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Submitted in November 2021
I was encouraged by a teacher back in Junior College to consider a career in the Public Service. I had always been active in leadership roles while in school but was still undecided on what to do at that point in time and could not envision myself in the public sector. However, as someone who takes most pride from being a part of something larger than myself and contributing back, it was a no-brainer to give it a shot once I thought about it. I am really grateful to the school for nominating me during the early round, because knowing that someone else thought I stood a chance gave me some confidence and helped me get over any inertia I might have had due to any doubt about my own abilities. Practically speaking, the scholarship was also the reason I even considered studying overseas, just from a financial standpoint. Looking back, my time studying overseas has become such a big part of my life and so integral to my personal development that I’m really glad I chose to apply.
I was further convinced after my exposure to the SAF, and in particular the Navy. There I not only found work that was interesting, challenging, and what to me feels like the most direct way to serve the nation, but also people who were so much more than colleagues. The unique environment and nature of the job brought people from all walks of life together, and that I think has also helped broaden my horizons.
My parents were a little apprehensive at the start – not about the PSC scholarship, as I think they do believe in the value of a ‘stable’ government job and of course the financial value of a scholarship, particularly one like the PSC’s, but more so about my choice to join the Uniformed Service. In the end, their belief in the choice’s alignment to my character won out!
I don’t recall there being specific instances of academic connections made through PSC programmes / with my peers, but I would say that being a scholarship holder definitely contributed to getting my foot in the door to projects and programs that I was interested in participating in over the years. My Navy experience brought me to an interesting research consulting stint with a maritime charity in the UK, which blended the psychology portion of my undergraduate degree with practical knowledge. This culminated in my acceptance to the Schwarzman Scholars Program for my post-graduate studies, where I made friends and connections with aspiring young leaders (including reuniting with a fellow PSC scholar) from all around the world who were looking to make an impact in each of their communities, as well as teachers and guest lecturers at the top of their respective fields. It was really quite an inspiring time. Finally, it also aided in my capstone research, where I chose to focus on the Shangri-La Dialogue. Through the connections of my supervisor at school and my role as an SAF scholarship holder, I was able to secure opportunities to interview key figures involved in the Dialogue such as Dr. Tim Huxley of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan, members of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), and so on.
I returned to Service only recently and hence my experience has been mostly limited to training thus far. The most impactful ‘postings’ I’ve had have definitely been those onboard the ships, where I got to meet and befriend people with backgrounds and perspectives dissimilar to mine, and learnt to appreciate how the little things can make all the difference to the people working with you. It’s really something when your guys feel like they can trust you with their problems, when you can encourage them and work with them to achieve some of their goals, and when they see you not just as a superior/officer but also as a friend.
While in school, I was privileged to have had a pretty exciting degree that was broad and allowed me to explore different academic disciplines and projects. My extra-curricular involvement in Muay Thai was a huge part of my time in the UK and also the most character-building - I did Muay Thai throughout my time there and was President of the club for 2 years. My Muay Thai experience training under a 2-time world champion coach helped me develop discipline in preparing and training for fights; courage to take on the challenge, step in the ring, and take losses as they came; and humility and a good work ethic.
The Schwarzman Scholars Program was probably the experience that stands out as more unique, as it also brought me to China for the first time. Though it was cut short, the connections made with friends all around the world through this program have definitely been useful as I have learnt much through their sharing on happenings in their region, and the joint military exercises that we participated in together. A key experience within the program was the “Deep Dive”, where I shadowed a municipal official of a Tier 3 city for a week and was able to observe how the Chinese government worked from the inside. We managed to organize something similar here in Singapore for a few of our classmates, to show them the best of our country and our relevance in the region, as well as meet government and business leaders. The scholarship holders from other countries also organized similar trips with their own connections to help us broaden our horizons.
I think I used to believe that anyone working in the Public Service would generally be more conformist and accepting of a system and the government that runs it. However, my peers and experiences have only shown me the opposite – that here you find people who not only desire change but are looking for ways to practically achieve them while appreciating the value of extant structures. People here care and are not just cogs in a very large machine.
Only one word is hard! I would probably say ‘Purpose’ – everyone I’ve met here is driven by something larger than themselves and the idea of giving back/paying it forward. Not all the work is glamorous, but there is always a reason for it.
