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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Why I choose to work for Singapore's government

I was contemplating earlier this year about leaving the office and start my own thing again. It was a hard choice. So, what I did was to list down the reason for staying and they turn out to be pretty compelling. I am sharing them now to maybe give you some considerations to ponder if you are thinking about leaving your current job.

Basically, there are three strong reasons why I choose to remain in the office for another year:

The office offers unparalleled learning experiences: As part of our work, we deal with many companies and institutions, in various forms and shapes, from startups to MNCs to investors. Each and everyone of them represents a accumulative experiences of their trials and tribulations. You can see how startups fail or become successful. You see how big companies struggle with their transformations from traditional to new media. You see different business models being attempted. You see cutting edge technologies being researched on.

All these are great learning points. Only in the office are you allow to fund new innovations and learn whether they work. It is as if the $500M budget is your tution fees for learning. Where else offers such a rich learning around?

Freedom to drive national projects: It is rare that a 31 year old guy has the freedom run national programmes the way I think it will work. I don't have the answers but I have the freedom to experiment, learn from feedback and retry again. To be able to do this, especially in a government agency is a rare luxury.

For my past work, I had the freedom to create, experiment and shape an incubation effort for the entire nation.
This year, I have been tasked to head 2 interesting projects, forming nation-wide partner networks to shape 2 sectors: future of phone and future of books. Trying these different models gives me opportunity to apply and master new forms of coordination that I think will be critical in creating innovation business models for the years to come. They allowed me to master what Seth Godin calls emotional intelligence skills i.e. managing projects, visualizing success, persuading other people of your point of view, dealing with multiple priorities.

A great mentor: My boss (Google for michael yap) has been a great mentor. For the past 2 years under him, I have matured as a manager, learning stuff ranging from
  • how to do ppt to win buy-in,
  • how to think from your viewers' end,
  • how to write minutes that get you what you want,
  • how to setup meetings that win negotiations,
  • how to read you boss,
  • how to find strangle holds in contracts,
  • how to dream big,
  • how to evaluate startups,
  • how to have a natural feel for numbers, to know whether they are right or wrong at one glance
  • how to anticipate failures and to build that into contracts and mechanisms
This is perhaps the biggest reason why I am staying. Ask yourself this: is your boss a mentor or someone that merely gives you stuff to do?