Intrigued by the workings of diplomacy and international relations, I joined MFA fresh out of university, lured by the appeal of overseas postings as a chance to see the world. After 22 years, my passion for diplomacy has never wavered because I believe that I am still able to contribute to MFA's work and that I can still make a difference. With regular rotations to different assignments, this job rarely gets dull; there is always something new to learn and experience.
MFA provides a unique exposure for you to be involved in a wide range of experiences. There is the rigour of political and economic analyses as well as the dynamism of contributing to the policy making process. At the same time, by representing Singapore in overseas missions, you get to be on the frontline of diplomacy. Very few other careers offer the same kind of opportunities that nurtures you to be versatile and nimble, yet also strategic in thinking.
As Singapore's Ambassador to Vietnam from 2016 to 2021, I was the top salesperson and promoter, as well as the most vocal advocate of Singapore. I ran a team that focused on profiling, managing and promoting our nation's interests, and branding in Vietnam. As the eyes and ears of Singapore, we monitored political, economic and social developments in Vietnam. With these insights, we made incisive assessments that enabled MFA and the government to better understand Vietnam, its long term trends, as well as bilateral relations. We also offered prompt and efficient consular services to Singaporeans and kept in touch with the overseas Singaporean community in Vietnam through various outreach activities.
Some of the significant highlights and memorable achievements during my career include being part of history and making history. My first posting was to Hong Kong from 1992-2000, where I witnessed the historic handovers of both Hong Kong and Macao. The other proud moment was when I represented Singapore as a delegate to the 54th United Nations General Assembly in 1999. In my previous role as the Director-General of the Americas Directorate, I led a team to plan, organise and execute Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's official visit to Washington D.C. in August 2016, the first such visit in 31 years.
Of course, work in MFA is not all glitz and glamour. It takes a lot of hard work and personal sacrifices. Relocating every few years can be physically and psychologically demanding especially when you have a family of your own. Invariably, you are taken out of your comfort zone and expected to adjust quickly to new situations and circumstances. The toughest challenge for me has been being away from home, family and friends for a good part of my working life in MFA. The overseas postings and regular overseas travels mean that you often have to miss weddings, birthdays, and gatherings with your loved ones.
A career in MFA offers a panoply of experiences. The only limits are how open and receptive you are to trying out new experiences and also immersing in them. Be confident, adaptable and resilient. Have an open mind and an eagerness to learn.