Transitioning to be a Singapore Civil Servant

Wanted to put this off till tomorrow, but can’t sleep.

So they have came back with an offer. They = IDA, the NGSV team. Not much detail for now, but basically it’s green light from IDA. Then I’ve finally cleared all bosses today, clearer blessings – although the question kept coming back: what exactly do you want? It’s not what I want dammit – I want to go home! And that’s not an acceptable route based on the bond clauses.


The problem with me for the 2 years in Singapore has always been simple – I still can’t rid myself of the citizenship clause. I still don’t know how profound the impact will be a year later, but it is almost like something _will_ blow up. I’m not going to keep quiet obviously (as I’m blogging here, duh), but I also don’t want this to blow up. I’ve been a good boy so far, hopefully living up to the expectations of whoever eager to tap my brain and my time to get things done, as well as pushing agendas that will have a positive impact for the people I care.

Oh by the way, this is what I’ve signed up for: Next Gen National Broadband Network – and you go like, what the heck do you know about broadband 🙂 Sorry la, don’t know doesn’t mean cannot learn ma.. (spoken in Syamsul’s accent) It was unfortunately more opportunistic rather than a muscled in thing – they need men, and I happen to be loitering too much at vendor events.

This will also keep me on my “1 job 1 year” schedule, a mini target that I set in school when I realized that I was moving every few months to stay in a new place. Modeled after Extreme Programming practices, I thought since I’m young, it’s better to keep everything short and sweet, get the best and give the best in every year in something new, and move on. It’s hard to move on for most people – and I’m sure someday it’ll be the same for me. But constant change keeps me on my feet. You don’t wait for your environment to get better – you make it better, and if it refuses to change, you go change another environment.


So here’s the deal, I’ll try to articulate to everyone “what I want”. It’s going to be cheesy – maybe I’ll get better at doing these things as I learn more from other civil servants – but it is necessary to say it out, otherwise I IM-ing one person by one person is too slow.

I want to go home

This is like an eventual “goal in life”, but it’s funny how I’ve been away from home for a good 10 years now (will be 10 full years coming January 8, since we ASEAN scholars of ’98 checked in to our hostels on that day), and not a day pass by that I didn’t think about what’s wrong with Malaysia la, what’s happening to my high school friends la, how can I shape my career path so that I can muscle my way back home la, how am I going to support my family after my parents retire la, etc.

But it won’t be easy to just go back. My “network” is non-existent, even the high school ones are weak as I’m no good in actually connecting with everyone, only a selected few. My resume will spell trouble in certain companies who have an aversion to previously Singapore affiliated workers. And the list of speculations can go on and on. No point thinking too much about this one I guess?

I want to earn a lot of money

Easy goals hor. But really not for the type of luxury living thing, like buy boat buy island buy Tan Sri. i’ve moved around and seen enough things on how money can make a difference in a big way, be it for the needy musicians, or for charitable causes, or just to make something out of nothing – i.e. starting a business.

On the book that I flip through every other week: How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization, lesson 1 says: always take the job that offers the most money. Good start, but not enough. I’m in a ~$.5M debt position since the day I started serving my bond in SG. Currently, I don’t know of a better way out of this than to fulfill the obligations. It’s a contradiction isn’t it.

I want to make the world a better place

Woohoo, right, so specifically, I think even though there isn’t one particular thing that I have in mind, in general I though one should expend energy to make the world better for others first before oneself. It’s strange because when you do something for others, there are (world population – 1) other people to work for, and thus you can create a scalable solution for them. Whereas if you do something for yourself, you’re essentially working to make the life of one person better.

In SCS, we’ve been making headway in green technology, using lots of tools to reduce grunt work during collaboration, etc. Many of these have the mini goals that share the same theme. People’s life are supposed to better, not worse (typically made by people taking care of security, compliance etc.) – so I hope that my move to IDA can allow me to achieve that too.

I want to make music

Ah, finally a down to earth one. Well, unfortunately for the remaining 4 years of my bond, this goal will be have to be secondary and fly-by-night in nature. It’s still all good with concerts coming up (this Thursday!! Come to Esplanade Recital Studio!!!! TPO plays Sibelius 1 and 3) and lots of arrangement works still being commissioned.

I also want to make the music that I know more accessible to the various culture around the world, bridging it with the techno stuff I’ve been doing in the day. Well, something like that.

Is that enough?


I mean, it’s not possible to have a “deep” discussion with “business people” on fluffy philosophy, or at least that’s the case with the Singapore IT industry people, including SCS. So I have to speak at levels that make sense. Frankly, even though the winning proposition that I can “bring an industry perspective to the statutory board, and vice versa” is nice to hear and creates a triple win situation (I win, SCS win, IDA win) – it’s just like sales talk: true (as in correct) but not true (as in from the heart). It would be too simplistic to say that I’m doing this because I have to and IDA is the logical place to go (MDA too, but…); it would also be too serious to say that I have some noble ambitions to change the face of the telco industry in Singapore once and for all, destroy the monopoly of the networking infrastructure and create a utilitarian free/cheap for all network that will allow thousands of services to bloom; it would also be a bit too pretentious to say that it’s a strategic move for me to get other things that I want from both entities, with some hidden agenda and stuff. The truth can reside somewhere in between.

Ultimately, as long as the job pays for the car, everyone else is happy, and I am still on my 4 “wants” articulated above, then it should be fine.

So, do you think I’m government material? If you’re a civil servant, what do you think I need to do or stop doing? When do you think is a good time to move?

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2 Responses

  1. infact, i think you are the material for civil servant. because you can always follow the rule :p (even if you don’t want to)

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