FIREfly-SPRING: Fuelling Growth

For one FIREfly scholar, a career at SPRING has opened many doors of opportunities – from an enriching overseas education experience to a challenging and fulfilling career.

By Lui Wen Qing

Kenrick Guo’s career at SPRING Singapore has seen him take on three different roles so far, involving two departments within SPRING and a secondment to a financial services company in the private sector.

This opportunity to be rotated among different agencies, departments, and even the private sector was the main reason why Kenrick chose the FIREfly scholarship despite having received other scholarship offers. The Raffles Institution (Junior College) alumnus says, “I valued having such diverse experiences that could give me a deep variety of breadth.”

In particular, he chose SPRING amongst other agencies under the FIREfly scholarship programme because he wanted to do something related to business, and being able to work with SMEs greatly appealed to him.

A refreshing learning experience
With this scholarship, the 29-year-old pursued a double degree in Industrial Engineering and Economics at Northwestern University. He went on to complete his master’s in Operations Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kenrick thoroughly enjoyed his overseas study experience because of the flexibility of the US education system as well as the multitude of cultures he was exposed to. “The diversity that I experienced in class, where I studied alongside people from Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany and other parts of the world, was what made studying overseas so exciting and enriching,” he recalls.

As a FIREfly scholar, Kenrick also had the opportunity to undergo a two-month mid-term internship at SPRING, where he was rotated among different groups within the agency. “At the end of the two months, I had a better idea of what each group did and that helped me sort out my preferences as to which department I was most interested in,” he says.

The journey begins
Upon graduation, Kenrick joined the Industry Development Division. He was responsible for overseeing the development of SMEs in the marine and offshore sector by managing an account of 30 to 40 companies.

“My role was to guide them along in projects related to process optimisation, product development and branding, amongst others. It was particularly exciting because the marine and offshore sector was booming and enjoying record growth about two years ago when I took on this role,” he enthuses.

While it was not an easy task, given that the industry people he met with everyday had much more experience and expertise, Kenrick was able to make a smooth transition from school to working life and picked up relevant industry knowledge quickly.

He credits this to his overseas university education. “My major in optimisation and supply chains helped me understand the different operations and processes in the industry better, whilst my exposure to different cultures and people made me more adaptable to different environments.”

Rotation opportunities
Two years on, after completing a secondment to the private sector, Kenrick is now with the Financing and Incentives Management Division. He helps design policies and schemes that give SMEs easier access to financing, which is especially relevant given the recent freezing of the credit market.

Kenrick says, “The job is very meaningful, but the challenge is to find a balance between helping as many companies as possible get access to loans to tide through the current global financial crisis, as well as utilising the funds – which are ultimately taxpayers’ money – in an accountable manner.”

He feels a sense of satisfaction when the programmes or funding schemes that he designs are actually implemented. However, he is most passionate about being able to help SMEs in need. “It is very fulfilling and rewarding to find out the problems of these companies and strive to help each and every one of them in the best possible way,” he explains.

It is seldom that one gets such interesting job rotations and Kenrick is grateful for the opportunities he has had. He says with a smile, “I am really lucky to be exposed to these different work experiences. For now, my focus would be to keep contributing to my current role.”

Drive, passion and will
Kenrick maintains that what he enjoys most about working at SPRING is being able to face new challenges each day. “No two days are ever the same at SPRING. The working culture here is a very dynamic one as each day is filled with meeting people of diverse backgrounds,” he adds.

As such, he believes that the essence of a FIREfly-SPRING scholar is someone who possesses a global mindset and has the drive, passion and will to give the best in everything that he or she does.

For those eager to follow his footsteps, Kenrick advises, “Look at it holistically, not just as a scholarship for your university education per se, but more importantly, what you are genuinely passionate about, what you wish to do with your career, and whether you can see yourself in the particular FIREfly organisation that you are applying to.”

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