The drive and desire for a rewarding career overseas motivated Liew Pei Shan and Gavin Dominic Roch to join MFA as Foreign Service Administration Specialists (FSAS). Under the Foreign Service Administration Specialist Scheme, there is a myriad of career opportunities to suit each individual’s interests and competencies. Progression is based on demonstrated performance and potential. Officers undergo training programmes at various stages of their careers, and specific to their needs.
Tell us more about your decision and reasons to be a part of MFA.
Pei Shan: I started my career in the Human Resource Directorate in August 2010. The opportunity to serve in the public sector and overseas posting was attractive. The opportunities to learn new skills through job rotations and movement within the Ministry was an incentive too.
Gavin: My desk-bound job was dull and did not suit my personality. My gut feeling told me the job scope would be challenging and a promising career move. Indeed, there has not been a dull moment during my five years at MFA and I am continuously challenged by what I do.
Liew Pei Shan
Attaché (Admin & Consular),
Consulate-General in Hong Kong
Give us a rundown of your day-to-day job scope!
Pei Shan: I handle consular work, which includes providing notarisation and legalisation services and handling ICA-related applications. I also assist the Admin Secretary in organising cultural diplomacy projects as well as managing and monitoring the Consulate’s Facebook page. At times, I may render necessary assistance to the next of kin of the Singaporean or Singaporean in distress.
Gavin: Every day is different in an Overseas Mission. I manage the local staff, oversee the maintenance of the embassy and other government owned properties, handle finance matters such as procurement from small purchases to huge contracts and plan for ministerial visits.
What do you like about being stationed at the Embassy at Washington?
Gavin: Overseas postings are an integral aspect of MFA work and one of the key reasons that attracted me to the job. When I was given the opportunity to be posted to Washington, I did not think twice. Even after two and the half years, I love that the work still challenges and energises me. We also have a very good team of officers here that work well together, and who also have become very close-knit.
Why did you accept the assignment in Hong Kong?
Pei Shan: Firstly, I wanted to gain exposure working overseas and secondly, to play a part in advancing and safeguarding Singapore’s interests. MFA provides officers, including myself, with relevant training throughout our careers to better equip us with job-related skills. The skills and knowledge that I have gained from such training had been extremely useful and practical. They are put to good use in the past two and the half years that I have been with the Singapore Consulate-General in Hong Kong.
What do you find challenging and rewarding about your roles?
Pei Shan: You must be able to think on your feet well, especially during crises. I always feel a sense of accomplishment after each case, knowing that I may have helped fellow Singaporeans. I also felt a sense of achievement when I was awarded the Excellence in Service Award last year.
Gavin: I handle multiple functions ranging from human resource to protocol and finance. Any one of these functions can be very exciting as I have to resolve issues while learning. Every task I undertake or every person I help, may it be big or small, goes a long way in safeguarding and advancing Singapore’s interests. This enforces the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel at the end of day.
Gavin Dominic Roch
Attaché (Admin & Consular),
Embassy in Washington
Share with us one memorable episode you have had during your career.
Pei Shan: I previously dealt with a Singaporean who was hospitalised in Hong Kong for over a month as he was not certified fit to be medically evacuated back to Singapore. During this time, I assisted his next-of-kin in liaising with the travel insurance company, hospital, and airline. After he was sent back to Singapore, the next-of-kin wrote an email to me to thank me, and even requested a full table at my wedding to demonstrate their gratitude. These are simple gestures, yet it assures me that my work is a source of comfort to distressed Singaporeans abroad.
Gavin: I had only been posted to Washington DC for a week when Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed on. During the condolence book signing held at the embassy, many high-level dignitaries came to pay their last respects. We had the privilege of meeting then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who shared with us how highly he regarded Mr Lee.
What advice do you have for polytechnic graduates who wish to join MFA and follow in your footsteps?
Pei Shan: You need strong interpersonal, organisational and communication skills. Resilience and the ability to work under tight deadlines are vital qualities too. As there are ample opportunities for learning and personal growth in MFA, you must have a thirst for knowledge and be driven.
Gavin: From the outside, a career in MFA can seem very glamorous. But there is a lot of hard work and personal sacrifices that come along with it. Push yourself constantly to learn and try new things; be versatile and adapt to different situations. Join MFA for the right reasons and with the right attitude you will have a very fruitful career with many opportunities and career growth.