Towards A Cleaner And Greener Environment
Lee Xin Min is working towards the minimization of waste in Singapore.
What do you think makes the scholarship stand out from the other scholarships on the market? Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
As I was going through the options for scholarships and university courses, I was initially unsure about what course of study I wanted to pursue. Guided by my simple desire to find something meaningful to make of my life, the degree in Environmental Engineering with the NEW Scholarship appealed to me. It was the strong sense of purpose in safeguarding the environment that resonated with me, as I felt that my work would not only be for Singapore’s benefit, but for the world and for future generations to come.
Currently, I work mainly on the planning and formulation of strategies for waste management. Five years down the road, I hope that some of the strategies that we are currently working on would have taken shape and the tangible benefits felt. I also hope to have experienced a greater variety of the environmental issues that NEA deals with, and from different perspectives such as from the operational and public engagement angles.
What do you think are your strengths that landed you the scholarship?
I think my strengths are my perseverance and drive to bring things to fruition, on top of a sincerity to serve and contribute to the people and the environment.
What was the first thing that struck you when you started working? How do you find the working culture in your department? Describe your ideal work culture.
Now that I am part of a bigger entity, my responses and actions represent not just myself, but NEA and even the government. As public servants, we have to earn the trust and respect of the public and work towards their expectations.
Even within the realm of waste management, there is a wide range of issues that my department deals with. I am thankful that there is a supportive and sharing culture in the department that encourages us to learn, collaborate and contribute across different areas, instead of only working within our prescribed individual job scope.
My ideal work culture would be one where each person has a sense of ownership over his work and is given the autonomy to get work done.
What are the most challenging responsibilities you have and how do you cope with them?
The development of new strategies such as an e-waste management framework for Singapore is especially challenging, as we have to draw up an entirely new framework from the overall concept to the little details while considering the interests of many stakeholders. We would, therefore, need to gather the necessary data and knowledge to form the basis of our framework and actively engage the stakeholders in the planning, which I am sure they are often appreciative of.
How have you been able to use what you learned for your job?
While I may not necessarily be using my calculus or fluid mechanics equations, my studies in Environmental Engineering have given me a good foundation in environmental issues, its processes and its language, enabling me to quickly pick up new things on the job. On top of this, the rigour of an engineering degree has also imparted important tools such as analytical skills and critical thinking that are invaluable in the workplace.
What gives you the most job satisfaction?
Overall, my job satisfaction comes from knowing that I am contributing to a greater cause and one that is close to my heart, instead of chasing a profit-driven bottom line. I also help to respond to public queries, and it is always heartening when people are appreciative of our work and take the initiative to do their part for the environment.
What kinds of career and personal developmental opportunities does the company provide its scholars? For example, overseas exposure, sponsorship for further studies, etc.
The opportunities are aplenty! Even before leaving for my studies in the United Kingdom, I had the opportunity to visit several waste and water treatment installations as part of the many programmes organised for scholars. This helped greatly when I later studied about waste and water treatment processes. It was interesting to be able to compare the facilities and rationale behind the processes in the UK with our own.
NEA also generously supported me in attending summer school, and in pursuing a Master’s degree in the United States after my undergraduate studies.
Since starting work, I have had the chance to attend bilateral meetings and regional forums as a representative of NEA and Singapore, and to present to the public at various platforms. All these experiences have allowed me to build up on subject matter knowledge, as well as develop my public speaking skills and self-confidence.
Tell us about your other interests.
I love outdoor adventures, and always try to encourage my colleagues to come along in my escapades! We recently kayaked and tried rock climbing, and I am certainly looking forward to more of such outings. Short breaks now and then away from the hustle and bustle of the city also help me return to the workplace feeling more refreshed.
I also enjoy some simple baking and would sometimes test my experiments on my colleagues.
What qualities are essential to have if a student is interested in the scholarship?
A real interest in the issues that NEA or PUB deals with, and a drive to safeguard the environment!
Lee Xin Min
National Environment & Water Scholarship (NEW Scholarship)
Now: Engineer (Planning), Waste and Resource
Attained: MSc in Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University, USA; BEng in Environmental Engineering, University College London, UK
From: Raffles Institutio