An Engaging Career Awaits

The MTI is entrusted with a mission to promote Singapore’s economic growth and create jobs, so that Singaporeans can achieve an overall higher standard of living. It’s a noble aim, fraught with challenges but filled with opportunities and a deep sense of satisfaction, as these two officers can attest to.

By Becky Lo

When Joanna Tan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies in 2009, she was ready to take on the world.

Filled with that indefinable, fearless and unbridled enthusiasm that only the optimism of youth can provide, the then 24-year-old dived right into her first job at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and has never looked back since.

Now, the Nanyang Technological University graduate is the Assistant Director of the Emerging Markets Division (EMD), focused on finding ways to improve and eventually grow Singapore’s economic links with the Middle East and Africa.

Little red dot on a global stage

As part of the Trade Group in the ministry, the EMD is a relatively new division formed to cover five main developing regions – the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Russia and Central Asia, and South Asia. Spanning over 130 countries and with half the world’s population located within these regions, Joanna and her team certainly have their hands full.

However, rather than being deterred by the cards stacked against her, Joanna remains dedicated to her cause, helping Singapore remain relevant and important to the emerging powers, a necessary prescription for a continued global presence in today’s economy.

“The greatest challenge for me initially was adjusting to the pace of work in MTI,” Joanna recalled. “In the beginning, the learning curve was quite steep but as I went along, I got more confident in my work. My supportive colleagues also helped immensely.”
Plethora of interactions

To help Singapore stay connected with its potential trade partners, Joanna often has to strike up close working relationships with many different types of people.
A typical day at work kicks off with a morning spent on media monitoring, punctuated with replying email requests from foreign counterparts, ministries and the nine statutory boards under MTI.

Joanna corresponds with businessmen and officials in Africa, Middle East, Europe and Asia about new collaboration opportunities. Being in charge of the region also entails organising programmes and meetings for visiting dignitaries as well as planning official visits for our ministers to the Middle East and Africa.

Constant growth and development

She recalls her first project when she first joined MTI – organising and overseeing the signing of Singapore’s Investment Guarantee Agreement with Libya.

“As the signing was held in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, I had to organise the visit programme and content for the signing ceremony. This was challenging but also exciting as it was my first visit to Libya!” she recalls enthusiastically.

Two years on, Libya is just one of the many exotic countries inked in her passport, which is chockfull of visa stamps from places like Ghana, Rwanda and Angola.

To further stretch her capabilities, MTI has offered Joanna many developmental opportunities. This includes inter-divisional and cross-agency projects which allow her to work closely with agencies like the Economic Development Board and International Enterprise Singapore.

Helping local enterprises grow

On the local front, MTI, through its statutory boards and various stakeholders, also actively creates a business environment that is conducive for companies to grow and thrive. One of the officers responsible for bettering Singapore’s economic strategies, specifically in the R&D industry, is Dr. Lai Yee Lin, Senior Assistant Director in the Research and Enterprise Division, aptly shortened to RED.

“At MTI, we are in charge of driving and coordinating strategic policies and directions for Singapore. This is a platform where we can make a difference. It is self-gratifying to be able to contribute to our country’s growth in my own little way,” Yee Lin explains.
Yee Lin is part of the team that develops the human, intellectual and industrial resources necessary for Singapore-based enterprises to develop, compete and grow.
This includes working closely with external agencies like A*STAR, SPRING and the Competition Commission of Singapore to ensure these enterprises are able to develop their capabilities and even go international.

This is achieved through the creation of pro-enterprise rules and policies, easy access to financing, and the formation of integrated multi-agency government services.

“We face a diversity of tasks, ranging from research like evaluating and benchmarking Singapore’s R&D policies and performances with that of other countries; to analytical like integrating data from a range of sources for quantitative analysis of a problem statement; to social like discussing R&D issues with visiting foreign counterparts,” Yee Lin elaborates.

The National University of Singapore alumnus revealed that working with such brilliant minds and being exposed to the dynamic working environment was what initially attracted her to the job, for they can “constantly stimulate your thoughts and engage you in a diversity of interesting topics”.

What Stepping up to challenges

One of the major projects Yee Lin is currently involved in is the planning and implementation of Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2015, which focuses on charting strategies and directions for the RIE landscape in the next five years.
In the year-long planning process, Yee Lin has worked with participating statutory boards to implement the programmes, as well as review the progress of each programme towards meeting its objectives.

“The task was a daunting mix of analyses of research entities’ past performances and expenditures, management of stakeholders’ expectations, evaluation of programmes submitted, etc,” Yee Lin rattles off.

While the variety and complexity of the project might have overwhelmed some people, the 31-year-old is made of much sterner stuff, tackling the challenges she faced with poise and composure.

On how she has overcome what she sees as the greatest challenge thus far, Yee Lin reveals, “Perseverance, the belief that ‘I am doing the right thing for the country’, as well as my brilliant team-mates whom I know I can rely on to get their part of the work done, are three important factors in overcoming this challenge”.

Where great minds gather

To those who are interested in a career at MTI, Yee Lin promises a highly rewarding career path ahead.

“MTI offers a well-rounded career, with reasonable financial remuneration and ample opportunities to grow and develop,” Yee Lin says.

Joanna agrees and concludes, “A career with MTI will push your boundaries in thought, broaden your horizons through travel, and will engage you in policies at the heart of Singapore’s economy.”

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