Left: Hannah Chia, a URA Scholar, is in the first year of her Bachelor of Computer Science course at the National University of Singapore.
Right: Jasvin Wuu leads and coordinates the development of the 3D Underground Space Plan for Singapore in her role as an Executive Civil Engineer. The URA Scholar holds a Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering from University College London.
To the man on the street, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is often thought of as the organisation that comes up with the Master Plan.
This comprehensive plan is a result of the organisation's meticulous and long-term approach, which considers every conceivable angle when allocating and developing land use. In fact, URA adopts the same ethos across its organisation as well, with the aim of achieving a quality living environment for Singapore.
Taking on the pivotal task of helping URA shape Singapore's future are URA Scholars Jasvin Wuu and Hannah Chia.
Jasvin, 29 years old, is an Executive Civil Engineer, while 19-year-old Hannah is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Computer Science at National University of Singapore. They may be at different phases of their careers with URA, but as we found out, their desire to serve the public good and to make Singapore a vibrant city to live in are very similar.
Jasvin, how did you get interested in your current field?
Jasvin: It was about feeding a curiosity that I've had since childhood. I've always been interested in how the different aspects of our city can come together so that we can go about our daily lives. It included things such as having water through our taps, and the electricity upon a flick of a switch. This curiosity led to me a career in the built environment sector.
A lot of agencies are in the built environment sector. Why URA?
Jasvin: I am interested in a wide variety of topics. URA, which looks at the built environment on a city level, provided me with the breadth that I was looking for.
Hannah, we read that your time outside Singapore motivated you to build a career here. Tell us more.
Hannah: I believe that community is the most important factor affecting one's quality of life. Having lived for eight years in India and Saudi Arabia, I experienced different cultures and met many remarkable people. However, moving frequently made it difficult to build and sustain real connections within each community. I decided to return to Singapore to study and build my career, because I wish to strengthen my roots here. Joining the URA will allow me to contribute to building community spaces in the place I love and ultimately call home.
How have you benefited as a URA scholar so far?
Hannah: As a URA scholar, I did two internships with URA's Digital Planning Lab before starting university. I was exposed to data engineering work where we explored challenges working with data and going fully digital as an organisation. I also worked on the Space Out website and other platforms on their user experience and design aspects.
Jasvin collects toy giraffes. She has close to 500 of them at home.
Jasvin, you studied Civil Engineering at University College London. How much of your academic training were you able to apply at URA?
Jasvin: Beyond the modules, the life skills picked up in university helped my transition to the workplace. My final-year project put me together with a random group of students to look at real-world issues and scenarios. Through that, I learned how to work with different people from diverse backgrounds, which helped me in my current course of work.
How does Computer Science come into the picture, Hannah?
Hannah: We're going into the fourth industrial revolution. There's a lot of power in using data and other technologies in order to facilitate the planning work. For one, I learned about Geographical Imaging Systems (GIS) during my internship and I realised that the technology can be very useful for planners, because it can help them visualise how the city will look and make better decisions. The support given by URA in my pursuit of Computer Science also depicts their flexibility and their multi-disciplinary approach to city planning.
Jasvin, you have been with URA for six years. Tell us more about your role and responsibilities.
Jasvin: As a civil engineer in URA's Underground Works Department, I led and coordinated the development of the 3D Underground Space Plan for Singapore. This involved providing geotechnical advice to my planning colleagues, conducting feasibility assessments and policy studies to facilitate underground developments, and developing the 3D modelling and viewing tools to integrate the Underground Space Plan with existing digital planning systems. I also worked with other agencies to implement initiatives to improve the planning, design and construction processes of the industry.
Recently, I was seconded to Arup Singapore as part of my career development and to build relationships with companies from the private sector. This is a unique opportunity and one that I'm really grateful for.
Hannah, you'll be joining Jasvin at URA proper in about three years. What are you looking forward to the most?
Hannah: I'm really looking forward to learning more about building technologies and how they integrate with the planning process. I also want to understand the rationale behind how Singapore gets planned.
What is the work culture at URA?
Jasvin: URA is very progressive. It recognises and appreciates the differing views that are brought to the table. We are encouraged to speak up and have open conversations.
Hannah authored a children's book called “The Legend of the Spider Knight”. Check it out the next time you're at the library.
Why should aspiring scholars join URA?
Hannah: URA gives you an opportunity to do something really impactful even as a junior officer. URA is also a good space if you want some versatility, as we have a lot of different areas you can work in.
Jasvin: Join URA if you have an interest in the environment and in city planning, and if you want to shape a better society.