I think for all applications/interviews in general it’s important to know yourself well – know your own narrative and what makes you, you. In that vein, particularly pre-application and even throughout school, make sure you take the chance to explore all opportunities that come up, try new things, and find out more about things and activities that pique your interest rather than just fixate on what you ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do. The best time to do all this is now!
I was attracted to the ideals of public service. Friends and seniors who had joined the service earlier gave me the confidence to give it a try.
Looking back, the effort put in to help us ease into the Public Service is humbling. These range from preparatory courses to supportive bosses. I am very grateful for the opportunities that the SAF has given me over the years. The tight-knit community of servicemen and women, diverse career experiences that help me grow as a person, the shared values and ethos of the military – these have been formative career experiences for which I am thankful for.
The military career comes with a good mix of operational roles and stints in headquarters (HQ). For example, I had the opportunity to serve as the Commanding Officer for one of the Air Force’s drone squadrons and as the Head of the SAF’s Force Transformation Office. We pick up different skills on the ground and in HQ. The diversity makes for a rich and fulfilling career.
I am currently on secondment with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. It is a privilege to work with highly professional and committed public service officers in another sector. This stint adds a different dimension to my learning, helping me to better understand the wider Public Service and view Singapore and our place in the world from a different vantage point.
Perhaps that it’s very hierarchical? It is certainly a big organisation, but there are many good bosses who empower their people to shape and own that part of the organisation that is entrusted to them.
Mission. It may be a bit cliché, but the shared sense of serving something greater than ourselves is real and it does unite us!
If the stories and ethos of the Public Service resonate with you, do consider giving it a shot!
Submitted in March 2022
I applied for the PSC Scholarship (Mid-Term) back in 2007 when I was an undergraduate majoring at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
I first enrolled in NTU as an Accountancy major back in 2004. During the first year of my undergraduate study, I took a module on “Singapore Society” as an elective. Offered by the Sociology department, the module taught me how to look at familiar aspects of Singapore society and consider how they were brought about by broader historical, economic, political and social forces as well as choices made by human actors. This opened my perspectives because it made me realise that what we think of as enduring features of our society are constructs. If we understood how these features came to be constructed, we can reimagine society and construct it differently.
After taking the module, I decided to major in Sociology to continue this intellectual journey of deconstructing the familiar and reimagining possibilities. Of course, I also extended this way of thinking to different aspects of Singapore society, including our public policies. But I knew that this was still an intellectual exercise and not “real” in the sense of having to overcome constraints, balance competing objectives, and deal with unintended consequences.
In my 2nd year as a Sociology major (2007), the PSC introduced the Mid-Term scholarship for undergraduates. I decided to apply for it because it gave me the opportunity to be in the space where policies are shaped and implemented to improve the lives of Singaporeans. This is where the rubber hits the road.
I am currently taking on two concurrent roles at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). First, I am part of the team that looks at developing service strategies to support low-income and vulnerable families and individuals. These families and individuals could have multiple and interlocking needs, so we look at how to make sure our support is comprehensive (i.e. covering all the areas of need), convenient (so as to reduce their bandwidth tax and enable them to focus on overcoming the challenges they face) and coordinated (i.e. making sure that the support from different agencies pull in the same direction). Second, I am also part of the team at the Social Service Office (SSO) in Kreta Ayer and implementing these strategies on the ground.
Because I am responsible for both developing the strategy and implementing it, I am able to see the challenges on both sides. Sometimes, the challenge lies in ensuring that we keep to the broader policy intent as we operationalise the strategies on the ground. Other times, it is about ensuring that we think through operational constraints when we come up with strategies and make timely adjustments along the way.
This experience in straddling both strategy and implementation came in handy when we had to respond to the social needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. When Singapore had the Circuit Breaker in 2020, we knew that we had to respond quickly as low-income families are likely to be impacted more significantly. The strategy in this case was simple – we wanted to reach out to 50,000 families living in rental flats to check in on their wellbeing and refer those in need to the relevant agencies for support. However, operationalising this was not straightforward at all. We needed to find people who can help to call families who are not already linked with social agencies, equip them with the skills to identify families who could be facing difficulties, and put in place processes for those in need to be referred to agencies for help – and we had to do all of these within a few weeks to make sure that we can start the outreach as quickly as possible.
