Breaking Boundaries with JTC

Time and again, JTC Corporation transforms land spaces into innovative industrial solutions for work and play. Find out what it takes to be part of Team JTC, Singapore’s industrial infrastructure innovator.

By Charlene Tan

Today, modern industrial estates in Singapore are nothing like the dull and grey rows of factories pictured in textbooks.

Many sport lush gardens and parks, state-of-the-art manufacturing plants and a full range of amenities, such as food courts, retail outlets and recreational facilities.

Behind these sleek developments is an extensive framework of innovations and hard work put in by JTC Corporation (JTC) and its team of dedicated officers.

Estelle Chan, a 25-year-old Planner in JTC’s Land Planning Division, is part of the team that contributes to cutting-edge industrial real estate solutions.

She is proud to be working in an organisation that has pioneered and developed many of Singapore’s groundbreaking developments like the Jurong Rock Caverns, Fusionopolis, Biopolis, Seletar Aerospace Park, CleanTech Park and the Jurong Island chemicals hub.

Discovering urban planning

Things could have turned out differently for the Columbia University graduate if she had decided to stick to her original study plan.

“Initially, I wanted to major in Political Science at Columbia. During my freshman year however, I stumbled onto an elective course called 20th Century Comparative Urbanization. One of my case studies happened to be about Singapore’s rapid urbanisation, which gave me an insight into how different countries and regimes have approached urban problems and issues. I was so intrigued by this subject that I wrote to JTC to switch my major,” says Estelle with a laugh.

“What I find interesting about Urban Planning is that it involves so many considerations that influence every aspect of our daily lives. This includes the water you drink and cook with, the electricity that powers your appliances, the orientation of your home (whether it faces a highway or an adjacent apartment building), the amenities in your neighbourhood, property prices, location of public transportation routes, and many more.”

Switching her major was a masterstroke as the experiences she had gathered while in university had prepared her for her career at JTC.

She highlights a project she had done as part of her Urban Planning course.

“Under the guidance of one of my favourite professors, I did an independent study research on funeral homes in New York City and concluded that most funeral homes there were located along major roads because natural visibility was the best way to advertise their services in an industry where outright advertising would be gauche and in bad taste,” she recalls.

As part of her curriculum, she was also sponsored by Columbia University to intern at Buro Happold, a London-based engineering firm.

“I was lucky to shadow the team that was masterplanning the Lower Lea Valley, the 2012 London Olympics site, and learn how they would ensure a sustained vibrant community even after the Olympics. I certainly look forward to visiting London again to see how the project has turned out,” she says, smiling brightly.

Planning leading-edge industrial estates

These early experiences have prepared her well for her current responsibilities in JTC.

Estelle is part of a seven-member team in the Physical Planning Department of her division. Comprising planners and urban designers, the team works closely with one another to masterplan new estates and tackle research matters.

The multi-disciplinary group also provides urban, architectural and environmental designs, and performs operational work to meet the needs of JTC’s customers in the public and private sectors.

“My work is very dynamic because things are constantly happening and changing around me. Being a Planner requires me to actively apply my five senses at work and I have to learn how to respond to sudden changes in a creative and positive manner,” Estelle says.

She adds, “I adapt the best qualities of liveable urban spaces, such as gardens, shopping malls, parks and residential homes into industrial estates. In short, I am always trying to create or transform industrial estates into great destinations where people can live, work and play.”

Estelle currently leads the development of the Lorong Halus Industrial Park, which will be partly built on a former landfill. She says that it is one JTC’s land optimisation initiatives so that land that would typically not be developed can be revitalised and transformed.

Apart from tactfully working to change negative perceptions of landfills, this project requires Estelle and her team to think outside the box and create a uniquely natural and rural environment for an industrial park.

“The Lorong Halus landfill sites are hilly and the natural instinct as a Planner is to level the ground. One of the most exciting challenges is resisting the urge to change the land profile, and instead ‘listen’ and ‘work’ with it. My team is now exploring ways to incorporate the natural environment into our planning and design strategies,” she explains.

Besides possessing the ability to think critically, Estelle also stresses that good communication and presentation skills are invaluable qualities to have.

“When I started work, I quickly learned that having an idea is of no use if others are not convinced that it will work to their benefit. Hence, I had to market my ideas to suit everyone’s vested interests. I have also learned that there is no shame in influencing and improving on alternative ideas if the original is not accepted,” she shares.

Making the right choice

Looking back, Estelle has no regrets about choosing a scholarship with JTC.

“JTC has an open culture that welcomes different ideas and approaches. Working here has given me an opportunity to be involved in some of its innovative projects, an experience I may not necessarily find in another organisation. In terms of career exposure, JTC’s constant response and collaboration with the private industry has also made it vibrant and interesting to work in,” she quips.

Her work in JTC is made all the more enjoyable with the close relationships she has forged with her colleagues.

“My favourite moments in JTC are made up of the laughter, friendship and camaraderie with my peers and teammates. Our work lunches, after-work sports and barbeques have fostered relationships and strengthened bonds,” she says.

To Estelle, having good working relations with her colleagues contributes to better teamwork – a critical element for successful projects.

To fresh graduates who are considering a career in industrial development, she enthusiastically shares the following advice, “If you want to influence the future urban landscape of Singapore, join JTC and make your voice heard. There is nowhere else in the world where urban planning and design are actively considered within an industrial estate. More than that, you will be involved in unique, groundbreaking projects on a national level!”

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