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NEW Scholarship Is Not Just About NEWater

Damien Fu enjoys his workplace especially when he is entrusted with autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Why did you choose the scholarship?
The path that led me to apply for PUB’s NEW Scholarship was not so straightforward. As a teenager who was about to make the most important decision of his life, I did what most clueless ones would do: taking whichever course most people were enrolling in. With that, I was en route to becoming an economist. However, after pulling off a few short job stints, I realised that paper-pushing and formulating economics models were not my thing. I preferred being out on the field, solving problems that I can touch and see.

Back then, Singapore was breaking new frontiers with the high-grade reclaimed water known as NEWater. Despite the fact that Singapore started with scarce water resources, we surpassed our limitations and became a world leader in this field. Furthermore, PUB has accomplished other engineering feats like converting the entire island into a giant water collection basin and transforming surrounding seawater to precious drinking water. I was convinced of PUB’s cause and wanted to contribute to it as well.

What is the most memorable thing that happened in your university life?
A good friend once told me something that has stuck with me till today: ‘Every day, do something that makes you uncomfortable’. The day he said it, I got news that I was offered the opportunity to go to Israel for a student exchange.

There, I was immersed into a whole new world and experience. People in Israel have a steely attitude about them; a toughness that I could not quite explain. The ladies there could walk around with rifles slung across their backs! I mingled with ultra-orthodox Jews who shunned the internet and celebrated the annual Gay Pride Parade with thousands of liberals. As diverse as they may seem, these people all share a common love for life.
Israel has no lack of deserts given its geographical location. I even took the ­opportunity to experience life like the ­Bedouins, nomads of the desert. Void of technology and any form of ­communication with the rest of world, I lived their ways in a tiny hut tucked away in the mountain ­ranges of Wadi Rum.

I was glad I took the leap of faith and gave Israel a chance.

What do you love about your job and the company?

Currently, I am with the Project Management Division in the Water Reclamation Network Department. Simply put, my job revolves around constructing sewer pipes. More significantly, I enjoy how dynamic my job is as I do everything from construction management to public relations to hydraulic modelling. Every day brings forth new challenges that require innovative solutions. Beneath the concrete pavements we travel on every day lie a huge network of utility cables and pipes. And through this cluttered network, we have to find space for more sewer pipes.

Beyond construction, there is plenty of learning opportunities as many of our projects are cross-departmental. We are part of an entire ecosystem and it is interesting to see how all parts come together to serve a greater purpose.

Daniel H Pink famously wrote in his book, Drive, that Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are three important elements that motivate people in the 21st century. PUB has provided me with the autonomy to handle my work, the opportunity to learn and master and the purpose to serve a greater good. I can say that anyone with an interest in the water industry and a willingness to learn would be able to find a place here at PUB.

Damien Fu Fengyuan
National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship
Age: 25
Now: Engineer at the Water ­Reclamation (Network) Department
Attained: Bachelor of Engineering ­(Environmental Engineering)
from NUS
From: Hwa Chong Institution