In the end, we were able to do all this by partnering the community and working closely across government agencies. Working with HDB, we sent SMSes to all rental households to inform them about available help avenues. We also recruited and trained close to 1,000 volunteers to reach out to families over the phone and find out whether they were in need. On the ground, colleagues from the People’s Association and the SSOs managed the process and supported the volunteers. As families could need help in several areas, we worked with multiple agencies to put in place referral processes. GovTech helped us to build a system to consolidate the information gathered by volunteers and automatically refer families in need to the right agencies.
This was truly a whole-of-society effort that involved not only government agencies but also volunteers from various backgrounds. It showed me that there is so much we can do together, across government and as a society.
Some may think that public service work is all about coming up with policies. “Making policies” is indeed a key aspect of our work in the Public Service, but what is more important is “making policies work”.
This requires us to first analyse the issue dispassionately. There will be differing points of view, and judgments will have to be made, because data and information is always incomplete. It may not always be apparent, but debates about how to make sense of an issue and the merits of various policy options are an integral part of this process.
Another important aspect of making policies work is having a tight feedback loop between policy and implementation. Policies don’t always work as intended “right out of the box”, but we don’t have the luxury of time to think through every possible scenario, because catching that window of opportunity to address an issue is also critical. However, once a policy is rolled out, those who have made the policy must keep their eyes and ears close to the ground to see whether things are moving in the right direction, and make adjustments if they are veering off course.
I’m not sure there is one word that can describe the Public Service. Across agencies, our areas of work can be very different. While there are some broad principles underpinning how we do our work, there is no single way of dealing with all the issues under our purview. This is perhaps the defining feature of our Public Service – we are not wedded to some mental model or beliefs about how things ought to be. We look at the evidence (which will always be incomplete), rigorously analyse the options before us, pursue the option that makes the most sense, and adjust as we go along.
There is a Chinese phase that I keep mind in my work, 接地气,
Roughly translated, it means connecting with the ground and understanding the person on the street. Understand ground needs is a key starting point for public policy. In social policy, this is not about doing more surveys or polling more people to find what they think. It is about having a deep understanding of people’s lived experiences and how they make sense of those experiences by synthesising across a wide range of data points, including quantitative data as well as what people say (or don’t say) and do (or don’t do).
Another context in which this phrase is relevant is how we are working with various groups in many policy areas. The Public Service doesn’t have all the answers, expertise and resources to achieve the outcomes we want. Our work to assist rough sleepers is one such example. We have the infrastructure (e.g. temporary shelters, rental flats, etc.) to provide accommodation for rough sleepers, but this is not enough to address the issues faced by rough sleepers. This is why we go on regular night walks with volunteer groups and have the volunteers introduce us to the rough sleepers they have befriended. We also engage community partners to open their premises to rough sleepers in the vicinity. Lastly, we also work with social workers to address the underlying issues that lead them to rough sleep. To do all this, we need to be able to connect with stakeholders outside of the Public Service, get in the trenches with them, and work together to achieve shared outcomes
Submitted in February 2022
The PSC scholarship was the only scholarship I applied for because I was certain then, even as an 18-year-old, that I would want to serve in the Public Service, to play my part to make Singapore a better place.
At that point, I couldn’t imagine myself working in a for-profit setting, yet I wasn’t quite sure where I would be able to make the largest contribution in the Public Service. The PSC scholarship thus stood out for its flexibility, in providing exposure and development opportunities across the entire Public Service. I had also heard that the PSC scholarship would support a wide range of academic interests and destination countries, and this was certainly validated in my case – I was given the opportunity to pursue Biology in Germany, which at first glance might not have been entirely relevant for Public Service.
Being on the PSC scholarship gave me a peace of mind to pursue my interests during my studies. I was supported in all my plans, such as to carry out a research internship in Canada, and to represent my university in Model United Nations around the world.
Professionally, I was grateful to be provided opportunities to participate in milestone programmes, where I had early exposure to issues beyond my portfolio, and to be placed on the Public Service Leadership Programme (PSLP). In this programme, I was stretched in each of my postings, while at the same time being supported and guided by mentors.
My first posting was with the National Climate Change Secretariat, under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), where I coordinated Singapore’s carbon emissions mitigation strategy across agencies and developed plans to achieve our long-term emissions target. My most memorable experience was participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate summit, to see global negotiations happening before my eyes and history being made.
