Lifelong Skills From Short-Term Stints

For a few months every year, public officers under the Talent Attachment Programme are posted to a local private company to expand their industry knowledge and build their professional skills. Two officers share their takeaways from this experience.
Find out how two officers pursued learning in different environments under the Talent Attachment Programme.

When public officer Jocelyn Lang began her attachment at a local company, Common Ground, in November 2020, Singapore was just a few months into Phase 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The civic centre in Bedok had been set up in 2019 in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). Common Ground builds communities by developing citizens’ self-awareness, strategic skills and social connections through curated in-person experiences. Like many other organisations in Singapore, its operations were waylaid because of COVID-19, and it had to review its plans in light of the pandemic.

She thus joined Common Ground at a “pivotal period”, Jocelyn recalled. Now a Senior Manager (Strategy) at the Prime Minister’s Office, Communications Group, she began the attachment under the Public Service Division’s Talent Attachment Programme (TAP).

The programme allows public officers to develop their capabilities through short stints at private companies. This helps them develop new skillsets and better understand these companies’ needs and challenges.

Jocelyn (left) with community members at Common Ground.
Jocelyn (left) with community members at Common Ground.

Power in Diversity

When Jocelyn joined Common Ground, the company was restarting its operations and solidifying their company’s vision and strategy. This coincided with a review of their partnership agreement with MCCY. She worked together with the team to solidify and articulate its vision strategy.

Being both a Common Ground staff and a public officer, Jocelyn was able to take the lead in presenting this strategy to MCCY and offering her unique perspective.

“It was a very fruitful meeting – not like your run-of-the-mill presentations, more like a conversation between partners,” Jocelyn shared. “Each party could freely share their perspectives and build on each other’s ideas to bring to life their vision for the community-building sector in Singapore. The meeting brought to life what partnerships could look like.”

“The conversation was not a typical one between a government agency and a vendor, but one between equal partners with unique vantage points. It was special to be part of that, and embody the diverse lenses present in the room.”

In her six months at Common Ground, Jocelyn helped to initiate a range of partnership projects across the public, private and people sectors. Even as she gained new insights from her interactions with changemakers and thought leaders, Jocelyn learnt to appreciate the value of her own experiences.

“Working here has opened my eyes to the power of diversity and different viewpoints, and how much we can learn from one another,” she said. “I discovered how I could use my experiences and lenses to bring a unique contribution to the table – and be unabashed about that.”

Mr Samuel Tan from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

A New Way of Working

For Mr Samuel Tan from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), his TAP stint is helping him develop his skills in a different but refreshing way – by working with data.

When he began his attachment at e-commerce company Shopee in July 2021, Samuel had to pivot from a people-focused role to a data-driven one.

His work at IMDA as a Senior Manager (Digital Industry Singapore) involved supporting the growth of technology companies through capability building, overseas expansion and partnerships.

At Shopee, however, data-centric methods are used to understand and serve its users. Decision-making is largely driven by insights from datasets.

“This data-driven approach cuts across all the projects that I have worked on and was a new skill that I had to pick up on the job,” Samuel explained. A logical, structured approach to data analysis also has to be adopted so that it is relevant and applicable to Shopee’s diverse stakeholders.

This meant that Samuel had to learn to develop solutions in an organised, analytical and thorough manner – a skill he hopes to apply in his work at IMDA.

Samuel had to learn to develop solutions in an organised, analytical and thorough manner.

One Learns, All Benefit

Samuel’s TAP stint has been an opportunity to not only improve himself but his team as well.

He has observed, for example, that Shopee has a robust culture of experimentation. Pilot projects are run before scaling up, allowing teams to test new ideas and find creative solutions to problems. As a Business Analyst at Shopee, Samuel was involved in a few of these pilot projects, from conceptualisation to implementation.

Samuel hopes to bring back this spirit of innovation when he returns to the Public Service. “This would empower my team to think out of the box, and solve problems collectively and creatively,” he said.

Jocelyn’s attachment at Common Ground has similarly inspired her to bring back new ways of working to the Public Service.

One such process is an “ideation meeting”, where a team sets aside two to three hours for creative brainstorming. These meetings are meant for sharing and exploring ideas, with less pressure to arrive at a solution. “These are very different from meetings to get clarity on work tasks – which could be done much more quickly,” Jocelyn explained.

Besides productivity, Jocelyn has also used her experience in facilitation and training to help her colleagues better understand their strengths by conducting a CliftonStrengths workshop – a self-assessment tool she had learnt about from a Common Ground colleague.

For officers who are interested in participating in TAP, Samuel recommends going in with an open mind to learn new things and adapt to new ways of working. “It may be challenging at the beginning, but this experience will let you go beyond your comfort zone and help you grow as a professional,” he reflected.

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    Jul 18, 2022
    Hidayah Md Sham
    Felicia Keok
    Courtesy of Samuel and Jocelyn
    Hong Myungjin
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