Charting her dream career

One of Ms Mieko Otsuki’s earliest childhood memories is playing with smooth, round stones from African riverbeds. Inspired by her geo-science engineer dad, she would also study the green squiggles on satellite images.

It was for this dream to follow in her dad’s footsteps and specialise in geography and cartography that Ms Otsuki applied for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Undergraduate Scholarship.

Ms Otsuki graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the National University of Singapore in 2001 and a Master of Science in Town Planning from the University College London in the United Kingdom in 2006.

She had internships at URA and was sent to Hong Kong to conduct a comparative study on land dedicated to roads there and in Singapore.

“I remember wandering around the lanes of Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui, counting the number of road lanes,” says Ms Otsuki. “Of course, this is now all possible on the desktop with various Geographic Information System software.”

The modules for her studies abroad were part of a Royal Planning Institute Programme, which offered valuable opportunities to learn from experienced UK planners and work on projects pertaining to urban regeneration, such as the adaptive reuse of London’s old railway land.

Ms Otsuki is now group director of Corporate Strategy at URA, and has applied the skills and knowledge she has gained from her experiences in a variety of projects in Singapore.

One of the notable projects is the Master Plan Review in 2008 — a major exercise involving multiple studies, plans and on-the-ground engagement, culminating in the revised Master Plan that would guide Singapore’s development for the next 10 to 15 years. Another one is the proposal for the Landscape for Urban Spaces and High Rises 3.0 programme to increase sky-rise greenery and promote urban farming on rooftops.

“The scholarship has given me the passport to an exciting and meaningful professional life where I’m living out my passion and helping others through my work,” she says.