Thereafter, I joined the Family Policy Office under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). In a short 4-year stint, I worked on multiple portfolios ranging from marriage and parenthood, and supporting transnational and divorcing families, to supporting ageing families, including those without mental capacity or without next-of-kin. I remember most fondly the experience of initiating the passing of the Vulnerable Adults Act and seeing through legislative amendments to the Mental Capacity Act. It was a most satisfying end to many days and nights of hard work, to know that you were able to make a difference to fellow Singaporeans’ lives.
I then made the decision to remain in the social sector and took on a double-hatting opportunity in MSF where I served in the Social Service Office (SSO) as Assistant General Manager, and concurrently in Planning Division of the Social Policy and Services Group. While tiring, this arrangement helped reinforce in me the importance of policy being only as good as implementation. I endeavored to build in my team the habit of open communications and early consultation with our ops colleagues. As we rolled out Community Link (ComLink) in this period, my direct ground experience allowed us to quicky detect issues, finetune our ops processes, and improve communications with the ground.
After almost 8 years in MSF, I moved to the Ministry of Health (MOH), where I’m working on home care, palliative care and caregiver support policies. It hasn’t been too long since I joined MOH, but I’ve already begun working on a couple of exciting projects that will improve our care ecosystem, and form the basis for our long-term strategy.
I don’t recall having any major misconceptions about the Public Service when I first joined, but I know there are many who may have negative perceptions of what working in the Public Service is like. One thing that has really struck me over my years in Service is the fact that the Public Service works hard, but also takes good care of its members. While work has become increasingly challenging, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found that leaders in my organization placed particular emphasis on staff morale and well-being, and took particular effort to address feedback and issues raised. Middle managers were held accountable, but also supported one another (e.g. in sharing of best practices) – beyond service-wide initiatives, I believed this made the real difference to each officer’s lived experience.
I would use the word “tenacious”. As a public officer, we often have to tackle extremely challenging issues (e.g., growing our national population, supporting victims of abuse and neglect). We also often get curveballs thrown our way (e.g., global developments beyond our control, COVID-19 pandemic). I have found that the Service remains tenacious, continuing to do our best in developing policy on the fly, and holding by our principles, regardless what the situation may be.
I would advise prospective scholarship applicants/recipients to simply take the plunge and take up the scholarship, if you hope to have a meaningful career and contribute to Singapore’s development in a most direct manner.
To be honest, I didn’t apply for the PSC scholarship. I have always wanted to be a teacher – it is my passion and the only job I have wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. I really was aiming for the Education Merit Scholarship (EMS), or really, any teaching scholarship. So it was to my great surprise that I was offered the Overseas Merit Scholarship (Teaching) (OMS(T)) now known as the PSC Scholarship (Teaching), especially since I had explicitly told the panel that I prefer the EMS! On hindsight the teaching scholarship actually gave me greater flexibility in my university course choices, because the EMS would not have permitted me to do an undergraduate degree in Education (ironically), or the masters programme in Education I chose, as the EMS restricted you to taking core curriculum subjects (at least it did in those days). I’m so thankful to God and to the panel for giving me that opportunity.
I had applied for the CAAS Scholarship (just because I had a place in Cambridge and half wanted to go) and had cleared the first round but the moment I heard I was offered a teaching scholarship, I immediately withdrew. I also applied for the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scholarship as I honestly felt I didn’t need an overseas education to be a teacher (I couldn’t afford to go on my own, anyway). Teaching was my first love and that was all I was concerned about, so it made my choice much easier.
Being a PSC scholarship holder, I had the opportunity to attend several milestone courses and listen to perspectives from the broader Public Service, such as the Foundation Course, the Preparatory Course and a Trilat Leadership Development Programme. I really enjoyed the chance to meet peers in different spheres of work. Often, as a teacher, I felt like my world view was rather narrow, so it was fun to have the exposure to something different to help me reassess if teaching remains my passion.
As part of the career path mapped out for me, I had to rotate to other ministries and spent 9 months in MOE’s Planning Division and another 2 years with the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). MINDEF was not a particularly popular posting in my time though I did enjoy my time there doing communications work for National Service Policy and even had the chance to work on a Clear Communications guide for MINDEF. This was never part of my own personal aspiration nor interest, but I did enjoy the experience and it has broadened my perspective. I was nevertheless extremely happy to return to MOE and to schools.
