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Submitted in December 2021
The then PSC Overseas Merit Scholarship (Legal Service) was my first-choice scholarship. As I was awarded it fairly early on, it was also the only scholarship I applied for. My interest in studying law was very much tethered to the public interest as I saw law as the practical language in which ideals in society are realised, so the Legal Service was a perfect fit for me. I was assured that a career in the Legal Service would expose me to a wide range of public sector lawyering, from criminal prosecution, to advising the Government on administrative and constitutional law, and representing Singapore’s interests in the international sphere.
As a PSC scholarship holder, I had the opportunity to participate in various pre-departure and mid-term programmes which facilitated interaction with senior Public Service leaders as well as senior scholarship holders at various stages of service. This enabled me to get a big picture of the career trajectory available to me as a public officer, and the challenges at each juncture. I was also given an understanding of the broad nature of Singapore’s economic, social and security interests even before I embarked on my studies, which helped me to contextualise my learning.
I also had the chance to be attached to a voluntary welfare organisation as well as a frontline social service agency, which sensitisedme to the lived experiences of the vulnerable in society, including persons with disabilities and low-income families.
I started out as a Deputy Public Prosecutor in Crime Division at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”) from 2013 to 2018. My role was to exercise prosecutorial discretion and conduct criminal prosecutions and appeals impartially in the public interest. I was in the Sex Crimes Specialist Unit, prosecuting offences such as molest, rape and voyeurism. I was running my own trials for simple offences within a year into the job – only in the Legal Service would junior lawyers get the chance to accumulate so much advocacy experience at the start of their careers. AGC also provided excellent training opportunities, such as advocacy workshops with Senior Counsel and Queen’s Counsel, and an attachment to a Barrister’s chambers in London. Most memorably, I was sent to Seattle for training on how to interview vulnerable witnesses including children, without re-traumatising them.
A career highlight in Crime Division was working on the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act 2014 which created a specific offence of trafficking in persons (“TIP”), in line with the definition under the United Nations (“UN”) TIP Protocol that Singapore acceded to in September 2015. I subsequently was part of the team that prosecuted the first sex trafficking and labour trafficking offences in Singapore. I even had the chance to represent Singapore as an expert in a UN Expert Group Meeting on the “International Legal Definition of Trafficking in Persons”.
Since 2018, I have been in the International Affairs Division at the AGC, where I advise government ministries on international law issues. This has exposed me to a broad range of Singapore’s strategic interests across different agencies. The pace of work is very fast, as we are often responding to real time bilateral or multilateral developments. A highlight for me has been representing Singapore in negotiations at the UN for an internationally legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. It is fascinating to watch the dynamics of countries coming together to try to achieve global consensus while preserving their own national interests.
I remember that former PSC Chairman, Eddie Teo, always asked scholarship holders returning on vacation what co-curricular activities or personal interests we pursued in university outside of academics. There is a stereotype that PSC scholarship holders are only academically inclined or “book smart”, and Chairman Teo wanted to signal to us that he considered the other aspects of our personal development to be equally important. This includes taking up leadership roles in student organisations, furthering an artistic or sporting skill, or participating in internships in the private sector.
I have continued pursuing my passions outside of a fulfilling Public Service career. I am a published poet and I co-founded the charity ReadAble which runs literacy programmes for children and migrant women in a low-income neighbourhood with the aim of improving social mobility. My personal interests have given me an understanding of the realities on the ground as well as potential gaps and challenges in policy delivery, since I am working with ministries such as MSF as a stakeholder.
“Purpose-driven”. In all my postings, I have had a very strong sense of purpose, whether in the pursuit of a just outcome as a prosecutor, or in advancing Singapore’s interests on the international stage. I have always felt personally invested in the future of Singapore and I am glad to be in a job that is truly imbued with a sense of service for the people in our country.
Before you apply for a PSC Scholarship, take time to speak to current public officers to understand whether a career in the Public Service is for you. It would be particularly useful to speak to current officers who have pursued the area of study that you’re interested in. You should ask questions about the culture of the Public Service and the demands of various roles.
The Japanese concept of “ikigai” is achieved when “what you love”, “what you are good at”, “what the world needs” and “what you can be paid for” come into alignment. You would do well to explore that a Public Service career would bring about not only job satisfaction for you, but also excitement at the possibilities.
