How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
Most Singaporeans would be familiar with SP Group as the operator of our nation’s power grid and gas transmission and distribution network. These are mission-critical services for our economy and the everyday lives of residents. Without a secure, stable and resilient supply of electricity, many activities we take for granted – access to the internet and electronic devices, cool comfort of air-conditioning, switching on the lights – cannot take place. We are the invisible team that works 24/7 behind the scenes to support the nation’s aspirations and ambitions.
As Director of Network and Operation Technology Systems in SP Group, my key responsibility is to support, optimise and modernise our data network infrastructure. This is a critical enabler of a wide variety of functions that safeguards the security and reliability of our electricity and gas network and provides secured network access for all internal and external systems to provide efficient and seamless communication and customer services.
From remote switching to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity and physical security of our substations, to generating bills and supporting payments, our work directly enhances the lives of Singapore residents.
I was part of the core team led by the Energy Market Authority to begin piloting smart metering technology in 2012, to prepare our technology know-how for the smart metering infrastructure that is currently being rolled out nation-wide. The project upgrades our network to ensure seamless interface with smart meters for utilities, enabling households and businesses to monitor their electricity usage almost real-time. This gives end-users more clarity of their consumption patterns and encourages conscious choices to reduce energy usage, which helps to lower their electricity costs and carbon footprint.
What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?
Network transformation is an on-going initiative to ensure our data network infrastructure continues to be fit-for-purpose and scalable for future technology. This drives greater efficiency, security, and management control of our data network. While technology upgrade is important, it is even more essential to upgrade and improve processes and talent skillsets. Through this transformation, our engineers are able to upskill and operate the next generation of network technology including coding and automation. This in turn enables our users to self-serve, improving quality and consistency of work and frees up resources to improve productivity.
What is one unexpected learning from 2021?
I took over a new team in the midst of the pandemic. Not being able to meet everyone in person pushed me to explore different ways to build rapport remotely. I learnt that the ability to communicate, listen and empathise are very important leadership traits. They have allowed me to go beyond an office-based environment with my team and helped me find ways to motivate everyone towards our common goal. With the Covid-19 measures in place for over 18 months, my ability to engage my team and more importantly, ensure their mental well-being became a test of my leadership capability.
What’s your favourite memory from the past year?
We conduct an annual staff convention for over 3,000 employees. For the first time this year, we had to do it live virtually, and it was both a nerve-wrecking yet fun experience. We experimented with different platforms and did multiple rehearsals before the actual day, but the adrenalin during the actual broadcast was still incredible!
Working as part of the multi-functional team meant that I had to coordinate with my backend team on monitoring the live-stream video quality and manage any incoming user queries as many are unfamiliar or had technical issues. At the same time, I had to advise the front-end production team on technical set-up and ensure open communications between all teams. Our main priority was to achieve staff engagement, enable clear and impactful messaging and sustain the pace of the event. It was great teamwork that allowed us to sail through the day and our efforts were highly appreciated. It made us feel like we successfully produced an Academy Awards live broadcast, and that we deserved an Oscar for our efforts!
What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022?
I would like to start my exploration in Python programming to see how it can help my team to automate some of our manual processes. Python is a simple and yet powerful language and I hope my team will eventually be able to adopt this programming language to automate at scale.
What are your priorities for 2022?
We have several on-going projects with key milestones in 2022. My priority is to bring out the best in my team to deliver on these initiatives collectively. I believe in teamwork and that everyone brings unique value to the team. This would be through consistent monitoring and mentoring; and be with them as part of the team and assist if necessary. I would also look into opportunities of synergies among the teams and to ensure the delivery of the outcome is successful and efficient.
Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?
I have been very fortunate to have met a few mentors throughout my 20 years in SP Group. Not only did they see the potential in me and provide me with the trust and guidance to go further, they also imparted many valuable lessons on authentic leadership. I learnt to always prioritise the well-being of the team; the importance of being calm and logical especially in times of crises; and that the best way to gain trust is to lead by example.
What gets you up in the morning?
The opportunity to try new ideas and do something different that will make a positive impact on the organisation and Singapore. SP Group owns and operates electricity and gas transmission and distribution businesses in Singapore. In other words, we have a big responsibility of keeping the lights on for Singapore, enabling the nation’s sustainable growth and development. To do that, we are proactively looking into low-carbon, smart energy solutions to empower the future of energy for the nation. This greater purpose is what motivates me.