Poon Ek Whye, JTC Undergraduate Scholar, is the Project Manager for Jurong Innovation District and Woodlands North Coast under JTC. Ek Whye holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering from University College London and a Master of Science in Construction Engineering and Management from Columbia University.
Manufacturing during the era of Industry 4.0 is becoming smarter and more advanced. The vision for industrial spaces has evolved accordingly, too. We no longer think of them as “dull and boring” or consisting of only isolated blocks of standard factories.
Today, JTC is building industrial estates that unite businesses and the community – creating ecosystems that encourage collaboration and growth. Jurong Innovation District and Woodlands North Coast are two standout examples of how JTC is reimagining industrial spaces.
Jurong Innovation District, for example, is designed to be an advanced manufacturing hub and a living lab where smart infrastructure and a collaborative environment drive Industry 4.0 advancements. Meanwhile, Woodlands North Coast is envisioned as a vibrant mixed-use precinct poised to be the northern gateway of Singapore.
One individual involved in the development of these two projects is Poon Ek Whye, a project manager with JTC’s New Estates Division. The 26-year-old is tasked with liaising with stakeholders, resolving design issues, and forming plans for these future nuclei of industrial transformation.
How did he get there? The scholar was happy to speak about how JTC developed both him and our city to its fullest potential.
How did you get interested in civil engineering and the built environment?
As a child, my grandfather would bring me on bus journeys across the Central Business District, where I would awe at the towering skyscrapers. He would also bring me to visit neighbouring HDB construction sites, which led me to incessantly pester him to bring me on an excavator ride.
Subsequently, in secondary school, I got involved in Scouting where I saw how gateways, tents and towers could be made from just wood and ropes. I was amazed at how rudimentary materials could be transformed into creative and functional structures. At the same time, I developed an appreciation for the complexity and leadership challenges involved in coordinating pioneering projects. These experiences sparked my interest in the built environment.
What made you choose the JTC Scholarship?
Like most teenagers, deciding on a profession to pursue at the age of 19 was a somewhat daunting task. As a long-time nature enthusiast with an academic interest in engineering, I was hoping to work at a place that would enable me to marry my casual and technical interests, and in doing so play a part in driving sustainability at a national level.
I was researching JTC’s sustainability efforts when I came to learn of Jurong Eco-Garden, a tranquil park teeming with biodiversity nestled within JTC’s CleanTech Park at Jurong Innovation District. I was deeply intrigued by how JTC, an industrial land and space developer, was willing to invest in eco-sustainability despite the lack of immediate or tangible economic returns. I was very much drawn to JTC’s forward-looking vision and sustainability focus and therefore decided to take up the scholarship.
Upon your return, you were made Project Manager supporting the development of Jurong Innovation District and Woodlands North Coast at JTC. What does that entail?
Project managers play the role of the client’s representative in the design and construction life cycle. Early on, we call and evaluate design tenders, coordinate the design process and facilitate consultations. When the project begins, we ensure that construction is safe, timely, within budget, and of good quality.
This means that we often have to wear multiple hats. In the morning I might be engaged in a technical discussion with engineering and architecture consultants, in the afternoon I could be on-site enforcing construction safety, then later in the day I could be working on estate marketing or community engagement. For me, no two days are the same!
What would you say is your most significant career achievement to date?
I returned from my studies and joined JTC when COVID-19 was raging through Singapore. One of my first assignments was to coordinate a review of COVID-19 Safe Management Measures (SMM) for Bulim, an estate that is part of Jurong Innovation District. It was a dynamic and challenging task on many fronts.
The guidelines for safe worksite restart were constantly evolving which required me to stay abreast of the latest requirements to facilitate swift implementation on site. On the other hand, contractors faced a steep learning curve applying the new SMM. So, I facilitated cross-project audits and sharing sessions alongside other pandemic response projects such as drills and distributing migrant worker care packs.
The project teams at Bulim have come a long way in adapting to the pandemic and forging a pandemic-resilient worksite, and while it remains too early to lower our guard, the journey so far has been very memorable and meaningful.
Lastly, what advice do you have for others who wish to join this forward-thinking organisation?
At JTC, young officers are given the opportunity and empowerment to work alongside highly experienced Engineers and Project Managers to undertake a wide range of large-scale projects. That means the initial learning curve can be steep and work will be challenging, but you can be sure that your time in JTC will be intellectually stimulating and rewarding.