My Scholarship Application Journey, specific to the SPF
I was first interested in a career with the SPF when I attended a fireside chat with SPF officers held in my school. I had attended it with no prior expectations of joining, but the sincerity the officers showed when they shared why they chose to become a police officer really piqued my interest to learn more about the Police Force. I was then fortunate enough to attend the Aspiring Leaders Programme held by the SPF in June of my A-level year, where I got to learn and visit some of the units in the SPF to learn more about the variety of roles the police play in keeping us safe.
The way in which the officers candidly shared about their work, and the camaraderie they demonstrated during the programme gave me a glimpse of what working with the organisation could be like. I think the combination of these experiences led me to the decision to pick SPF as my first choice, as I was drawn to the meaningful and engaging nature of the job and the sincerity and down-to-earth nature of the officers I met.
I was initially apprehensive about joining, because of the requirements of having to take a leap of faith to enter Basic Military Training and Officer Cadet School in order to embark on a career in the Police Force. I was also slightly worried, given that no female candidate had been awarded this particular scholarship previously. However, I saw it as a challenge and something exciting to take on. I believed that it was not impossible for a female candidate to receive the scholarship, and the absence of any female recipients was more due to a lack of awareness about the requirements and possibility of applying. Additionally, I was convinced from the sharing by SPF officers who had been in service for a few years that this was a worthwhile and immensely meaningful career, and that the academic and military training requirements were attainable both physically and mentally.
I benefited most from the process of getting the scholarship, as well as the attachment and internship opportunities that the scholarship offered.
The road to the scholarship
What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to go through and experience what all my male Singaporean friends had to go through and work alongside them during the tough times! In BMT, we were in an all-women’s platoon, but in OCS, I experienced what it was like to work in a male dominated environment and it was not as intimidating as I had expected (I was the only female in my platoon of about 30 people, and my wing of approx. 80 people only had 3 female cadets at the end of our 3 months of service term in OCS). I found that if I worked hard and was willing to hold myself to the same or higher standards than my male peers, they were quite willing to accept me as one of their own. I also learnt that my performance was not bound by my gender or my disparity in physical strength, but by my mental tenacity and “can-do” attitude.
Over time, I also learned the importance of being a team player, working together with my section and platoon mates who may think and work completely differently, and the importance of helping others even when I was exhausted or when I disagreed with them. I realised that it wasn’t my own strength, but the people around me, working alongside me, that got me through the most tiring outfields or trainings or problems. This was really a different environment from school where the focus was only on my own studies or the project groups’ work, which in terms of size, was very small compared to the groups I worked with in the military.
I grew tremendously observing and learning from the different leadership styles of my instructors and peers. Receiving feedback on how I was leading and the areas I needed to improve on was not always easy. But this was tough advice I needed to hear, and the opportunity to know more about myself under stress and how I could work on my responses and working style was a valuable experience.
I think what is amazing is that it isn’t where you start off at (whether mentally or physically) that matters most in determining if you will excel in training. Rather, it is how much you are willing to try and push yourself, even when it seems impossible and when the improvements are not always observable, as well as how much you are willing to sacrifice to work well and care for your team-mates that really determines who can push through.
Till now, the diversity of educational, familial and life backgrounds that these amazing individuals and leaders come from always reminds me that the best can come from anywhere, and that there is always something to learn from everyone you meet, no matter how different in background, experience, appearance, ability or gender they may be from you. In fact, it was this diversity that made us strong as a section, a platoon and most of all as a team. I am still learning to become more like these peers and seniors of mine, to be a bit more patient, caring, firm and determined in what I do. These 6 months also made me realise that I joined the SPF because I knew that there was much to learn from and contribute to such a diverse group of individuals, and that the same cause and duty could unite us all in our work.
As an SPF scholarship holder, I had the opportunity to attend various attachments and internships over the summer vacation in my first and second year. I really appreciated the flexibility given which allowed me to request to be attached to more specialised units within the SPF.
I think the most memorable internships I had were the ones I had with the Exercise Readiness Division (Operations Department) and the Police Coast Guard (PCG). This was because I learned so much from the supervisors and colleagues I had worked with. Since my internship with PCG was most recent, I will share what I had learned from it.
