MND EDGE Scholar Tan Jun Chao shares about how the organisation offers developmental opportunities to those who wish to advance their capabilities.
‘MND’s work touches on many aspects of our lives and is highly visible – whether it is in the food we see at the supermarket, the parks we visit, or the buildings that we live and work in. Knowing that I am able to contribute directly to the well-being of our citizenry gives me a sense of purpose,’ said Jun Chao who was the Deputy Director of MND’s Infrastructure Division before his secondment to the National Parks Board.
The Infrastructure Division oversees policies related to food safety and supply resilience, animal management and welfare, the regulation and development of the built environment sector, and the greening of our parks and spaces. As part of his portfolio in the division, Jun Chao conducted research and strived to develop the built environment sector. He also sought ways to raise the capabilities of our construction industry.
On receiving the MND EDGE Postgraduate Scholarship in 2015, Jun Chao pursued the Nanyang Fellows MBA programme at NTU. ‘A postgraduate education has equipped me with skills that enable me to solve issues in a more strategic and thoughtful manner. It has broadened my horizons and expanded my network with people from different walks of life and nationalities,’ he explained.
There was also an MND EDGE Programme for the scholars. This is an intensive three-week course conducted by MND’s Centre for Liveable Cities. It brings together officers from various government agencies to learn more about the unique challenges faced by Singapore. This allows officers to understand how good and dynamic governance is essential to Singapore’s progress.
Jun Chao added, ‘We also had the opportunity to visit other successful cities such as Seoul and bring useful learning points that could be applied in Singapore’s context. I learnt so much from the other participants in areas outside my portfolio, such as public health, education and parenthood policies. The course was an eye-opener.’
With these unique opportunities under his belt, Jun Chao returned to MND in a better position to confront its challenges. He shared that one key challenge is in balancing stakeholders’ interests with transforming the built environment sector. ‘We had to convince stakeholders from both public and private sectors that a fundamental change was necessary to transform the built environment sector and make it more sustainable and attractive. Through a calibrated approach of using incentives, engagement and legislation, we are starting to see positive results’, he said.
Jun Chao also acknowledged that another challenge is the rising public expectations of the government. ‘While constructive criticism is always welcome, we do receive feedback and requests from time to time which may benefit specific individuals or groups, but may cause inconvenience to many others and utilise a substantial amount of public resources,’ he shared. ‘This is something we grapple with, and we communicate this to the public so that they understand the constraints we are facing.’
He understands that coming back after his postgraduate education means taking bolder steps towards more effective and sustainable outcomes. He acknowledged this by adding, ‘While you will be given opportunities as a scholar, there would also be higher expectations to fulfil. One has to perform well and demonstrate one’s capabilities in order to progress in their career.’
Jun Chao is currently appointed as the Director (Park Planning) of NParks’ Policy and Planning Division. Together with other government agencies, he safeguards the need for green recreational spaces and strengthens our biodiversity resilience through upstream land use planning.
Apart from being able to face challenges with greater insight, Jun Chao hopes to see his scholarship experiences bear fruit on a more personal level. He shared, ‘I aspire to be a good manager and leader who can help others reach their full potential. I find this more fulfilling than getting recognition for a job well done. In five years, I hope to have made a significant impact on other officers.’
Having benefitted from the scholarship in various ways, Jun Chao advocates the commitment of MND to its staff’s development. ‘MND is an employer that places staff development and welfare among its top priorities,’ he highlighted.
With all that said, he encourages prospective MND EDGE Undergraduate Scholarship applicants to be certain about their career choice. It is necessary in order for scholarship recipients to be convinced of their future role and be receptive to MND’s developmental opportunities. He shared some relevant advice to prospective scholars, ‘Take your time to find a scholarship programme that you are really interested in. If you are successful, commit to it fully and enjoy the journey.’
TAN JUN CHAO
MND EDGE Postgraduate Scholarship
Attained: MBA (Nanyang Fellows) from NTU
Now: Director/Park Planning, National Parks Board (on secondment from MND.)
From: Hwa Chong JC