Left: Roy Yuen promotes the use of geospatial
technologies as a Principal Geospatial Consultant. He is
a recipient of the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship and
holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Geography), with a
minor in Geographical Information Systems.
Right: Derick Tan oversees the operations of the Cadastral Survey Department in his role as Deputy Director, Survey & Geomatics Division, Legal & Regulatory Cluster. He is a recipient of the SLA Postgraduate Scholarship, and holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from the National University of Singapore and a Master in Surveying from the University College London in United Kingdom.
Singapore is popularly known as “Little Red Dot”, for obvious reasons. At just 722.5km², the country needs to maximise the use of its land without compromising its social and economic progress. This daunting but very important task falls to the officers at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
41-year-old Derick Tan Tee Guan deep-dives into Cadastral Surveying, ensuring that land boundaries are kept accurate through sound processes and new technology. For 29-year-old Roy Yuen Ze Min, he promotes the utilisation and drives capacity building of geospatial technologies for the Singapore government as well as related industries and the community. BrightSparks looks at how these two stellar individuals have reaped the fruits of success in land management.
Surveying the Future
What motivated you to apply for the SLA Postgraduate Scholarship?
Derick: I joined SLA straight out of school in 2003. After working for about a year in SLA, the opportunity came to further my studies in surveying. The tenure in SLA made me realise this could be the anchor of my career, however, there was a need for me to expand my knowledge and strengthen my foundation in surveying since I was trained as a civil engineer at NUS. I took the step to apply for the SLA overseas postgraduate scholarship.
How has your scholarship helped you achieve your career goals?
The key benefit is acquiring the principles of surveying during the one-year course, which helps me build the necessary knowledge to function professionally. Secondly, graduating from this course qualifies for registration with the Land Surveyors Board, without which, I would not be able to move towards where I am today. This is especially important for my career development. However, this is not the end; it is important to keep learning and work hard to achieve your goals.
How does your work contribute to SLA’s ethos and mission?
The vision of SLA is “Limited Land • Unlimited Space”. This is especially relevant in Singapore, where we often talk about limited land resources, but with ingenuity and guile, there’s so much that we can do together. As the regulator for property boundary surveys in Singapore, excellence and innovation have always been a key driver leading our thoughts and actions as we create an environment that pushes us to do even more for ourselves and our customers. It is not always easy, especially when big changes are needed, but I do hope in the long run, the benefits will be more apparent for all to see. Sometimes, you don’t see the end-result straightaway, but you have to persevere and keep on pushing.
How does SLA help you to develop beyond your key skills needed for your role?
The scholarship only gets one foot through the door. One would have to strive for continuous learning, both on and off the job, in order to develop the key skill sets to perform well. The surveying profession is extremely dynamic, with new technologies sprouting out every now and then, possibly making things you have learnt for the past 10 years obsolete. To keep up to pace, you have to be aware of what’s happening out there. This is where SLA and my bosses are supportive of staff attending industry events and conferences to keep ourselves in touch with the latest trends.
As you move up from an operational to a management role, SLA curates the pathway of an officer with the necessary management skills through specialised courses, one of which I’ve recently attended is the Edge programme run by the Centre for Liveable Cities, a more than- excellent programme that I would recommend any public officer participate to gain a deeper understanding of the infrastructure sector.
The Geospatial Advocate
What motivated you to apply for the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship?
Roy: I applied for the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship during my university days and was honoured to be in the first batch of Geospatial scholars. I saw the potential of how Geospatial Information and Technology (GIST) could be used to address many different types of challenges, especially in this complex world we are living in. Going geospatial allows us to overlay a huge amount of locational information and obtain the key trends, giving us spatial insights and helping us make better decisions.
At the same time, I was thinking about my future career after graduation and how I could contribute to Singapore and society at large using my GIST skillsets. So, the opportunity (the scholarship) in the public service came to my knowledge. I would say this was the perfect match for what I have been searching for.
How has your scholarship helped you achieve your career goals?
The scholarship helped me to take on new leadership roles to plan, strategise and implement different projects. These leadership roles help sharpened my managerial skills in managing a dynamic team. Last but not least, being able to work in different agencies under the scholarship stint provided me with new insights and exposure to how things work differently in different agencies. That is where I learned a lot and understood how the public service functions in different ministries.
What other opportunities have you received from the scholarship?
The scholarship opened doors for me to work in two very different public agencies, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The contrasting job scope in both agencies has equipped me with a wide range of experience in managing and harnessing GIST to support Singapore’s Smart Nation efforts. In addition, the scholarship allows me to apply my geospatial skill sets in different domains, putting what I learned in school to good use.
What advice would you give to would-be scholars who are interested in this specific field?
There goes the cliché, “A picture paints a thousand words”. But a map paints a thousand pictures because one can attain lots of information from a map. Does looking at maps excite you? Ask yourself what you are passionate about and stick to it. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to dread going to work knowing that you are working on something that you are not passionate about. Also, always remember teamwork is important! As a leader, you can have an awesome vision, the grand plan, etc. But you won’t be able to achieve much alone. You need a capable team to deliver. It is also important to be humble as we are always learning new things from one another!