Left: Singapore GeoSpatial Scholarship recipient Reginald Heng has a Bachelor of Science (Real Estate) and Bachelor of Arts (Geography) from NUS. He is currently a Senior GeoSpatial Consultant with SLA.
Right: Loo Yu Xi is a Senior Executive in the Commercial Leasing Department at SLA. The SLA Overseas Undergraduate Scholar has a Bachelor of Science in Geography from University College London.
In land-scarce Singapore, every inch of soil or pavement must be laid down with care and deliberation.
Behind such deep-rooted decisions is Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and its mission of optimising land use for the economic and social development of Singapore.
This single task comprises a huge array of responsibilities in its execution. Hence, SLA simultaneously functions as regulator and developer, gazetting land use and putting State properties on the market to appropriate buyers.
Attracted to these goals, Singapore Geospatial Scholar Reginald Heng and SLA Overseas Undergraduate Scholar Loo Yu Xi have become members of the team. They spoke with us on their part in making SLA's mission a reality.
Geography of the Land
Yu Xi, we read that you love Geography. How did you get interested in the subject?
Yu Xi: The wonders and natures of the world have intrigued me since I was a child. I remember picking out National Geographic magazines in the school library back in primary school as I adored seeing the majestic images of natural landforms and wildlife!
So, how did the interest lead you to SLA?
Yu Xi: I was keen on pursuing Geography in university and the opportunity to serve in the public sector while pursuing my interests appealed to me. I decided to select the SLA Undergraduate Scholarship as I felt that the organisation's goals align greatly with my interests and would give me an opportunity to practise Geography principles in real-life situations through management of different land uses.
SLA's vision of "Limited Land • Unlimited Space" reflects the importance of land use optimisation, and the idea of being able to transform State properties and land uses to shape the country's future was particularly intriguing.
Reginald, tell us about your journey into SLA.
Reginald: I started my university studies under the Bachelor of Science (Real Estate) programme due to my interest in Urban Planning. As I was exploring related modules, I chanced upon a couple of Geographic Information System (GIS) modules in my second year. The hands-on activities in the modules such as creating thematic maps through the ArcGIS software fascinated me and I decided to specialise in this.
Also in my second year in university, I came across the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship during a career fair held by the NUS Department of Real Estate. The SLA team sparked my interest and I went on to apply for an internship with SLA's GeoSpatial & Data Division. Eventually, the HR team reached out to me on the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship, and the rest is history.
You even went on to pursue a second degree – a Bachelor of Arts (Geography). What made you decide to do that?
Reginald: After taking on the GIS courses in the Geography department, I realised that Real Estate and Geography are very much intertwined. So, I decided to take on non-GIS modules offered by the Geography Department such as Human Geography and Physical Geography. With the enriching experience from both areas of studies, I decided to apply and pursue a second degree in Geography to enhance and deepen my learning in both domains.
The GIS knowledge I have picked up during my studies has been very helpful especially with the capacity-building side of work that I'm involved in.
Yu Xi, you studied overseas in London, what was that like?
Yu Xi: Being able to study overseas was an eye-opening experience that broadened my world view and exposed me to various cultures and lifestyles. The academic rigour of university has also shaped the way I absorb information and my motivation for knowledge.
I was attached to a mentor from SLA and I could reach out for assistance whenever I needed any guidance. SLA's HR also constantly checked in on my wellbeing and gave us opportunities to intern with various departments during our vacation breaks.
Working the Land
So, tell us about your respective positions in SLA.
Yu Xi: My role encompasses managing commercial tenants throughout their tenancies. In the Commercial Leasing department, we oversee and manage tenancies on State properties from the point of commencement to tenancy expiry. All in all, my work entails ensuring that the State properties and buildings are well preserved and conserved, while giving them an opportunity to be rejuvenated through interim uses.
Reginald: I am currently involved in two main streams of work: data and policy and capacity building.
Under data and policy, I handle the secretariat for the Geospatial Data Management Working Group that consists of member agencies. Under the capacity building, we conduct Geospatial training courses for Whole-of-Government (WOG) officers. I manage the content curation for Geospatial courses and conduct Geospatial trainings for WOG officers to provide avenues for officers to develop Geospatial knowledge. In addition, the team has executed our first run of a Geospatial 101 course that aims to equip officers with a basic understanding of geospatial concepts (e.g. coordinate systems, data models) and concepts through hands-on activities.
What support do you receive from SLA to carry out your work successfully?
Yu Xi: There are various systems in place for me to reach out to different groups based on my needs. For instance, I have supportive teammates who are able to guide me in my daily work by making reference to precedent cases.
Reginald: I am very blessed with a wonderful team that has been very forthcoming to bring me up to speed on the various work streams. With the strong support system and empowerment from my team, I am able to work confidently and grow in domain knowledge.
Loving the Land
What possibilities are there for people working at your organisation?
Yu Xi: The opportunities are endless! The organisational roles within SLA cover a wide field and each department offers different job responsibilities. Being able to interact with a dynamic mix of professionals from various departments at SLA enables me to gather diverse perspectives.
Reginald: There are many avenues for growth in SLA, especially for the newcomers! SLA provides many training and development programmes to officers which allow individuals to seek growth in their area of interest.
Finally, what would you say to convince someone to join SLA?
Reginald: he overall experience here in SLA has been pleasant and there are multiple avenues for career progression available. For individuals interested in a Geospatial career, the GeoSpatial & Data Division will allow one to gain a greater depth of understanding and appreciation for the various Geospatial initiatives in Singapore's public sector.
Yu Xi: The work we do at SLA directly shapes the land uses of Singapore. You get a chance to rejuvenate State properties and manage land transactions to mould our nation's future. It has been exciting to contribute to the rich history of our oldest buildings and land assets, while revitalising it and seeing it further develop for future generations!