Going into the internship, I had expected myself to learn about an interesting and seldom accessed specialist unit, and perhaps get a chance to see what sea patrol was like. These expectations were exceeded when I got to appreciate how unique and complex the maritime domain is from the planning stages to frontline patrol, handling contingencies to developing future operations capabilities like tethered drones or video analytics surveillance. From learning about the types of craft the PCG has, to sitting and experiencing the boats out at sea; getting familiar with maritime terminology to observing how officers are trained in highspeed or tactical manoeuvres: each aspect has been exhilarating and eye-opening! I never realised how much time and experience was needed for someone to become proficient at being a Coxswain or a Steersman, let alone a Crew Commander or Commanding Officer of a ship/boat. This was especially brought home when I saw how at night, the sea is just an expanse of darkness dotted with unfamiliar, hard to discern lights.
All in all, the scholarship opened doors to allowing me to learn through first-hand experience, and to better appreciate how various departments within my future workplace functions. It also allowed me to understand why it is very hard to bring in/replace expertise simply with fast-tracked personnel from outside because of the sheer amount of time and mileage required at the ground level. For these reasons, I hold so much more respect for those who choose to stay on with their experience and expertise to keep Singapore safe, especially in the uniformed organisations in Singapore.
Like many others, I was hit by the pandemic and had only been in the UK for 2 terms before I ended up spending the next 4 terms in Singapore. However, it was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to take on more internships with my parent agency, and the chance to intern in the Operations Department and the Police Coast Guard. The scholarship really opened doors in terms of letting me experience and understand the less well-known aspects of policing through attachments and internships, and I think this really was a highlight of my 2 years of school, even though I could have been overseas instead.
I returned to the UK for my final academic year in October 2021. While my time overseas ended up shorter than expected, I really value how I got to meet people from all countries and all walks of life, studying different degrees, speaking languages other than English, and holding within them such different perspectives all within my college! Living, working, and sharing meals together with different people in hall really opened my mind to the possibilities and opportunities available to us in the world, be it in the public or private sectors. With a diverse friend group, I really enjoyed trading stories and learning from my friends what various food would be called in the different languages, or how a certain issue or item we were discussing would be viewed differently in their area of discipline. Because everyone in my group of friends spoke a different language, an example of a fun dinnertime activity could be for everyone to say a random sentence like “a hot sheep walks across a bridge” in a different language, and then taking turns to try repeating it.
As a whole, I think learning from tutors who have a wealth of experience and insight, and having the chance to learn how to adapt to a new society and a new way of life, were the most challenging yet most rewarding aspects of studying abroad.
I had the impression that things moved slower in the Public Service, in that there was plenty of bureaucracy and red tape that made innovation slower. To some extent, this may be true. However, once we bear in mind the need to remain accountable to the members of public we serve and use the funds we have wisely, such bureaucracy becomes essential safeguards to retain the trust and efficiency that our fellow Singaporeans expect from us.
Always remember why you are choosing / chose to join the Public Service. Whether it is having a heart for serving others, wanting to bring about positive change, or other reasons, all of these may seem less appealing when you meet a diverse group of people pursuing different paths in life, or when times get tough. Despite all these, always remember to stay receptive to learning new perspectives. Being adaptable and nimble while retaining firm values is critical to being a good Public Service Leader and person in general.
Submitted in March 2022
I applied for a PSC Scholarship during my JC days because – back then (and true today) – I did not really know what I wanted to do with my life. Did alright in my academics, had some CCAs to showcase, school and teachers recommended it as a viable career path, and most of the people around me also applied or wanted to apply. In that sense a PSC scholarship was a fairly safe, if not natural, choice. It also helped that without external funding, I would not have been able to go overseas to study.
I did not, unlike some lucky people in the world, have an overwhelming desire to be a dancer, or an artist, or an astronaut, or even a policeman. The PSC scholarship is, or at least was back then, one of the traditional markers of success for high-achieving students, akin to good grades, or representing the school in a sport, or a council exco position – if you got the PSC Scholarship, then you were considered a success story.
Looking back, I regret the reasons for which I applied for and chose to accept my PSC scholarship, because I let the amorphous concept of “society” or “what-society-deems-good” decide for me. This I realized on my first day of university, when I was informed, by close friends no less, that I could have applied for a fully funded private scholarship that carried no bond whatsoever, which then led to a sort of existential crisis. If I were to go back in time, young Azfer would receive quite a stern talking to on why he did, or chose to do, certain things.
