A Challenging Career

One scholar attests how an EDB career has given him a diverse and challenging work experience.

By Joyce Lin

If there’s one thing an education in Engineering can give you, it’s being able to understand things better and gaining a strong foundation in analysis and logic, says Mr Ralph Foong, 33, Head of Transport Engineering at Economic Development Board (EDB).

After the ‘A’ levels, Ralph took up the EDB scholarship to further his studies in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and completed his master’s degree at University of California, Berkeley.

Ralph had also considered studying Accountancy or Economics, but he chose Engineering at the end of the day because he believed it would give him invaluable experience. And a scholarship with EDB proved to be a great fit.

“The EDB scholarship was most relevant to my choice of major,” says Ralph. “What really stood out for me was that EDB has always remained at the forefront of new industries coming into Singapore for the past two decades. In the -90s it was electronics, chemicals and to some degree, pharmaceuticals, IT and software. Fast-forwarding to today, EDB is still at the forefront of industries, but different ones such as clean technology. That in itself is very attractive and I wanted this experience. Of course, the financial support also came in useful so that I could focus fully on my studies.”

Dynamic work life
Upon graduation, Ralph’s career began in the Infocomms & Media cluster in EDB. “This had a lot to do with my studies in Electrical Engineering. My academic background came in handy because I could understand a company’s business better,” says Ralph, who regularly came into contact with various mobile phone and telecommunications companies.

More than three years later, Ralph was posted to EDB’s San Francisco office as Centre Director. His work required him to liaise with tech giants such as Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Google, Yahoo! and eBay in Silicon Valley, as well as handle major presentations for these large companies single-handedly.

Not that this responsibility would faze him – it boosted his confidence and further enhanced his work experience. Upon his return to Singapore in 2009, Ralph decided to switch to the Transport Engineering cluster – a major change, considering his eight-year experience in Infocomms & Media.

“It’s actually not easy,” admits Ralph. “But after working seven to eight years in the Infocomms industry, I wanted a new challenge.”

One year into his new posting as Head of Transport Engineering, Ralph has eased into this new position successfully. “I used to have minimal interaction with companies in the Transport Engineering cluster – aerospace, marine and offshore, oil and gas equipment and land transport. But you learn the fastest through meeting all these companies on a regular basis,” he says.

A typical day for Ralph now involves many meetings with senior management and experts within the industry in order to better understand their key strategies and how Singapore can continue to partner these companies to achieve those goals. . “One of the pertinent issues is to work with the manpower and resource restraints that we have and continue to grow and sustain the industry. Right now we’re trying to get more research and development companies to establish their headquarters here,” he reveals.

With regard to the Land Transport sector which he also oversees, Ralph talks about the motorsports hub project in Changi and how adrenaline junkies can look forward to the completion of this exciting new project in the near future. “The track will be able to host all kinds of races such as GP2, Motor GP or even Superbikes. But Formula One will still stay as a street race.”

Career fulfilment
Despite having close to a decade of work experience, Ralph still places a high importance on learning. “One of the things that intrigues me the most is the constant learning of new things,” he says. “EDB has given me the chance to do this. Apart from our own talent development programmes, the nature of my job also allows me to meet a lot of people. Meeting the people working in senior management and industry experts has been an enlightening experience.”

To those keen on taking up a scholarship with EDB, Ralph advises that they think about what they want to do in the future.

“For those who are clear that they want to be at the forefront of industries, working in EDB provides you with that opportunity. You will need a keen mind to learn as a lot of the industries that we cover today weren’t even here a few years ago. The scholarship provides financial support which is great for education. But upon graduation, you also gain a challenging job that allows you to learn constantly.”

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