I think one struggle is perhaps the burden of the label ‘scholarship holder’. I remember being perceived as arrogant in my first school and needing to work twice as hard to win people over. Scholarship holders are rotated across postings relatively quickly and this can sometimes affect the stability and continuity of the work for other colleagues. Some scholarship holders also come across as being more ambitious and this can lead to a negative impression that scholarship holders will do anything for a promotion. For me, I try to fight against any sense of entitlement and ambition. Taking the PSC scholarship means a commitment to service, since the word ‘minister’ originally meant ‘servant’. I hope people who take up the scholarship do it because they want to serve Singapore and not be served by the scholarship’s benefits.
I don’t think I have any misconceptions per se, but perhaps one tip I can offer is that there is really freedom to chart your own path. I felt initially that I was trapped by the structured development programme and I had to move at the pace that was laid out for me. In reality, that isn’t true. I had peers who became doctors after a few years in Public Service and the Public Service was flexible enough to provide that opportunity to fulfil their aspirations. Many of my peers from MOE who went for an external posting also requested to return early and to my knowledge, HR facilitated that for them. My best friend who went with me to MINDEF returned early and even taught at Pathlight briefly despite being a specialist. For me, I mourned the fact that I had a very short time teaching and was rapidly asked to go for the next stage of my career. In reality, I have been teaching as a HOD for over 6 years, after deferring my posting numerous times. I’m very grateful that the Public Service considers our personal aspirations in posting and that there is always space to negotiate and do what we really are passionate about.
Servant-hearted. I know I used a hyphen to get away with it! Many public service officers work long hours thinking of ways to improve the lives of people who will never thank them. It fills me with awe to think that I stand on the shoulders of giants in every part of the Public Service I may work in.
Make sure you’re applying for the scholarship because you want the job. 4 years of studies is a moment in time compared to the 30 years of working life ahead. It is a privilege to be a PSC scholarship holder and my prayer is for the next generation of leaders to rise up and make a difference.
To be candid, all I had in mind when I was 18 was that I wanted to teach. I saw that the PSC scholarship could offer me a good opportunity to broaden my horizons by going abroad for my studies and trying out different public sector roles. I thought these experiences would enrich my contributions in a classroom.
Today, my heart remains close to education even as I contribute in other roles, and I carry the hope of bringing these experiences back to some form of education some day. I find having that accuracy and clarity of purpose is important in taking up a PSC scholarship because it is more than a chance to study—it’s a commitment to serve the public from the public sector for a good chunk of your life.
The regular job rotations have given me experiences spanning frontline service delivery, strategy and policy development, and “back-end” corporate work. The development programmes have allowed me to meet colleagues working on different issues across the Service, which helped me learn through their experiences, and fostered collaboration when we worked on projects later on. I’ve also been given the chance to sharpen my leadership skills by leading teams of different sizes, and through working with team members with diverse skillsets, dispositions, and aspirations.
These experiences have given me more exposure to skills needed across the public sector. They have helped me better appreciate the complexities of “policy making”—which many PSC scholarship holders see themselves doing. This goes far beyond understanding the issue you want to address and identifying a solution you think might work. Policymakers often find themselves securing buy-in among stakeholders with contrasting needs and perspectives that the problem is worth solving, the solution appropriate, and the trade-offs manageable. Among other things, they also need to work through implementation details with operational units, which may include creating new processes, training delivery partners, and unlocking resources needed to smoothly deliver the outcomes. This also taught me the value of well-functioning corporate support, without which it would be phenomenally difficult to get things done.
A senior public officer I know and respect once used the term “cut and thrust” to describe the lives of public officers. That’s a fair description of how the work feels. Public officers are often faced with questions that have great impact but defy easy answers. The restless world changes, indifferent to our plight, forcing us to move in double quick time to balance contrasting needs. One moment we are atop a riffle, the next, coming down a rapid, and then swinging round a meander’s curve.