While I say that I regret the reasons for which I applied for and accepted the PSC scholarship, I also freely admit that I would apply for and accept the PSC scholarship if I were given an opportunity to do so again, because the years since have been truly wonderful, just not in the ways I had predicted. The experiences I had were only possible through the PSC scholarship; and for that I am grateful.
I have something against being called a “scholar” because to me it is a reductive and stereotypical title, and in a pejorative sense it tends to refer to someone who lives in their ivory tower studying away, detached from the ground and the realities of the people living on it. For a long while during my undergraduate days, I was unhappy with the government and therefore by extension, the PSC. I didn’t have a clear reason for this; I just didn’t want to be associated with being a PSC scholar.
Over time I realized that I was not actually unhappy with the government or the PSC – they hadn’t done anything (right or wrong); I was unhappy and uncomfortable with myself, my choices and what people perceived me to be.
Here is the important thing that I learnt: Don’t let people define you. And here is the paradoxical thing that I now know: the PSC scholarship comes with a title of a “scholar”, but that term is a blank slate. It is, was and always has been entirely up to me to decide what that means. This insight captures what I wish to share about how the scholarship impacted me – the unparalleled freedom that I enjoyed during my university days.
Now, a lot of people will stare at me as if I have lost my mind by talking about freedom when I am bonded to work for the SPF as part of my PSC scholarship. My answer is simple – everyone has to work. If I was not working for the Public Service, I would be working as a lawyer, consultant, banker, or something else altogether. Thankfully, Singapore is one of the only places in the world where the public sector is considered generally equivalent to the private sector, and people transition from one to the other fairly often. To me, it’s generally the same thing, in terms of development opportunities, and so I don’t feel like I have “lost out” in some way to those in the private sector. So the bond is not really an argument against freedom, I am still free to go to the private sector (or other parts of the public sector) at any time.
On the other hand, during my university years, I really and truly was free.
Supported financially through the scholarship, I did not have to worry about money, which is something that I now take for granted but know is a huge privilege. It allowed me to travel, and play lots of (video) games, hang out with friends, and take some financial stress off my family.
Supported psychologically, because there was no pressure from anyone to go hunt for a job or take part in co-curriculars to boost my CV or get perfect grades – none of these mattered because they don’t really get taken into account for postings or promotions. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do (within confines of reason, morality and the law), to truly take part in university life to learn and enjoy things out of passion, and not the rat-race that everyone else was running in.
Supported emotionally as I ended up making a lot of friends through the various developmental programmes.
So yes, freedom is the biggest takeaway; especially for people who don’t know with certainty what they want to do during university.
After undergoing training at the Home Team Academy to become a Senior Police Officer, I was posted to Toa Payoh Neighborhood Police Centre to patrol the ground and respond to ‘999’ calls. After this, I was posted as an Investigation Officer (think detective on a crime drama) at Tanglin Division; and now I am the Staff Officer at the Cyber Coordination Office.
There are all kinds of stories I could share, from violent fights to barricaded incidents, to people with acute mental illnesses believing they are the son of a sultan and entitled to walk around naked, to cases of death. But that would take too long; and if you really are interested, join the force and experience it for yourself.
As for the work I do now in the Cyber Coordination Office, it’s very different from operational duties, and requires sitting in a chair and thinking for extended periods of time. I craft the SPF’s policy and strategy (in consultation with various stakeholders) on how to understand and deal with the Internet. One fun project I’ve worked on is ScamShield, an app to filter SMSes and block phone calls. We (OGP, NCPC, SPF) ran it very much like a start-up; no real red tape, just pushed out an app for citizens to use. So yes, you’ll end up doing all sorts of fun things in the Public Service, should you so choose.
On hindsight, I didn’t have any conceptions about working in the Public Service, so it is a little hard to think of misconceptions. If you think that ten years after your scholarship people would think highly of you because you were awarded a scholarship at the age of 18/19/20ish, then I would be the first to tell you that it’s not how life works. Once you start working, the quality of your work supersedes all else; let your work speak, not your scholarship.
Fundamentally, the Public Service in Singapore is made up of good people trying to do the best they can. Help them do better and we should be set for a while more.
