How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

As a Product Designer, I design digital user interfaces, systems and applications in my line of work. In my team, Open Government Products (OGP), we aim to create simple and smooth user experiences in our products to help improve citizens’ lives by making it easy for them to adapt digital solutions.

I had the great opportunity to work on when we were moving towards digital parking in 2017. With design principles such as simple, fuss-free, and ‘usefulness is priority’ in mind, we designed an interface that is not only intuitive but timeless.

From its launch in October 2017 till September 2020, we have more than S$36 million parking sessions to date, 81% proportion of cars have used and more than S$9 million refunded to drivers for unused parking time.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

The most impactful project I worked on this year is Homer – a system to track location and health status for people under Quarantine Order (QO) and Stay-Home Notice (SHN).

There are 3 products under Homer – a SMS web application to do spot-checks, a native app for constant monitoring, and an enforcement dashboard for real time enforcement and analytics.

The Homer system has helped to monitor more than 300,000 users across 4 government agencies (MOH, MOM, MOE, ICA) under QO and SHN. Users under QO and SHN can conveniently send their health reports 3 times a day, which helps in the early detection of Covid-19.

Since the app’s launch in April 2020, MOH has saved more than S$10 million while monitoring more than 46,000 PUQs on Homer.

The app together with the admin dashboard has greatly reduced manual work for enforcement officers by flagging out potential breaches. This is because the dashboard is able to track PUQs who do not submit their location or leave the allowed geo-fence in real time. These violations are visualised on a map, and a facial recognition engine verifies a user’s identity through submitted selfies.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

I must say, because of Covid-19, I learnt to work with whatever tools I have on hand and tackle each problem as it comes. A pandemic is not something we ever planned for, so I had to adapt quickly using methods which might seem unorthodox, just to get the job done. Tackling each issue as it approached was also my mechanism for not letting the multitude of problems overwhelm my work and personal life.

While working on Homer, we used creative ways to conduct our user studies and experiments. We contacted the users through phone calls and met them via Google Meet (so they can share their screens) to find out how they are interacting with the app. At some point, we also went down to quarantine locations with PPE to interact with and understand our users better.

For another product I was working on, Postman, in order to keep the team aligned in our product vision and goals, I conducted a virtual brainstorming workshop using Mural. The challenges are real. Remote workshopping is tougher than it actually looks. To keep everyone’s energy going when not facing one another physically is super hard work.

There is a great deal of learning from these unique experiences. I definitely learnt how to manage my own expectations and don’t be too hard on myself when things don’t go as expected. And this a hard thing for me to do cause I am sort of a perfectionist 😀

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

I’m looking forward to using Figma, a design tool, to its full potential. It offers many interesting, useful, and productive plug-ins. And it’s a powerful tool that has already helped streamline our work processes this year. It has enabled us to design, prototype, and handover assets to our engineers seamlessly. So I am excited and look forward to seeing what other cool things I can achieve with Figma in 2021.

What are your priorities for 2021?

Maturing the design team and supporting each other as we grow. Continue advocating and evangelising design and user experience in OGP and beyond, so that we can bring UX maturity levels of OGP products to the next level possible.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?

We all know that technology tools and trends evolve fast and there is always a constant need to catch up and stay ahead – simply said, to stay current and fit in.

Many women feel the extra pressure to perform after they embrace motherhood especially after being away from work for maternity leave or for taking care of their
children, and from my personal experience, it is definitely not easy and takes a lot of physical and mental strength.

So I think it’s important to find a team:
– That suits your work and life principles because you’re going to devote your time to it
– That values your opinion and appreciates learning and growth
– That empathise and respects your personal life beyond office hours
– Whom you think will celebrate you

I would definitely look at the team’s culture and look at the team’s Head or Director to see how he or she manages the team. If you have this vibe the people under them are happy, more likely you will be too.

Write a message for your future self.

Hello future self,

I don’t know when you will read this. But I hope that when you receive this message you will remember to: Never lose sight of what makes you love what you do. Don’t ever let work turn into a chore you dread the most. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. Find joy even in the simplest littlest things in life. Appreciate and treasure time with family and friends. And most importantly, love and care for yourself like no one ever would.

Self care tips: breathe deeply, go for a walk, listen to music, talk to someone, try shower medication, light a candle, drink lots of water, declutter your space, be kind to yourself.