With global operations in 50 Overseas Missions worldwide, MFA officers are instrumental in advancing Singapore’s interests. Joyelle Chen Pingxuan, Attaché, High Commission in Canberra and Mohamed Amin Bin Abdul Rahiman, Attaché, High Commission in Kuala Lumpur joined MFA on the Foreign Service and Administration Specialist (FSAS) scheme. Both of them have the unique opportunity to serve overseas as part of Singapore’s diplomatic corps.
An Honourable Profession
When asked why she chose to join MFA, Joyelle responds, “After my polytechnic graduation, my plan was to further my studies but I was undecided on the course to apply for. My parents had then encouraged me to find a job in the public service to first gain some work experience. I heeded their advice and looked through [email protected] portal. The FSAS scheme caught my eye. I was especially interested in the training which MFA offers, which includes a study trip to one of the overseas Missions.”
Mohamed Amin’s objective of joining MFA was to make a difference. He says, “I chanced upon an article about how MFA officers assisted Singaporeans who were affected by the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. I admired the dedication of these officers and how they rendered consular assistance amidst the chaos. The very next year, I saw an opening for the FSAS position in MFA and applied for it.”
Mohamed Amin Bin Abdul Rahiman
Attaché (Admin & Consular),
High Commission in Kuala Lumpur
Joyelle and Mohamed Amin are exposed to a variety of functions in their jobs. At the Singapore High Commission in Canberra, Joyelle manages a wide-ranging portfolio, which ranges from the collection of public monies to the management of fixed assets and building maintenance. When a Singapore delegation visits, she also has to perform protocol duties and facilitate airport clearance for them.
Consular work forms the other bulk of Joyelle’s portfolio. This includes the processing and approving of Singapore visa applications, assisting the next-of-kin with the repatriation of bodies for Singaporeans who passed away in Australia, and conducting prison visits for arrested Singaporeans. She also helps to man a 24-hour hotline to tend to emergencies, such as Singaporeans losing their passports while holidaying in Australia.
“Every day poses different challenges; there is never a dull day at work,” says Joyelle. Nonetheless, she considers it a privilege and honour to be able to work alongside some of our nation’s brightest people in advancing Singapore’s interests.
Similarly, Mohamed Amin also handles diverse functions in his daily work. Besides providing consular assistance to Singaporeans in distress, he needs to juggle administrative tasks such as managing local staff, procurement matters, building maintenance and security, handling of VIP visits, and organising major events such as the annual National Day Reception.
In particular, there was a crisis which left a deep impression on him. “During my second week of posting, the Sabah earthquake happened and I was tasked to assist the Singaporean victims who were affected by the crisis. I was glad to be able to make a difference by rendering assistance to the earthquake victims and their family.”
Joyelle Chen Pingxuan
AAttaché (Admin & Consular),
High Commission in Canberra
Training and Mentorship
Proper training and mentorship are integral for a FSAS career. Joyelle is thankful that she was assigned to an experienced mentor, whom she can go to for advice. She also thinks that the Admin Specialist Basic Programme (ASBP), a milestone training programme, is useful for new FSAS officers to have a smoother transition into the workplace. To gain a better understanding of the Ministry’s work, they also get to attend briefings conducted by various directorates and go on field trips to the Istana and the VIP Complex at Changi Airport.
Mohamed Amin elaborates that during the ASBP, officers are taught useful skill sets like the management of difficult customers and official visits. One of the programme highlights include a study trip to one of the Overseas Missions, which provides a first-hand insight to how MFA officers operate effectively in a foreign environment. Officers are also given an opportunity to be attached to an Overseas Mission for a month, during which they will shadow the Admin Secretary and acquire hands-on experience in assisting in the Ministry’s operations.
Traits to Success
With such a fast-paced and dynamic work environment, what qualities should MFA officers possess? Mohamed Amin believes that MFA officers should keep an open mind and constantly cultivate good relationships with people from all walks of life.
On the other hand, Joyelle advises that being able to “think on your feet and out of the box” is important as MFA officers have to react quickly and accordingly when the situation changes. She goes on to add: “If you are looking for an exhilarating journey of a lifetime and would like to develop a global outlook and perspective, it is time to step out of your comfort zone and go for it!”