Leaving aside things that would call into question one’s integrity; do first, apologize later. As a PSC Scholar, you will (eventually) be expected to make decisions independently and stand by those decisions. Go ahead and get started on that now, rather than waiting for life to throw spanners in your direction. Enjoy your next few years, they’ll be the best years of your life (regardless of whether you choose to take up the scholarship)!
I thought the PSC scholarship gave me more flexibility in choosing university courses and subsequent career paths, as compared to some of the scholarships offered by other organisations. This was important to me as I was not one-hundred-percent sure what I wanted to do. I also thought the Government is a good platform to work on with wide-ranging impact. The mission of public service also resonates with me.
The PSC Scholarship has not really impacted my university experience, if compared to the experience of not being on a scholarship, except for the comfort of not having to worry about funding the education. You can still work on-campus, take up internships, or participate in school activities as much as you like. Outside of college, I also enjoyed the experiences of the Preparatory Course and Foundation Course, where I got to meet others in my cohort and learn about their diverse experiences.
After I graduated, I joined GovTech and was placed on the PSLP-General (Engineering) track. I am fortunate to be able to pursue my interest in Computer Science and technology throughout my education and starting out in my career. I have had a wide range of experiences working in GovTech, from programming, operations, to engaging stakeholders. I have also had the opportunity to work on a COVID-related product. The experience is immensely stressful as our priorities may change day-to-day based on the COVID situation on the ground, but also rewarding as I can appreciate how my product impacts operations across the Government and helps different teams serve citizens.
I thought that the Government is a homogeneous monolithic whole and all parts of the Government are the same. In reality, through my own experiences and those shared with me by my peers, different parts of Government can be quite different in terms of culture, pace, and areas of work.
Purposeful. I have met many public officers from different parts of the Government who have amazed me with their dedication to their missions, and who, besides working very hard, are also very good at their jobs.
It is difficult to be sure of what kind of career you want at the point of scholarship application, especially if you are applying for an undergraduate scholarship, so I would advise that you follow your interest at the current point in time in choosing scholarships and majors. If your interest changes in the future, don’t hesitate to reach out for those different opportunities that can allow you to learn and grow, be it opportunities on campus, internships, or suitable postings when you join the Public Service.
Submitted in November 2021
After my A-Levels, I had applied for a number of scholarships with both public and private sector organisations. I was fortunate to get a number of offers, but finally decided to take up the PSC scholarship. At the risk of sounding trite, I genuinely believed in the mission and noble calling of the Public Service; the wide variety of interesting career opportunities offered under the Singapore Public Service also made me excited to take on the scholarship.
There were a lot of useful career and professional development programmes offered under the PSC scholarship; including for those who are on-course e.g., PSC Scholarship Holders’ Mid-Course Programme (PSMP) and for those who are in-service e.g., Foundation Course. These programmes helped to widen my thinking and broaden my exposure to a wide range of key policy issues and challenges facing Singapore. These were also useful opportunities to network with and strengthen camaraderie and friendships with fellow public officers from all tracks of Government.
After a number of postings across a variety of Public Sector agencies including Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Communications Group and Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), I finally found a niche for myself in the area of Government communications and stakeholder engagement. It is an area of work which I am personally passionate and excited about; and an area where I feel I can really value-add to the work of the Public Service.
One of my most memorable projects is working with my current team in MCI Media Division to drive innovative ideas to improve Whole of Government messaging in the digital media space. Given the rapid shift in news consumption towards digital media platforms across all age segments, my team has been working closely with the accredited media to see how we can bring out key Government messages more effectively on such digital media platforms. We have a very fun time brainstorming such creative “Made for Digital” media features; and this reflects the very fun, dynamic, and innovative culture which prospective scholarship holders can look forward to when they take on the PSC scholarship.
Nothing major. I took on the PSC scholarship with an open mind and did not have many preconceived notions about what a career in the Public Service would be like. I guess the only misconception I may have had is the aged old myth about the Public Service being a very bureaucratic, “paper pushing” kind of organisation. Thankfully, having spent more than a decade in service and counting, I am proud to say that is not the case. I have met many colleagues who are open-minded, innovative and who seek to push the boundaries of what’s possible; in order to achieve better outcomes for Singaporeans. I have also worked with great bosses who focus on creating a positive and encouraging work environment for their teams; and who guide and coach their team members to bring out the best in them. I constantly reflect on my own leadership practices and challenge myself to be a similarly inspiring and dynamic leader to my team members.
