Joey Seah is an Assistant Manager, Policy Division, Defence Policy Group at MINDEF. She was awarded the Defence Merit Scholarship in 2015, and holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours in Psychology from the National University of Singapore and a Master of Science in Security Studies from University College London.
Astrong and capable Singapore Armed Forces makes up the fundamental pillar of our national security. The other twin pillar of diplomacy is built by establishing strong and friendly ties with foreign counterparts around the world.
Defence Merit Scholar Joey Seah plays a strategic role in this facet of the Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) mission. Her work as an Assistant Manager in the Defence Policy Group is to strengthen bilateral defence relations, be it through signing agreements, conducting dialogues, conducting overseas work trips for face-to-face interactions, or organising cooperative exercises.
This is one of the myriad of opportunities available as a Defence Executive Officer (DXO) in MINDEF. DXOs undertake various vital roles across MINDEF, from enhancing defence diplomacy to finance governance and formulating of manpower policies. In Joey’s case, her studies in Psychology and Security have found practical application aiding understanding and cooperation between nations.
Her journey explores the side of MINDEF that secures our peaceful lives through equally peaceful means.
A Niche Interest, a Magnified Purpose
As a student, Joey was extremely intrigued by the historical cases of genocides and mass atrocities. To better understand the motivations behind such conflicts, she studied Psychology in the National University of Singapore to better understand both the light and dark of the human mind.
However, she had no idea how to turn this interest into a career, until a scholarship fair in junior college where a MINDEF representative introduced her to the Defence Merit Scholarship and its varied career paths.
“That planted a seed in my head,” said Joey. “Given this very niche interest of mine, I thought MINDEF would be a good fit.”
There were practical considerations too. “To be very honest, part of my motivation to apply to MINDEF was quite pragmatic, as MINDEF is one of the largest hirers of psychologists.”
Joey was equally frank about how much MINDEF changed her life.
“Without the scholarship from MINDEF, I probably would not have the opportunity to do both my bachelor’s and master’s degree in renowned local and overseas universities, as well as participate in a semester abroad during my undergraduate days,” she described. “Both experiences were really important in expanding my academic worldview and learning to appreciate different perspectives that other students had due to their vastly different personal history and background.”
“In addition, I had an internship experience with the National Service Policy Department when I was in Year 2 of my undergraduate studies, which allowed me to better understand how my studies could be applied to work. For example, during my internship, I assisted in redesigning the Interactive Voice Response system for NSPortal which relied on research on behavioural insights, using results from psychological studies and nudge theory to inform policy and improve public services.”
Cooperation and Consideration
Fostering bilateral ties with other nations requires a keen understanding of what makes people tick. Here, Joey’s studies in Psychology come into play.
“We often have to speak to foreign officers and negotiate,” narrated Joey. “Sometimes, knowing how to frame certain issues or phrase certain messages can help to influence the outcome to something you desire.”
Joining MINDEF in 2020, her short career already boasts significant achievements. These include a few successful memoranda with countries to deepen bilateral defence cooperation and organising and accompanying the Minister for Defence on a trip to the Munich Security Conference 2022.
The scholar went on to express her faith in the organisation where her efforts always have an impact. “I find my work extremely fulfilling especially when I can witness the concrete outcomes of my hard work.”
“It is a good feeling, knowing that the hours you put in have contributed in some shape, way, or form to Singapore’s security and peace. One day, I hope to be in a position where I can make even greater contributions to Singapore’s security, or even international security.”
MINDEF, a “Mini Civil Service”
“People often say that MINDEF in itself is like a mini civil service,” she smiled. “This means there is a lot of opportunity for you to rotate within many different departments, whether that is in manpower policy, communications, or community engagement.”
“It is definitely a place where you will be able to hone your skills and grow.”