BECOMING an engineer was a natural choice for Miss Wan Fang, 26, who not only has an aptitude for mathematics and the sciences, but also a passion for engineering.
“I was taught to think like an engineer and appreciate the rigorous type of training engineers undergo,” says Miss Wan, whose civil engineer father supported her choice to apply for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship.
It was through him that she became aware of the kind of impact that LTA has on the lives of people in Singapore.
“I knew then that a career there would be meaningful and challenging, and I felt it was a place where I could put my strengths to good use,” she says.
Miss Wan appreciates that the scholarship — which has a five-year bond — gave her the chance to study overseas for both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
She studied electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States, and graduated in 2012.
She went on to earn a master’s degree in management science and engineering from Stanford University in California in 2013.
While her undergraduate education focused on technical knowledge, her master’s course taught her more about management skills.
Miss Wan enjoyed the conducive learning environment at both universities as classes were structured and passionate faculty members were sincere in helping their students learn and not just get top grades.
“I became a stronger critical thinker in a safe learning environment and realised the difference a strong faculty can make to a student’s passion for learning,” she says.
Keeping an open mind
Miss Wan joined LTA in 2013 as an executive engineer in its Rail Infrastructure and Expansion division.
Until last year, she was part of the Tuas West Extension project that involved testing a new signalling system.
She had reviewed the design of the new driverless train system and ensured that the trains met safety and performance standards. She also managed complex interfaces between the various sub-systems of the railway and paved the way for a smooth transition from the traditional system to an upgraded one.
It was a good learning experience as she had to work the occasional night shift and interact with the maintenance crew and train operators on duty.
Miss Wan was promoted to senior project engineer in 2015 before being recently redesignated to her current role as a deputy manager in rail development at the Policy Division.
Her duties involve crafting policies for the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) Operator tender and developing policy decisions for the High Speed Rail procurement process.
In her work on the tender for the TEL, she met the various stakeholders and gained invaluable experience through rigorous debates about each policy.
She also realised the importance of having an open mind and persevering to see a project through.
Regardless of the challenges, she appreciates that her work is never mundane and is grateful for the constant learning opportunities.
Young LTA employees like her may manage a small part of a project in the early stages of their career before taking on bigger responsibilities such as ensuring the delivery of a sub-system of an MRT project. With more experience, they may handle larger assignments such as entire signalling systems across various MRT projects.
“Each step of the way, you will learn things that will lead you to the next stage of your career,” she says.