There is no other organisation that focuses so much on fun as an integral part of work as STB does. With the on-going dynamic transformation of Singapore’s tourism landscape towards that of a vibrant and exciting must-visit destination, two STB scholars share how they are both learning and enjoying themselves at the same time.
By Benjamin Lim
Being chained to a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week was not exactly what Michelle Chan and Goh Bing Jun wanted to do for the rest of their lives. Their relentless search not to settle for a career less than anything extraordinary finally led them to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
Having the opportunity to shape Singapore’s image in the eyes of the world instantly attracted the two 24-year-olds to take up the STB scholarship.
The fun factor
What makes the STB scholarship stand out is the fact that the organisation prides itself on achieving a fun working environment for its staff.
Bing Jun: “STB is a truly unique organisation. I like how my job is all about enjoying life, and attempting to bring and market that experience to everyone else. We get perturbed on the job when we can’t find ways to have more fun. That is definitely not something you would typically find in a job description.”
Like its vision for Singapore, STB encourages its employees to be different.
Bing Jun: “I chose to study in Japan even though I had zero knowledge of Japanese then, but the idea of a completely foreign land sounded much more exciting compared to the conventional English-speaking countries. STB had no complaints about my decision. On the contrary, they gave me complete freedom.
In my second year at Waseda University, I went on a one-year double degree exchange programme to Peking University which was sponsored by the scholarship! I see this freedom as an extension of STB's belief in individual responsibility. As long as you have a goal, they will help get you there!”
The organisation is also a strong proponent of the “work hard, play hard” ethic. Its young and passionate team have forged strong bonds with each other and propelled the organisation forward while still keeping true to its six core values – Integrity, Team, Courage, Care, Passion, and Fun.
Michelle: “The large number of young people means there are plenty of ideas and energy in the organisation. The ‘Generation Y’ is very media-savvy, especially with regard to social media. This positively impacts STB’s direction to utilise new media on a larger scale since tourists these days make use of the Internet more often to plan and book their holidays. For example, STB recently launched its website 'YourSingapore.com' which showcases the ability to customise the visitor experience according to their interests.”
Stepping stone to the world
A year ago, Michelle was thrown into the deep end within the first few weeks despite having just graduated from Columbia University. The Management Associate was selected to help out at the Singapore Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.
Michelle: “As a Protocol Officer, I helped liaise with the other countries’ pavilions, arranging for visits by their VIPs to our pavilion. This involves managing a lot of contacts to get everything in order. Ultimately, success depended on establishing good relationships with people on the ground.
Another part of my job scope is ensuring that the pavilion itself is operating smoothly, for example adequate security and crowd control measures. The long waiting time led to impatience among some visitors and in order to appease the crowd, we had to improvise and come up with spontaneous methods to make sure things do not go out of hand, for example giving away freebies and conversing with them.”
The stint at the World Expo also made Michelle think about her own job responsibilities. She saw how helpful and efficient the Expo’s buggy drivers were in their service delivery, and became inspired to emulate their spirit in her work.
Michelle: “Their passion to serve has made me reflect on my own life in STB – working in the service industry requires one to be industrious and passionate, and as long as you are willing to go the extra mile, people will come back to you.”
Now, Michelle is with the Conventions and Meeting team where she focuses on bringing both large-scale and niche meetings, like the 2006 IMF-World Bank Meeting and the 117th International Olympic Committee session in 2005, to Singapore by marketing the country to be a choice destination.
Michelle’s experiences have galvanised Bing Jun and made him excited to start work.
The Hwa Chong Institution alumnus has already had a taste of life in STB, having done a seven-week internship with the organisation.
During this internship, he was given an insight into several landmark events which would significantly impact Singapore’s tourism industry in the future.
Bing Jun: “I witnessed the grand opening of the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, the development of the Shipwrecked Tang Treasures exhibition and Gardens by the Bay, among other attractions. The internship proved that STB can give me the world as my playground, where I have the freedom to explore my interests and make a difference.”
In fact, STB encourages its officers to constantly come up with new plans and fresh ideas.
Michelle: "STB is currently working out an Innovation Fund scheme to grant its officers up to $10,000 to work on any new ideas which they want to implement in the organisation or industry. If this scheme is implemented, we will be given time off our regular work schedule to discuss these projects and will be granted full access to the organisation's resources."
A unique adventure
Both scholars offer their two cents for aspiring STB officers.
Bing Jun: “Expect nothing, be surprised by everything. Give yourself an open mind so as not to bind yourself with artificial boundaries that stifle creativity. Embrace the challenges you face as opportunities for growth and fulfilment. Appreciate the people around you, for being a collective body is what makes STB special. And of course, love and enjoy what you do!”
Michelle: “STB looks for people who can fit into our organisation and who can push the organisation forward to achieve its goals. A career with STB is a truly unique adventure to develop and shape your Singapore.”