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MPA – Maritime Marvels

Alex Tan wanted a meaningful and challenging career.

Why did you choose the MPA Scholarship?
The maritime industry is incredibly dynamic and constitutes a key pillar of Singapore’s thriving economy. As MPA is the driving force behind Singapore’s maritime development, a scholarship with the Authority would mean I could make an impact on Singapore’s economic landscape. I was also drawn to the diversity and globally oriented nature of Singapore’s maritime ecosystem, which would allow me to network with people from all over the world. Finally, the challenge of how to remain a premier maritime hub in the face of global competition is one that I find exciting.

What do you think are your strengths that landed you the scholarship?
I think the ability to think quickly, logically and critically was what landed me the scholarship. In my opinion, this skill is one that every potential scholar needs to demonstrate during a scholarship interview.

Are there unconventional ways the company uses to select its scholars?
I recall the first round of MPA’s scholarship application process being particularly unique. Instead of a typical Q&A session, I was tasked to present several ideas on what I thought could bolster the competitiveness of Singapore’s maritime industry. Furthermore, the presentation was done before MPA’s senior management, which was a special touch, as managers at this level appear only in more advanced scholarship rounds in other organisations. Being able to interact with and receive feedback from the senior management at such an early stage was a refreshing experience.

What courses are you pursuing? Why did you choose this?
I’m pursuing a double degree in Chemical Engineering and Economics at NUS. Chemical engineering is a discipline with applications in a multitude of industries including pharmaceuticals, energy, nanotechnology and food. The opportunity to gain exposure to a wide range of topics was what initially drew me to the course.

I chose Economics as a second degree because it offered a rigorous way of understanding the world we live in. Both courses are deeply concerned with optimisation and efficiency, ideas which interest me very much.

Any advice on how to choose a university?
Course rankings are often touted as an easy way to choose a university. However, the reality is not so simple. Besides using course rankings to shortlist some universities of your choice, you should think about other factors that are important to you as well. These factors include student-teacher ratio, the types of programmes the university offers and the overall university culture. I chose NUS because it allowed me to pursue a double degree. In addition, NUS is a well-connected university with a myriad of international programmes.

What are the most memorable things that happened in your university life?
Two experiences stood out for me. The first was my stint as the student lead of Start-Up@Singapore, our nation’s largest start-up competition. Although managing the year-long competition resulted in many sleepless nights, my team and I were able to grow the competition into its largest edition ever, which made the experience especially satisfying. Another memorable experience was my participation in the NUS Overseas College programme, where I interned as a full-time engineer at a nanotech start-up in Silicon Valley.

Tell us about the internships with MPA.

I did two internships so far. My first internship was with the Corporate Communications department. There, I was involved with the planning and execution of the Singapore Maritime Week. The scale of the event was immense, requiring a high level of coordination between different teams as well as an extreme attention to details. My second internship was with the Planning Division, where I undertook a study of the European maritime landscape. Collecting, analysing and presenting the data in an insightful yet easy-to-grasp fashion was a challenging experience.

I loved how my internship experiences took me beyond the desk. Interacting with MPA’s stakeholders like maritime professionals and foreign dignitaries was a memorable experience. MPA’s ­organisational culture also has a professional yet cozy vibe – my internships had been very ­enjoyable!

What kinds of career and personal developmental opportunities does MPA provides for its scholars?
MPA has many departments with unique and challenging portfolios. As a scholar, you can highlight your preferences in the divisions that you would like to intern in. By offering its scholars job rotation opportunities, one can glean a wide variety of skills from various departments. MPA scholars can also benefit from numerous talent development opportunities that will allow them to develop their leadership and management skills.

What do you see as life’s most important value and why?

I think gratitude is one of life’s most important values. Having gratitude means taking nothing for granted. In doing so, one gains a sense of appreciation for his circumstances as well as the people around him. As technology improves our lives and makes what was previously inaccessible accessible, it is easy to forget that nothing good comes easy. By taking nothing for granted, one also strives to preserve or improve his livelihood along with those around him. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have enjoyed while growing up.

Alex Tan Da Zhang
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Age: 25
Now: Currently pursuing ­Chemical Engineering ­­and ­Economics, NUS
From: Hwa Chong JC