Peh Gao Xian works on ground-level initiatives as well as overarching policies in his role as Senior Executive in the FSC Service Management Team. He is a Singapore Government scholar, and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (Summa Cum Laude) with a Minor in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley, as well as a Master of Science in Computer Science from Stanford University.
There is always an overarching theme in most, if not all, of the greatest novels, films or movies – and that is family. Indeed, the protagonists are always grounded by their loved ones, and even the toughest superheroes fight tooth and nail for their families. When it comes to nation-building, families and communities too, play an important anchor in the country’s push for economic success.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) takes on the mandate of developing the country’s “heartware” through policies, community infrastructure, programmes and services. Its mission is to nurture resilient individuals, strong families, and a caring society.
Peh Gao Xian is fully onboard with MSF’s mission. He is currently a Senior Executive at the Family Service Centre (FSC) Service Management (Regional Services Management Branch) Team, which is part of the Service Delivery and Coordination Division, Social Policy and Services Group (SPSG).
It Starts at Home
The world was his oyster after Gao Xian completed his GCE-A levels, and he chose to pursue a career in the social sector. His motivation to provide care and create a positive impact on the community stemmed from him being his mother’s caregiver from a young age.
“The duty and responsibility gave me the opportunity to discover meaning and joy in helping, serving and making a positive difference to others,” he asserted.
“As I grew up, my inclinations led me to start a social enterprise and volunteer for social service agencies and grassroots organisations, which eventually led me to the public service and MSF.”
On his choice to start his career with MSF, he said that the Ministry’s mission is closely aligned with his personal ideals of helping people.
“I enjoy bringing people together to collaboratively identify challenges and co-create solutions to help, serve and make a positive difference to others,” elaborated Gao Xian, as he works judiciously towards his organisation’s objectives.
Awarded a Singapore Government Scholarship with MSF, Gao Xian went on to study Economics and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, before pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Science at Stanford University.
It may not be obvious to many, but Computer Science provided him with the fundamentals and approach to becoming a thoughtful public servant. In essence, Computer Science imbued him with the skill to deliver well-thought-out services and policies in a direct and easy-to-comprehend manner. This way citizens can benefit from them expeditiously without poring through pages of information or jumping through hoops. Most definitely, this is something that any Singaporean will appreciate.
“One example of a useful fundamental concept that I have learnt in Computer Science was that of abstraction. I would describe abstraction as the concept of building systems which are as simple as possible for the end user, where complexity is managed by hiding all unnecessary details,” he explained.
He gave an example on how to get hot water whereby you simply pour water into a kettle and press the “start” button; there is no need for you to figure out the intricacies of how the kettle works.
“Simplicity is beautiful. Unfortunately, we live in a world of complexity. In the landscape where we operate, there are often many different stakeholders with different processes, capabilities and objectives. My role looks at simplifying the process for our end users. We think through the internal implementation and intricacies so that our clients do not have to do so.”
In Gao Xian’s current role with the FSC Service Management Team, his clients refer to the families-in-need in Singapore.
“We work with internal and external partners in overseeing the service delivery of FSCs, so that FSCs can serve individuals and families-in-need, to help them achieve stability, self-reliance and social mobility,” he said.
“I look into workflows, data, systems, engagements and other service delivery matters for FSCs. I also serve a workgroup of the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Wellbeing, where we aim to achieve integrated and seamless delivery of affordable and quality mental health services.”
Prior to his current role, Gao Xian had the opportunity to get a macro perspective of social and family-related public policies as a Senior Executive at the Policy Research Office. There, he worked with various stakeholders and investigated multiple facets of a policy by means of sense-making, policy evaluation, cost-benefit and projections etc.
At MSF, he was also given the chance to get involved in the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development and the subsequent White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, which sought to pave the way towards a fairer and more inclusive society, where men and women partner each other as equals and both can pursue their aspirations freely and to the fullest.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as part of the team charting the way forward for our women. One memorable experience was analysing the wealth of feedback gathered from Singaporeans, shared with government agencies for their policy reviews. It was particularly memorable as I could resonate with and feel the vast amount of passion, effort and thought that went into each and every one of the responses that we received from our fellow Singaporeans in the development of our women. I also learnt about the importance of encouraging mindset shifts to address gender stereotypes and inculcating the values of respect and partnership for our next bound of progress,” beamed Gao Xian.
Many Ways to Leave a Positive Impact
The 28-year-old also spoke about his involvement in MSF’s Emergency Preparedness Unit, working closely with MSF divisions and MOH, to coordinate MSF’s COVID-19 operations.
“There are plenty of opportunities at MSF. There are operational roles where you can serve clients directly and be closer to the ground; policy roles where you can develop, review and implement policies to better serve our clients; research roles where you can help to evaluate the effectiveness of existing services and inform strategy via quantitative and qualitative research; corporate support roles to support different MSF divisions.”
Ultimately, it is all about creating a better and more caring Singapore.
He concluded: “At MSF, we are passionate about nurturing and building lives together. If that resonates with you, come join me at MSF!”