Foo Chi Jao is a MPA Local Scholar with a Bachelor of Information Systems from Singapore Management University. He is currently an IT Manager in the Sectoral System Development department, where he is part of a team that ensures MPA’s mission-critical operations are supported by reliable and efficient IT systems.
Singapore is unanimously one of the world’s busiest ports, a central stopover in trade routes all over the world. Therefore, it stands to reason that this global commerce hub requires decisive, forward-thinking and inspiring leadership as it embraces the digital era.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) mission is to develop and promote Singapore as a premier global hub port and an international maritime centre, and to advance and safeguard Singapore’s strategic maritime interests. It plays the role of Port Authority, Port Regulator, Port Planner, International Maritime Champion and National Maritime Representative.
Just as the organisation wears many hats, its scholars can expect no less in terms of versatile career development through varied job roles. MPA Scholar Foo Chi Jao is currently an IT Manager in the Sectoral Systems Development department and the possibilities for him are virtually limitless t what she speaks, having worked on cross-functional project teams and been rotated to undertake different job portfolios.
Choosing the “Course”
Like many GCE A-Level students, Chi Jao found himself at a loss at the end of his A-Levels examinations. He wasn’t particularly sure what he wanted to do, so he started by making a list of possible specialisations and eliminating those he didn’t want to pursue.
It turned out to be the best course of action for him, as his studies in Information Systems – the only uncrossed item on the list – grabbed his interest from the get-go. Technical courses such as Text Mining and Software Engineering only served to solidify his conviction that this was the career for him.
With his heart settled, he searched for a place to put his studies to practical use and the maritime sector caught his eye with exciting times of digitalisation taking place.
“As Singapore is one of the world’s busiest ports, I was interested to find out more about developing systems that support its large operational needs.”
Scholarship and Training
MPA has a global outlook, and hence requires its officers to cultivate the same to prepare them for collaboration and negotiation with interests all over the world.
To that end, Chi Jao found his overseas exchange programme a wellspring of insights and life lessons. MPA sponsored study trips to the UK and China, exposing him to cultures and traditions both east and west.
“Not only did it expose me to different lecturing styles and working with people from other cultures, it also broadened my life perspective in general . Weekend trips to different parts of the country were also very memorable,” he recalled.
There were other, more targeted, opportunities as well. Chi Jao got to visit CCTV manufacturing plants, getting a glimpse of the amount of effort and the level of technology built into a seemingly simple product. A trip to the Hangzhou Dream Village also allowed him to experience first-hand the entrepreneurial culture and vibrancy of local start-ups where the passion and drive of the young business owners really left a deep impression.
These life-transforming overseas jaunts worked in tandem with Singapore Management University’s comprehensive technical courses to thoroughly prepare him for his work in MPA.
Rolling in the Deep
Since starting work at MPA, Chi Jao has taken to his first posting as an IT Manager in the Sectoral Systems Development Department like a duck to water, thanks to MPA’s careful grooming and tireless support.
His main role is to ensure operations have reliable and efficient IT systems to best carry out their tasks. To this end, he is constantly on the lookout for new upgrades and technologies to fine-tune MPA’s processes for optimal efficiency.
His pride and joy is an international project that promotes global data standards to facilitate information flow between industry players and authorities. This will speed up processing time, reduce unnecessary authorisations and create a more efficient, streamlined shipping industry on an international scale.
He reflected enthusiastically: “Being in charge of a project that can potentially bridge an important gap to transform the industry is very rewarding!”
“MPA creates an ecosystem within Singapore that encourages industry innovation by providing the necessary foundational pieces for technology transformation,” he explained. This includes offering vessel-related data through the Singapore Maritime Data Hub and attracting maritime technology ventures through PIER71, amongst many other initiatives.
“By nurturing talents and promoting state-of-the-art technology locally, we will strengthen Maritime Singapore’s competitiveness as a maritime nation.”
Make a Splash with MPA
Operating in the international arena is both interesting yet challenging, but MPA and its officers are confident that they can work together to forge a bright future for Singapore’s maritime industry.
“After joining MPA, I was surprised at the diversity of roles that are available such as operational, technical, promotional, policy, administrative - all of which are equally important as they contribute to MPA’s success,” Chi Jao said.
That also means there is always room for more talent in this vibrant sector. “Given the diversity of roles in MPA, you will be able to play your own part and contribute to the organisation and the industry regardless of your specialisation or training.”
“As long as you are passionate and willing to learn, there is certainly room for growth!”