Left: URA Undergraduate Scholar Jazreel Siew is a Systems Analyst, developing new features in web applications and ensuring projects run smoothly. She has a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from SMU.
Right: Yam Yujian became a URA Undergraduate Scholar in 2004, and the agency has nurtured him to his current position as Director of Planning Policies in URA. He has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from SMU.
"What many people may not realise is that our built environment works in the background in such pervasive ways," said Yam Yujian, Director of Planning Policies at Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
"It has a significant impact on the way we live and the significance we derive from our daily grind."
Having spent approximately 14 years in the organisation working his way up from Property Market Analyst to various directorship positions, his words reflect a deep understanding of the integral role this statutory board plays in nation-building.
Beyond good urban planning, URA also places an emphasis on harvesting talents who aspire to make Singapore a great city to live, work and play. The URA Scholarship is a cornerstone of their manpower objectives, offered to young talents keen to play an active role in shaping Singapore's cityscape.
In 2004, Yujian became a URA Undergraduate Scholar, and the agency has nurtured him to his current position as Director of Planning Policies, drawing up strategic land use and infrastructure plans to guide Singapore's long-term physical development.
More than 10 years later, fellow scholar Jazreel Siew joined URA as a Systems Analyst, developing various web applications for different stakeholders.
The Planning Stage
Jazreel's interest in the built environment was piqued when she was studying geographic information systems (GIS) in polytechnic, leading to a strong interest in urban planning and her very first internship with URA.
"During my internship, I met very nice bosses and colleagues who guided and advised me. One of the Directors shared with me the career opportunities and scholarships available, so I followed my passion and joined URA," she remembered.
Yujian concurred on the value of internships, emphasising how they give students a taste of an organisation's work, which is varied and collaborative, before applying for a scholarship.
"We have people who come from different training and backgrounds – from architects, urban planners, civil engineers to economists, sociologists, systems analysts, data scientists – and we end up learning from each other, growing together and delivering at work."
"You can also be involved in all sorts of projects – from those with national significance to those which impact people at the personal level."
A key advantage of the URA Scholarship is the comprehensive learning journey, which starts in university and culminates in a fulfilling and varied career.
Jazreel studied Information Systems in SMU in anticipation of her future role with the organisation, with URA backing her every step of the way. The organisation provided her with a mentor during her university days, as well as connecting her to other scholars.
Yujian highlighted the value of university itself as a contained version of work life, preparing him for his career.
"My time in university has equipped me with the skills for me to multi-task and deliver well at work while ensuring personal growth."
Though university is a distant memory for Yujian, his Bachelor in Economics continues to stand him in good stead and he is still able to apply what he learnt to his work today.
"Economics gave me the lens to make sense of how people transacted with each other and how resources are organised," he outlined.
"By applying the concepts of ‘budget constraints' and ‘pareto optimality', I have been involved in work that ensures that our limited land and sea space can be well optimised so that we can get the biggest ‘bang for the buck'."
He also reviews and updates policies that influence the way URA plans and implements development projects. This particular task sees him drawing on his vast experience, including a stint in the Strategic Planning Division at Ministry of National Development and a role as Senior Economist position at Monetary Authority of Singapore.
"Some policies and models which I developed at one department are ‘transferrable' and can be applied in the other departments that I subsequently joined."
Jazreel too, transferred her skills and experience acquired from university into her work at URA.
"In school, I was exposed to public speaking, giving presentations and stakeholder management. These skills helped in my current work where I communicate professionally with stakeholders from other government agencies or companies via email or video conferencing," she said.
Her ability to listen and take decisive action has led to significant achievements. She spoke with pride about Space Out, an interactive web application which brings together and makes available crowd-level information for amenities people visit for essential needs. And today, she is part of the DevSecOps team, who works on combining development, security, and operations for increased efficiency. She is currently working on best practices in software development and automation infrastructure.
Yujian summarised: "That's the beauty of being in the public service, where you can learn and relearn, apply and reapply things that you have developed."
Clearly, opportunities abound at URA. But the scholars emphasise that there is more to the organisation than simply a career.
Jazreel said: "If you are passionate about using technology to better the lives of Singaporeans and have a great interest in blending urban planning with geospatial skills like me, come join us!"
"If you would like to be part of a team who constantly strives to improve people's lives and livelihoods, and in a tangible way that you can see, hear and smell, URA would be your employer of choice. I am not aware of any other organisation whose work is as pervasive and as impactful to one's daily life as URA," concluded Yujian.