If I may, I think the paired words “divine discontent” best sum up the spirit of the Singapore Public Service. PM Lee Hsien Loong described this very well in his National Day Rally 2016 speech: “What I would like to have is that we be blessed with a divine discontent. Always not quite satisfied with what we have, always driven to do better.” Having served more than a decade in various roles in the Singapore Public Service, I am proud to say that this spirit is well and alive in the Singapore Public Service; and is our key driving force as public officers.
Don’t view a scholarship as a sponsorship for your studies. Think of it as a calling. Ask yourself what kind of career you are passionate about; one which you would be excited to wake up to every morning
At the age of 18, I was clear about two things. First, I wanted to read Law at university, having seen how law has a very real impact on individuals in their daily lives, and fundamentally shapes the functioning of every society. Second, having been blessed with many opportunities to serve as a student leader and engage in community service, I wanted to pursue a career path where I could serve a larger purpose. With this in mind, I applied for the PSC Scholarship (Legal Service) as I wanted to pursue a legal career within the Public Service, a career which would allow me to serve the public interest in the course of my work and possibly contribute to advancing the rule of law in Singapore.
The PSC Scholarship (Legal Service) provided me with the opportunity to explore different sectors of the Legal Service in the middle of my university journey. I had the chance to do internships at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Supreme Court of Singapore, as well as pursue a short stint as a pro bono volunteer at the Legal Aid Bureau. These were valuable opportunities to understand the varied work that a Legal Service Officer in the Public Service can possibly do, and gave me a better perspective about the postings I wanted to pursue upon graduation.
In university, I had the opportunity to do a 6-month overseas exchange at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Many thought I was crazy for wanting to go to such a “dangerous” place without any other friends from law school joining me. My exchange programme even almost got called off after then-US President Donald J Trump announced the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem which sparked some protests. However, the PSC and my parents allowed me to go forward with my plans, with appropriate safety measures in place.
Doing an exchange programme at Tel Aviv University was an exhilarating experience. I had a chance to be in some very interesting classes: learning about “secularism” and the state’s use of law to regulate religion around the world; issues surrounding transitional justice; how politics greatly influences constitutional law in US and other parts of the world. I also had the opportunity to write an 8000-word research paper on the topic of how Singapore has dealt with the issue of secularism and religion in its society through various methods.
Outside the classroom, I had a chance to do even more. Learning about Jewish culture and its beautiful traditions; diving deep into debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with both Israeli and Palestinian friends; forging new friendships with amazing people from all over the world; travelling all around Israel and parts of Europe — covering 51 cities in 178 days.
My main takeaway from my exchange programme was that it is so crucial not to rely solely on the media, but to actually experience things for ourselves, talk to people, and spend time to understand different perspectives. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular, is a difficult issue to grapple with, but it is one we should all be aware of and interested in. Having had the opportunity to travel into the West Bank and speak to Palestinians, as well as the discussions which took place while in Tel Aviv, I grew to appreciate the complexity of the conflict as well as better understand the competing considerations of stakeholders on both sides.
In my 11 months at the Attorney-General’s Chambers thus far, I have had the opportunity to handle many different criminal prosecutions, as well as assist seniors in more complex criminal prosecutions. The mentorship and training that has been provided to me while at the AGC has been extremely helpful in setting the right tone as I begin my career. My seniors and bosses at the office are extremely kind, patient and nurturing – they are always there to guide and offer their perspectives. More importantly, I appreciate the open environment at the workplace, where differing perspectives are accepted and there are clear channels to voice these differing perspectives on the course of action that should be taken on any particular matter.
Some had suggested to me before I formally began my career at the Public Service that I would have to deal with a lot of red tape and bureaucracy while in service. In my experience thus far, I have found the experience to be far from the truth. As alluded to above, the open and frank environment in the AGC has been a very positive experience for me thus far, and I have enjoyed the work that I have done in my first year.
Challenging. Having served just eleven months as a Deputy Public Prosecutor in the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ Crime Division, I have already learnt first-hand that the public’s expectations of the Prosecution as well as the Judiciary are extremely high, and rightly so. Every individual in the system plays an important role as a custodian of the public interest, and I constantly remind myself of this when I make decisions in the course of my work.