In my ten years with the Public Service, I have experienced this dynamism as I taught in (and out of) a classroom and shaped various policies at the Ministries of Education and Trade and Industry (such as STEM in higher education and support for businesses during COVID). I tussled with questions of governance at the Public Service Division, where I also worked on HR tools to strengthen skill development in the public sector.
I’ve encountered work with immediate deliverables, and more long-term, exploratory projects, often in the same day. This can be a challenge because each requires you to exercise specific skills and habits of mind, while holding back instincts more suited to the other. Someone who cherishes the rewards from task completion might too easily dismiss an iterative long-term planning process as dawdle.
These requirements may also evolve rapidly over a project’s life cycle, pushing us to learn and adapt. An initially more exploratory endeavour to strengthen governance spun into an effort to enact legislation, which at one point compelled me to text that same senior public officer for legal advice on Christmas day as I was going home from the supermarket. In such instances, having a great team that is prepared to go the extra mile really helps. A PSC scholarship offer is essentially that: an invitation to go over and above in service of Singapore.
Some people think that book smarts will carry you far in the Public Service. That’s one thing they look at when offering a scholarship, but there are other factors too. An officer needs much more than intellectual prowess and individual achievement to contribute meaningfully to public service. These include being empathetic, action-oriented, resourceful, courageous, street-smart, and resilient, and being able to connect with and partner stakeholders from all walks of life to achieve outcomes. As in any other job, officers need a balance of abilities to deliver outcomes in challenging circumstances. Find ways to start developing these skills and practising them in different settings while you are studying. Good public officers—both junior and senior—make effort to improve these skills throughout their careers.
Don’t be distracted by the prestige and glamour of the scholarship. Instead, think of it as a doorway to a career. Consider how you’d like to contribute to society, and whether roles in the private and people sector will allow you to make greater impact given your skills and dispositions. Before deciding on a public sector scholarship, talk to as many people as you can with first-hand experience working in public agencies, and others who work in the private sector. Compare what energises them about their work, what frustrates them, and what they’ve had to give up. Inoculate yourself from survivor bias by trying out one or more internships. This will give you a taste of the work and help you think about whether public sector roles best allow you to contribute to society given your skills and inclinations. It will connect you with networks of people to speak with.
Bear in mind that there will be times in public service when you are called upon to serve in roles you do not expect—job rotations are competitive and the organisation has needs. It’s vital to keep an open mind, and to allow yourself to discover purpose as you encounter perspectives, concerns, and values different from your own. There’s no better time to start cultivating such dispositions than now.
All the very best in your journey!
I applied for scholarships with two main reasons in mind – first, to start a career in a particular organisation I was interested in and second, to have financial security through university, given that my parents were retiring.
Although I had an offer from a private sector company, I eventually chose the PSC scholarship as I wanted to have the opportunity to be directly involved in Singapore’s story of growth as a nation. The prospect of working in the various public sector domains (social, economy, infrastructure and environment etc.) also attracted me.
The PSC organised multiple programmes and internship opportunities during my academic journey. I applied for the internship to get a taster of work in the Public Service. On the other hand, the development programmes aim to prepare scholarship holders for work in the Public Service and allowed me to connect with other officers (both new and experienced colleagues), which in hindsight provided me a good foundation to start my career.
I have been posted to the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment (MSE), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
Each posting has been meaningful and challenging in its own ways.
In MSE, where I worked on climate change issues, I learnt the importance of whole-of-government effort and understood that there are always trade-offs when making decisions.
In MOM, where I was part of the COVID-19 recovery team, time was of the essence and decisive actions often had to be made.
Currently in MCCY, I work with my team on social policies that must be delicately balanced to ensure that our society continues to have common space to forge strong bonds.
All in all, although challenging, I have the privilege of working with the most passionate colleagues who understand the implications of the work that we do.
Some people have the perception that a junior officer in the Public Service does not have much say in key areas of work. I find this to be untrue. I am grateful to have good leaders who not only nurture me, but give me space and opportunity to express my views. Everyone and anyone can make a difference
Teamwork. Work in the Public Service is challenging and the breadth of work means that we could sometimes find ourselves out of our comfort zone. But what makes the public sector successful I feel, is the passion and collective effort of all public officers towards achieving the common good. #OneTeamOneDream
This is a major commitment that I understand is difficult to make at a young age. As an individual, you will need to have an interest in government policies. You should also try to speak to seniors who have taken up the scholarship or started their careers to see if their experience resonates with you. If it does, go for it, and be prepared for a great journey ahead of you!
