Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Feature | MPA

Igniting Innovation, Empowering Efficiency with Data

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was established to develop Singapore as a premier global hub port and international maritime centre as well as to advance and safeguard Singapore’s strategic maritime interests. Scholar Sheila Teo contributes to this mission through her expertise in data science and artificial intelligence.

Sheila Teo is an Economist in the Statistics and Data Systems department at Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. She is a recipient of the MPA Overseas Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Economics) from the London School of Economics and a Master of Science (Business Analytics) from Columbia University.

In today’s automated, highly digitalised world, the role of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DSAI) in propelling our collective progress cannot be overstated. These tools have showcased efficacy in addressing real-world challenges, sparking widespread enthusiasm.

Within this landscape, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is committed to actively recruiting top talents across diverse fields, including the specialised realm of DSAI. Among these exceptional individuals stands MPA Scholar Sheila Teo, who is dedicated to safeguarding the nation’s maritime interests through her invaluable expertise in DSAI.

Sheila plays a crucial role in driving one of the world’s busiest and most efficient ports as an Economist in the Statistics & Data Systems department at MPA. Her contributions involve enabling MPA to make strategic, data-informed economic decisions while streamlining intricate processes through the integration of AI.

As a recipient of the MPA Overseas Scholarship, Sheila excelled in her academic pursuits, graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Economics), First Class Honours from the London School of Economics & Political Science, and a Master of Science (Business Analytics) from Columbia University. These achievements have positioned her well to drive innovation and effect substantial change within the maritime industry.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Sheila to delve into her intriguing career journey.

What led you to pursue a career in your current field?

I had a lifelong curiosity about market dynamics and their societal impact. During my undergraduate degree in economics, I gravitated towards a tangible application of economic theories, which led to my pursuit of a Master of Science (Business Analytics). This combination equipped me with the tools to analyse market trends and leverage data for strategic decision-making to create business impact.

Why did you choose to apply for a scholarship with MPA?

What sets MPA apart from other government agencies offering scholarships is the outward-facing aspect of the work MPA does. Many agencies are inward facing, but MPA’s work looks towards more than just within Singapore. MPA’s operations are heavily influenced by international factors, such as global trends, and inter-country relations. It’s very exciting to be doing work that involves international exposure while still impacting Singapore’s domestic economy.

That’s interesting! How did the scholarship guide your university education?

It alleviated financial pressures, allowing me to focus more intently on my studies. This freedom enabled me to engage more deeply with my coursework and participate in extracurricular academic activities that enriched my learning. Additionally, the recognition that came with the scholarship served as a motivational force, driving me to maintain a high standard of academic excellence. It also opened doors to networking opportunities with professors and fellow scholars, leading to mentorship and research opportunities that furthered my academic and professional growth.

“MPA’s supportive work culture embraces job rotations across departments and provides employees with the resources to grow professionally and personally. As long as you put your mind to it, the sky’s the limit!” Sheila Teo

That must have been helpful. Are you able to use what you’ve learnt for your work today?

The analytical and quantitative skills honed through data science are invaluable for interpreting complex data sets, allowing me to make better data-driven decisions in identifying trends and optimising processes. Meanwhile, my background in economics has equipped me with a deep understanding of market dynamics and economic theories, which are crucial in strategic planning and economic forecasting. The combination of these disciplines enables me to approach problems with a unique perspective, integrating empirical data analysis with economic reasoning.

Sheila Teo

Sheila Teo

Speaking of your work, tell us more about your job with MPA.

I work on Data Science and AI projects in the Statistics and Data team. I lead in each phase of a typical machine learning project lifecycle, from scoping out needs with business stakeholders to data acquisition, model building and validation, and model deployment to deliver business impact.

For example, my most exciting current project is on Generative AI. I work on building a Document AI product from scratch that uses Large Language Models for automated information extraction from unstructured text data for thousands of operational man-hour savings.

What I find most meaningful about my work in data science and AI is the profound impact these technologies have on solving real-world problems. The ability to harness vast amounts of data and apply artificial intelligence to uncover insights, predict outcomes, and automate complex processes is intellectually satisfying and immensely impactful. Each project offers a unique opportunity to drive innovation, improve efficiency, and make data-informed decisions that can positively affect industries, communities, and the lives of individuals. This sense of contributing to meaningful advancements and witnessing the tangible benefits of my work in various domains is deeply rewarding and continuously fuels my passion for the field.

That’s very admirable. Where do you see yourself in the future, professionally?

In my career, I aspire to contribute to the field of DSAI, leveraging these technologies to address complex challenges and create innovative solutions. My goal is to be at the forefront of developing DSAI applications that can positively and meaningfully impact society and businesses. I also hope to continually grow, inspire, and mentor the next generation of professionals in this field.

What opportunities await those considering joining MPA?

The possibilities are endless. Working at MPA means taking charge of forging your own path and pursuing your own interests. MPA’s supportive work culture embraces rotations across departments and job scopes and provides employees with the resources to grow professionally and personally. As long as you put your mind to it, the sky’s the limit!