remains bright for this industry. With the emergence and growing adoption of new tech applications such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things, these will fuel the strong and diversified demand for semiconductor solutions developed in Singapore. Many of the semiconductor companies in Singapore are performing the R&D and manufacturing of chips that support these growth areas, and I am excited to enable their success through my daily work.
How has the EDB Scholarship helped you in your career?
As an EDB scholar, you will receive strong support and guidance from the organisation, on top of the sponsorship of an overseas education. This includes internships with EDB in Singapore and possibly one of EDB’s overseas offices, as well as the exposure to, driven and nurturing mentors in the organization. The connections and knowledge gained from the internships will give you a better appreciation of EDB’s multi-faceted work, and help you become a more effective EDB officer.
What is the culture in EDB like?
EDB is dynamic. EDB officers are highly driven by our mission to ensure that Singapore has sustainable economic growth and good job opportunities. This results in work that is challenging yet meaningful at the same time. It requires us to be able to keep up with the changing times so that Singapore’s economy can remain in the lead.
Any advice to students looking to get a scholarship?
Always be curious. This is something that any potential employer or scholarship provider would look out for. Curiosity is often a precursor for initiative and drive, which are traits that any potential employer will value.
Do not be afraid to ask bold and vital questions. This is useful in the interview process as it shows that you are not just coming in with scripted answers. Instead, you are genuinely curious as to how the organisation works.
If you’re interested in the EDB Scholarship, it will help to be a well-exposed and well-rounded individual. This includes having a curious mind and keeping yourself updated with industry news and current affairs.