Sharon Preethi George analyses data to enhance the planning and design of our towns as a Senior Engineer at HDB. An HDB Undergraduate Scholar, she holds a Master of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) from Imperial College London.
If you want a role that impacts Singaporeans in a positive and impactful manner, look no further than the Housing & Development Board (HDB). The organisation is Singapore's public housing authority and in addition to building homes, HDB transforms towns to create a quality living environment for all. HDB flats are home to over 80% of Singapore's resident population, with approximately 90% of these resident households proudly owning their home.
The opportunity to influence the lives of so many Singaporeans drew Sharon Preethi George to HDB, and her decision to join the organisation has been validated through her various roles. The 28-year-old shared with us her journey and her impactful work with HDB thus far.
You are an engineer. So, were you always interested in figuring out how things work?
During my pre-university days, I excelled in math and science, and enjoyed opportunities to solve problems. Hence, engineering was a good fit for my skills and interests. I chose Mechanical Engineering specifically because it was the most diverse among the engineering courses. Mechanical Engineering touched on a little of everything, which was useful for me since I wasn't sure which specific area I wanted to be involved in.
An engineer has plenty of career options. Why did you choose to join HDB?
I wanted my work to have an impact. As HDB builds homes for over 80% of the population, it provides the opportunity to make an impact on a large scale, and yet also at a very personal level.
You accepted the HDB Undergraduate Scholarship and went on to pursue a Master of Engineering at Imperial College London. What was your biggest takeaway during your university days?
Learn smart. Set goals for your academic results, but don't get too preoccupied with grades such that you compromise your learning. I spent my first two years of study focusing on securing the grades I wanted. Thereafter, I took up electives that I was interested in, even if those were challenging and harder to score good grades in. I also took time to engage in social activities for a more holistic learning experience.
How did you apply what you have learned to your current work?
I was involved in designing and supervising the construction of mechanical systems in developments during my first five years at HDB. Basic concepts of Fluid Dynamics from university helped me understand how these systems work, but the exact design methodologies had to be learned on the job.
My current work in data analytics involves a fair amount of probability, statistics and computing knowledge. The fundamentals covered in university has helped me to pick up the required skills quickly. That said, I am also constantly brushing up my knowledge and skills through self-directed learning by enrolling in online courses and reading up on data analytics and how to apply it at work.
You are now a Senior Engineer involved in Smart Urban Analytics. Tell us more about your role and responsibilities.
I work with a team of data analysts to study data collected by HDB as well as other government agencies, in order to enhance the planning and design of our towns. One of the projects I am currently working on involves studying the water consumption patterns of our residents, to see how we can optimise the design of our water supply system.
I was involved in Engineering Management from 2015 to 2018, and the role involved reviewing design proposals by consultants, inspecting ongoing construction work and issuing approvals. A couple of times a month, I would meet residents to address their concerns on mechanical systems within their homes or estates. I was also involved in engineering policy development, such as new design requirements, testing protocol and procurement criteria.
Thereafter, I was posted to take on Engineering Design work as part of my professional development. In this role, I was given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in design and construction supervision. I designed mechanical systems for new developments, including the recently launched Parc Residences @ Tengah. Although I have now moved on to a new portfolio, I still feel proud to have been involved in designing this development. It is a tangible part of Singapore that I helped create.
What career opportunities are available for those applying to HDB?
As a large organisation, HDB has a myriad of career opportunities ranging from Architecture and Engineering to Economics and IT. Considering your interest and discipline of study, you will be posted to one of HDB's three main Groups – Building, Estate or Corporate.
Officers in our Building Groups are involved in shaping the living environment of HDB estates. For instance, officers can be involved in roles ranging from physical planning and urban design, project management, infrastructure and reclamation works, to research and development.
We also have our Estate Groups where officers can be involved in policy and planning, marketing and managing our flats and commercial properties, engaging with the community and managing our land to ensure that it is used optimally.
Finally, we have our Corporate Groups which play an essential role in supporting HDB's operations. Those in the Corporate Groups are involved in functions such as Infocomm Technology, Finance, Human Resource, and Corporate Communications.
Why should aspiring scholars consider applying to HDB?
When considering what organisation to work for, you should always think about the impact that your job will have, and if it is something that will motivate you. Over the past five years or so, I have worked on designs for new Build-To-Order developments and upgrading programmes, met residents to address post-construction issues they faced, and carried out analytics projects to find new ways to enhance our developments. This motivates me because I believe it enhances the quality of life of our residents.
It is important that you choose an organisation that will constantly expose you to new opportunities for personal and career growth. HDB is a dynamic organisation that is always learning and evolving, and so your work stays interesting.
Finally, how can engineers contribute to the objectives of HDB?
In the field of engineering, we are looking at new technologies like centralised cooling and 3D printing. And in analytics work, we are exploring new data sources and machine learning algorithms. This dynamism will require a forward-looking mindset to be open to the integration of new trends and technology into our work.