How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
I am a doctor by training and pivoted to tech as I see a need for better digital health solutions in public healthcare. I currently work at Open Government Products as a product manager on Postman.gov.sg, which is a communication tool for government agencies to send personalised messages in bulk.
This tool has been critical in information dissemination for COVID-19. Our team started the product with a custom-built WhatsApp channel for Gov.sg on COVID-19 updates then proceeded to build a modular product that allows all agencies to send out messages quickly and efficiently through our web app and APIs.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2020?
Postman.gov.sg was the most exciting thing that I worked on in 2020. Communication from the government has always been through traditional media such as TV, radio, or newspaper. With the rise of social media, we noticed that news was no longer coming from official sources. Friends and family would forward articles through WhatsApp or Facebook. Not many millennials have a TV at home and few have a radio. Misinformation is tough to fight against if you have no presence on the channels that people use daily.
Another trend that we noticed is that people didn’t want outdated information. They wanted bitesize info that is verified and updated constantly. The way we consume information has completely been revamped but the way our government delivers information to citizens has not changed much. Postman.gov.sg empowers government agencies to reach out more quickly with more updated content.
However, we still struggle with the clarity of the messages being sent out through our product. All of us have similar experiences receiving long-winded messages from some government agency. These hard-to-understand messages just don’t get their points across and we want to change that. First, however, we need a wide adoption of Postman.gov.sg across the government to improve the content that is being sent out.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
I was very privileged to work under Prof. Ong Biau Chi, who is a winner of Her World’s Women Of The Year award for her work on the COVID-19 pandemic, early in my career. She is someone who leads by example and I benefited tremendously from her wisdom and mentorship. She taught me to think through a problem critically from multiple perspectives and gave me stretch projects that got me to where I am today. She even pushed me to get an MPH degree from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and that opened a lot of doors for me. I was very blessed to have someone who accelerated my career. I hope that one day I can be someone else’s mentor in the way that Prof. Ong had been for me and bring the village along to solve an impossible problem.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2020, what would it be?
Most of the stress that we experience comes from ourselves. It is okay to be consciously incompetent in certain areas because it is impossible to be perfect all the time. I used to work seven days a week but then I realised that I was burning out quickly every few months and this whole WFH experience helped adjust that mentality. I now know it is important to take a break and just cut off my access to digital devices.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?
It took me 3 years from the start of picking up Python casually via a Udemy course to feeling confident navigating the various tools that we use for software development. The learning curve has been steep but certainly keeps things interesting. Data engineering is something that is interesting for healthcare use cases and I would love to sharpen my knowledge on the topic.
What are your priorities for 2021?
Finding interesting problems to solve is what keeps me going and will always be a priority. I love complex problems that seem like a ball of tangled yarn. One of the pieces of advice I have gotten is that I have an interesting voice and expertise so I would like to write more.
What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2021?
Convince government agencies that concise messages that are to the point are better for the recipient.
What has been your fondest memory from the past year?
Being able to take my kid to playgrounds early in the morning before I start my day since I don’t have to commute to the office anymore. That one additional hour per day is well spent on quality family time.