In terms of my future career, I had a few considerations in mind. First and foremost, I wanted to do work that was meaningful and have a positive impact on society. Secondly, I wanted to be able to do a good amount of technical work, as I felt that was what I enjoyed, and by doing so I could get a good amount of exposure to the diverse range of technologies available and deepen my technical expertise.
The PSC Scholarship (Engineering) seemed to fulfill these considerations, giving me the opportunity to contribute to the way we utilize technology to build the nation’s competencies. Furthermore, the scholarship was also structured in a way that allows for some form of rotation amongst government organisations, which I appreciated for the exposure to different concerns and considerations amongst these agencies.
Definitely, having this scholarship made it more feasible for me to be able to experience education in a foreign university. I am glad to have experienced a different culture, and learnt from professors who were at the cutting edge of research in their fields.
The PSC scholarship also provided me with opportunities to attend developmental programmes like the PSC Scholarship Holders’ Mid-Course Programme (PSMP) , where I could listen to sharings by people working in different government entities, as well as network with my peers.
I recently graduated with a specialisation in information engineering, where I mostly did courses related to machine learning, signals, and information theory. In my free time, I enjoyed dabbling in the performing arts by joining theatre and dance productions, as well as a choir. I also found my love for bouldering in university because it is so much cheaper in the UK!
During the summer holidays of 2020, I went for an internship in a healthcare technology company called Oxehealth, which is situated in the UK. It was a nice glance into the inner workings of a fast-paced private company in search of constantly improving, rolling out, and developing its products. There, I did research into adapting their existing technology and computer vision techniques to identify risks in the hospital setting.
I am currently working in the Cyber department at DSTA, but am still very new (2 months in). As I do not have a background in cybersecurity, I am thankful that DSTA has in place a structured set of courses and resources to aid my learning. While the plan is to rotate around the department, I might be continuing to do work related to threat intelligence, as a continuation to what I did for my Year 2 internship at DSTA. This is an exciting area of cybersecurity which focuses on collating and parsing data on the newest cyber threats, to help form a useful situation picture upon which we can act.
I think I would describe the Public Service as meaningful. The nature of a lot of the work is genuinely concerned with, and has very tangible impacts on, the welfare of our citizens and residents, and the advancement and security of our country.
I think one thing that really struck me was the realisation of how different work is from student life. Suddenly, the work that you do has real implications, and that may give you a new added pressure to do the best you can. So while you are busy trying to help make the world a better place, it is also important to take care of your mental health, and spend time with the people you love. Do some stretches, water your plants, and remember to eat with your family.
I’ve had a passion for public service since young. I can’t pin it down to a particular moment of enlightenment, but over time I realised I was motivated by the pursuit of social equity and justice, and these are objectives which resonate more in the Public Service than the private sector.
Being a scholarship holder is both a privilege and a duty. You will be given many opportunities to develop your potential, expand your horizons and widen your network. But as a flag bearer of the Public Service, your actions will be scrutinised more closely, you will be held to higher expectations, and you should endeavour to reflect the best that the Public Service has to offer.
My journey has been peppered with many memorable experiences. I’ve had the opportunity to board a US Navy aircraft carrier where I witnessed military diplomacy in action; go behind the walls of Changi Prison to understand how inmates were being prepared for their second chance at life; visit Pulau Satumu (the southernmost island of Singapore) to more fully appreciate the importance of the maritime domain to Singapore’s livelihood; and walk through MRT tunnels under construction to understand the engineering complexities and challenges of expanding our rail network. These reflect the diversity of the Public Service’s efforts to improve lives and secure Singapore’s future.
Many people think that all PSC scholarship holders are put on an escalator to the top from their first day at work. But the reality is that the distinction between scholarship holder and non-scholarship holder melts away from very early on; these labels don’t stick. And the Public Service has many capable officers – including those without scholarships – so one will not progress without demonstrating competence and delivering results.
Integrity. Public officers have their own views and perspectives, but they all want to do right by Singapore and Singaporeans.
Don’t be afraid or shy to apply even if you didn’t get straight As in school. Many scholarship recipients (including me) didn’t, and the scholarship selection process today is much more holistic than before.