Left: Wan Fang is an LTA Undergraduate Scholar who is currently with the Ministry of Transport as a Senior Assistant Director. She works on domestic rail issues, COVID-19 related transport responses, and international rail issues. Wan Fang has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of Ilinois at Urbana Champaign, USA and Master of Science in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, USA.
Right: Zulfadli Bin Abdul Latiff, LTA Undergraduate Scholar, is an Executive Engineer in Rolling Stock & Depot Engineering (RDE) division in LTA, overseeing engineering standards for rolling stock, rail/bus depot design and equipment. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) from NTU.
With the spread of Covid-19, the importance and resilience of Singapore’s transport industry have come into the spotlight. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been integral in the management of the crisis at every level – from implementing safe management measures on trains and buses to targeted support for industry players hard-hit by plummeting demand.
LTA’s decisive response has renewed our understanding of just how large and vital this organisation and its mandate is.
Aside from tackling immediate issues at hand, LTA continues to keep its eyes on the future post-COVID-19 world, where it envisions an inclusive transport system bolstered by new technologies as well as eco-friendly travel options.
With that in mind, the organisation is bustling with opportunities to leave your mark on our transport history. LTA Undergraduate Scholarship recipients Wan Fang and Zulfadli Bin Abdul Latiff, both 29 years old, painted an exciting picture of the many roles available in the organisation and wider transport family, where no two appointments and projects are the same.
Those looking to collaborate with industry partners and synthesise policies that strengthen Singapore’s transport connectivity would be attracted to Wan Fang’s work as Senior Assistant Director in Ministry of Transport (MOT) where she works with various stakeholders on land transport projects and COVID-19 response plans.
On the other hand, Zulfadli applies his engineering degree directly as an Executive Engineer in Rolling Stock & Depot Engineering (RDE) division in LTA, overseeing engineering standards for rolling stock, rail/bus depot design and equipment.
On the Move
As early as primary one, Wan Fang’s parents trusted our transport system to send her safely to school and back. She enjoyed the hour-long commute, using the time to decompress, study and listen to music. This awakened her desire to contribute to the daily lives of others in the same way.
The choice was clear when she was considering her scholarship options after finishing her GCE-A levels. She took on the LTA Undergraduate Scholarship, and went on to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and Master of Science in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.
“I was keen on an engineering degree, and I also wanted to work on something that touches people’s lives every day. So, it was quite a natural decision for me to choose land transport,” explained Wan Fang.
In Zulfadli’s case, his childhood pastime playing with the wheels, gears and motors of Tamiya Mini 4WD cars birthed a fascination with engineering and figuring out how things work. His interest veered him to the LTA Undergraduate Scholarship. He applied, and took it up readily when it was offered to him.
“I was deciding to pursue either land transport, marine, or aerospace engineering. Land transport was closest to my heart, having taken public transport for most of my life,” he recalled.
Like Wan Fang, it was also a natural decision for Zulfadli. On the back of the scholarship, he studied Mechanical Engineering at Nanyang Technological University before embarking on a career with LTA.
Currently, Zulfadli’s job involves a lot of hands-on work, similar to the time when he was fiddling with motors and gears. He reviews train designs to ensure that their specifications meet global standards. His division also studies new technologies and innovations to constantly enhance our current and future generations of assets.
Zulfadli recalled, with fondness, Contract 151C that entailed delivering 12 new trains for North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL). The work put his academic knowledge to the test, as he applied engineering theories to check design principles and verify calculations.
He narrated: “While it can be easy to understand engineering principles, it is even more important to know how to simplify the problem into a calculation. The case studies that I learnt in school illustrate the application of engineering theory to real-world solutions.”
These days, he smiles when he boards the NSEWL trains because they remind him of the tangible impact that his work has on commuters’ everyday life.
Speaking of tangible impact, Wan Fang also has a few “babies” on the NSEWL, which she recognises through the serial numbers at the ends of the carriages. They remind her of the Tuas West Extension Project, her very first with LTA.
“There was much to learn, aside from the technical know-how, including corporate lingo, technical jargon, and internal processes,” she reminisced. “As a young engineer this was all very new. It was unbelievable how each small step led us to the final commissioning of the Contract 151B trains currently running on North-South and East-West Lines.”
Her current stint in MOT is equally multifaceted as she works on domestic rail issues, COVID-19 related transport responses, and international rail issues. “No one day is the same. Some days I spend time debating over longer-term planning questions, like where to build our MRT lines, and how to build up the rail industry’s manpower capabilities. Other days I deal with more urgent issues that come to our attention.”
As part of her role at MOT, she also works closely with the Public Transport Operators to develop schemes that can benefit the wider land transport industry. For one, she was heavily involved in designing and launching the Rail Manpower Development Package for capturing and developing new talent in the rail industry.
She concluded: “The land transport landscape is ever-changing and our role and job scope has to keep up with these changes.”
The Next Stop
Wan Fang embraces this dynamic nature of her work, and she is equally enthusiastic about welcoming new scholars to LTA. “If you’re up for a challenge and keen to be part of the exciting journey we’re embarking on in the next 10, 20 years, do join,” she proposed.
“We will continue to expand our rail network well into the 2030s, while tackling technological disruptions such as electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. There is something for everyone. You’ll never be bored.”
Zulfadli was quick to jump in with a vivid description of what LTA has to offer its scholars, using himself as an example. “With an appetite for learning, scholars will be given chances which expose them to different types of job scopes at different stages in their career. I started in the project team, which allowed me to experience all aspects of the train through the testing activities.”
He ended with strong words of encouragement: “You’ve spent a good part of your life studying, and you will want to start your career off on the right foot. Joining LTA is a good first step, as the organisation offers varied opportunities for development and growth, coupled with good support from management.”
Wan Fang can speak four languages including Japanese and Korean. It definitely helps when watching her favourite dramas!