T o maintain Singapore’s adaptability to our people’s fast-changing needs, it is crucial for the public sector to have its fair share of forward-looking, capable and dedicated talent. Here to share how public servants play a part in nation-building are Lee Mei Hui, Amanda and Wu Fan, both graduates from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) domain.
PSC Scholarship Recipient
Senior Assistant Director (Strategic Manpower Planning), Ministry of Education
A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
The multitude of opportunities to be exposed to a wide range of work and issues was what attracted Amanda to the public sector. She hoped to contribute to the country’s vision of being an endearing home and distinctive global city.
Other than the job opportunities, Amanda was happy to have pursued Chemical Engineering in Cambridge University and Management Science and Engineering at Stanford, under the PSC Scholarship. She found her studies useful in that it inculcated in her soft and transferable skills. She shares, “I have come to realise that quite often, what your undergraduate and graduate experience brings to your career is not so much the specific content knowledge, but the ability to interpret and analyse issues, and derive solutions”. Also enjoyable were her conversations with schoolmates with whom she could exchange ideas and perspectives on various topics.
Like Amanda, Wu Fan found the public sector appealing because of the opportunity to be exposed to a “variety of challenges and work environments”. Her studies in Economics and Mathematics at UC Berkeley and later in Statistics at Harvard helped instil in her confidence, patience and grit – much needed for tackling challenges at work today.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE AMIDST CHALLENGES
As Assistant Director of MOH’s Healthcare Finance Division, Amanda works on subsidy policies for patients who require medical attention from the polyclinics and General Practitioners, as well as funding policies for these medical providers. Other than formulating and reviewing these policies, her team also oversees their implementation. Examples of some key policies would be the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and Pioneer Generation Package.
Being able to make a difference is a significant part of what drives Amanda. What she does on the subsidy policies not only facilitates the delivery of good healthcare outcomes but also keeps primary care affordable for Singaporeans. From a broader perspective, MOH’s financing schemes also enable the Government to build stronger partnerships with private GPs and increase the likelihood of the public seeking care from their family doctors.
Not always smooth-sailing, Amanda had to overcome a few challenges at work. One challenge she faced was in building good relationships with stakeholders. This was not particularly easy given their different personalities and working styles. This taught her the importance of teamwork and how essential it was to be humble and ready to offer a helping hand to others.
Amanda recalled her first experience in formulating and implementing a nation-wide initiative – the Pioneer Generation Package. Her job entailed high-level engagement down to details like the IT system design. Being part of the team which brought about the successful roll-out of this initiative proved to be thoroughly gratifying for her.
For Wu Fan, her role as Senior Assistant Director at MOE’s Strategic Manpower Planning Unit requires her to lead a team to evaluate the manpower demands of the local education system and plan ahead to meet these needs through recruitment and deployoment. Wu Fan’s work results in a significant, albeit indirect, effect on the school experience of Singaporean youths, since the curriculum and programmes that schools offer are directly impacted by how manpower is deployed. An example of this would be in 2015 when a major review was made to improve the resourcing for low-progress learners and students with special education needs in mainstream schools. This was crucial because it allowed these students who needed more help in their studies to have more teachers to support them in their learning.
Lee Mei Hui, Amanda
PSC Scholarship Recipient
Assistant Director (Subvention), Healthcare Finance Division, Ministry of Health
Being a middle manager, Wu Fan faces the challenge of incorporating the differing viewpoints of her bosses, peers and supervisees. Through the course of surmounting this challenge, she has learnt to understand and appreciate the different perspectives and engage in a productive business discussion before coming up with a balanced solution.
Wu Fan recalls encountering a nerve-wracking experience about two months into her job. Tasked with the responsibility of engaging a group of principals on a proposal that was difficult to execute in the schools, she was extremely anxious during the presentation and Q&A session. Taking it in her stride however, Wu Fan used this experience to better herself and managed to conduct briefing sessions to School Leaders more confidently afterwards.
Being motivated to give back to Singapore, being receptive to new responsibilities, working well with others as well as being energetic and innovative – according to Amanda, these are the qualities that a PSC scholarship holder should possess. Wu Fan, meanwhile, advocates attributes like patience, far-sightedness and accountability.
In essence, it is paramount to note that the work undertaken by officers in the Public Service has far-reaching consequences on Singapore’s future although it is not often directly felt or measurable in concrete terms. As scholarship holders, Wu Fan and Amanda share the view that a scholarship involves a commitment of at least a few years of your early employment days, and as such, it would be wise to put serious thought into your scholarship decision-making.
Their final advice to aspiring scholars is simple yet extremely important. Not only should you choose a career that you are mentally prepared to come back to after your studies, but that you should speak to people in the organisation you are exploring a scholarship with!