Unlike some of my peers, I did not apply for other public or private sector scholarships at the time I decided to apply for the PSC scholarship. To me, scholarship applications constitute a serious and lifelong commitment to an industry or career path, and it is one that every individual should carefully consider before taking the important step of submitting an application. It is not just a commitment to working in a sector for the period of the 4 or 6-year bond that is tied to the scholarship, but a path that will undeniably shape the rest of your career, even if you choose to leave the sector after the bond duration. Carefully consider whether a career in the Public Service is one you are serious about, and apply for the PSC scholarship only after having made a decision on this.
Having been part of the Students’ Council in junior college, I found it challenging to deal with the immense pressure to deliver and I felt that our work can sometimes be underappreciated. What kept me motivated through tough times was the idea of creating a positive impact and from there, I knew that I wanted my career to be meaningful in that aspect. The Public Service was thus a natural career choice for me! I believe that the Public Sector scholarship provides unparalleled opportunities for professional and personal development, such as the opportunity for post-graduate studies. This is thus an effective avenue to create an impact and serve the community around me.
While I am passionate about service, I was initially hesitant about taking up the scholarship. Being a bonded scholarship, taking it up would require me to decide on a career in the Public Service before experiencing various modules and internships in university. I was also offered an unbonded scholarship by my university and I was attracted by the vast possibilities it would provide. However, I soon found out that there was no need for concern as the Public Service also offers diverse career development opportunities, even for scholarship holders on a specialized track. The decision to take up the PSC scholarship thus became a rather clear one for me.
The developmental programmes allowed me to know my peers within the same cohort, especially within my university! I found myself approaching them even for matters that do not pertain to the scholarship. They have truly been a great source of support.
The internship programme was a very eye-opening experience where I had the opportunity to experience first-hand what being in the Public Service was like. My supervisor was extremely approachable and took the time each week to speak with me, during which I shared any queries I had, and he gave invaluable advice regarding my aspirations. These conversations helped me to be less nervous about entering the Service and gave me better clarity on my direction.
In university, I decided to try something completely different and joined the archery club even though I had no prior experience in the sport. I was only expecting to pick up a new interest, but I also gained a team and community. I eventually decided to take up the role of Captain to give back to the club which had given me so much. Even after stepping down from the role, I continued to assist in the training of the juniors.
I also had the opportunity to go overseas to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) for a month-long internship. While the internship was extremely short, I was able to catch a glimpse into the working culture of the Vietnamese. What stood out to me was the friendliness and warmth of the people there! I also had the opportunity to travel with my peers to other parts of Vietnam as well. The experience to travel with my peers was extremely memorable and something I would treasure.
I initially thought that working in the Public Service would be quite dull and cold. However, I got to meet others within the Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General’s Department through engagement sessions and internships, and I found out that I could not have been more wrong. The culture was in fact extremely vibrant, and everyone I met was welcoming! They were always more than willing to help and were always patient with our questions.
I would describe the Public Service as driven. Through my internship experience and interactions with others within the Public Service, I have found public officers to be extremely motivated and driven in what they do. They will also never hesitate to help and will always be willing to go the extra mile. For example, my supervisor during my internship went above and beyond to meet me each week and gave me advice on my career in the Public Service even though he was not obligated to. It is this drive which I feel is characteristic of the Public Service!
One advice I wish to share with you is to be genuine in your application, especially the interviews!
Since you have already done the necessary research, what is left during the interviews is to put your points across coherently and confidently. I think we have all heard of ‘fake it till you make it’, but I find it easier to put my points across with conviction and clarity if I genuinely believed in them. The confidence that comes with being genuine will shine through during the interviews!
Ever since young, my parents have inculcated in me a moral duty to give back to society. As such, during my years in school, I would always be on the lookout for any volunteering activities that catered mostly to the young, elderly and disabled. As the years progressed, I naturally felt that a career in the Public Service would align to my own personal values of giving back to society. Hence, when the opportunity to sign up for the PSC scholarship arose, I naturally signed up for it, accepted the offer when it arrived, and never looked back. Privileged to have been provided with the means to continue with my further education comfortably, it is only natural for me to pay it forward through serving the general public when I graduate.
As part of the PSC Scholarship Holders’ Mid-Course Programme (PSMP), I managed to do an internship stint with the Ministry of Finance (MOF). Coincidentally, I joined MOF at the time when DPM Heng Swee Keat announced the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets. Although I was swamped with work, helping out my colleagues with manpower resource allocation, the experience opened my eyes and I was able to appreciate the amount and variety of work public officers had to do behind the scenes, which we would never have thought of before. Although the internship was entirely work-from-home, I was able to gain a mountain of experience, and I was able to pick up a few handy tips or two with regards to my future career in the Public Service.
During the course of my student life, I was greatly involved in hall activities, such as organising and conducting orientation camps, and making good friends along the way. NTU also had a wide diversity of professors with a multitude of experiences under their belt, which helped value-add to our education along the way. In addition, I embarked on 3 public sector related internships and a private sector internship during my summer breaks to better prepare myself for my future career. I also managed to travel to places such as Switzerland and the United States before COVID struck, enabling me to catch a breather and mentally recharge myself in between semesters in school.
Passionate. Contrary to popular belief, we actually do see a lot of dedicated public officers behind the scenes, having constructive discourse about even the little details behind each and every policy that is being crafted, that goes unnoticed even among the public officers themselves.
Find your passion, and read. Read a lot and work hard, but don’t forget to take a breather at times, especially when stress levels are high and deadlines are looming. While you are a student, go out and explore the different opportunities that the school provides, be it for a volunteering activity, taking part in case competitions, or the more unique clubs that may exist in the school. Broaden your horizons while you are still young, but most importantly, to be able to enjoy what you do, you should do what you enjoy.
As I considered my options for university, I realised that studying overseas would probably provide many new perspectives and opportunities to learn, especially from being immersed in a different culture and system, where the underlying assumptions that guide action – whether for the individual, private sector, NGOs, or Government – are very different from those in Singapore.
Realistically, taking up a scholarship was also the only way for me to study overseas.
There were of course, a myriad of scholarships available, from various Government organisations and even from the private sector.
Ultimately, I took up the PSC scholarship because the raison d’etre of the public service strongly appealed to me – to continually find ways to fulfil the evolving needs and aspirations of our fellow citizens. I specifically took up the PSC scholarship because of the breadth of opportunities it provides to rotate across different ministries and sectors of Government with vastly different substantive content.
I work on public housing policy in MND, and I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this first posting 😊.
Singapore’s housing situation is very unique, compared to most other countries. The vast majority of our citizens live in public housing, so our public housing provisions and norms contribute significantly to people’s quality of life and shape their everyday experiences and realities.
One of the key policies I had the privilege of overseeing was the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP). We often hear heartwarming stories about how inter-ethnic understanding is forged through ordinary encounters, and the EIP seeks to create more opportunities for such organic interaction.
That said, the EIP has caused some difficulties for homeowners who are unable to access the full buyer pool. My team initiated a review to ensure that the EIP was able to continue facilitating the desired outcomes, and that EIP-constrained homeowners were not unduly disadvantaged by the policy. The outcome was a new measure of assistance – that HDB would buy back flats from EIP-constrained homeowners facing genuine difficulties selling their flats.
Personally, it was gratifying to be able to resolve a long-standing pain point for individual homeowners, and to ensure continued support for a policy crucial to our nation-building. Professionally, the review allowed me to see the full spectrum of the policy process – studying the situation, designing and evaluating various policy solutions, working through the implementation details, considering edge cases, and communicating the policy changes – and thereby, developing the key skills for a policy officer.
This is less a misconception, and more a discovery. Before I joined the Public Service, I didn’t realise how much work goes into ensuring that citizens can continue to lead their normal lives undisturbed, be it maintaining a steady supply of basic food items or preserving societal harmony. What we see as ordinary citizens is truly the tip of the iceberg.
Purpose-driven. I’ve been fortunate to work on policies that are close to my heart, and advocate for changes that are aligned with my beliefs to build a fairer and more inclusive society. But as with any job, the Public Service will bring its fair share of setbacks and tedious tasks. What gets me through those periods is the knowledge that I have the ability to influence and shape policies for the better and leave a positive, lasting impact on citizens’ lives.
If you want to make a positive difference in people’s lives in Singapore, the public service will give you the opportunities to make maximum impact.