Leading with the Team
That was the time given to Ms Lim Bee Kwan and her team to replace key government systems in two data centres, and transition all users, desktops and networks in 97 agencies to the new environment.
It was an ambitious project and deadlines were tight, but strong team work and a “can do” spirit ensured that the whole exercise was completed successfully and on time.
“What people may not know about is the hard work that went on behind the scenes and the long hours put in,” said Ms Lim, Senior Director with the Government Infrastructure and Services Group at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).
“I am very thankful to have had a strong team working closely together and staying focused on objectives, and having the tenacity and perseverance to achieve the outcomes that we wanted.”
Having battled in the trenches, the words “people are your most important asset” is no cliché, but a frim belief.
“To achieve big outcomes, your team must be with you,” said Ms Lim. “And the only way you can do that is to engage them on a personal level and earn their trust.”
“Lead from the front and be with the troops,” she said. “Be appreciative of the efforts of others because you cannot succeed without their help.”
Ms Lim’s interest in public sector IT was sparked during her days in the Business Administration faculty in NUS, when a senior shared about his work at National Computer Systems (NCS), then a subsidiary of the National Computer Board (NCB).
“It sounded really very interesting to me. Hence when the time came for me to decide where to start my career, I applied to join NCS. That I was offered the job before I graduated, and in a recession year too, certainly helped me make the decision.”
While it may have been “serendipity” that led her to join NCS as a programmer-analyst, she chose to stay on in the public sector “for the privilege to make an impact to improve the lives of citizen and the agencies”.
She grew with the organisation, moving to NCB when NCS was corporatised and then to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) when NCB merged with the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore.
At IDA, Bee Kwan was given the opportunity to alternate between postings in the agencies and at the headquarters, exposing her to a wide breadth of experiences that she is grateful for.
She was involved in the development and rollout of e-services for the People’s Association as well as the MediNet infrastructure and systems for the Ministry of Health and its healthcare institutions.
A Career in Tech
Notable projects include the Electronic Medical Records Exchange, MediNet and MediClaim – systems which made her proud as they “delivered value to citizens and helped raise the standard of care for members of the public”.
Another stint with the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee, where she was responsible for the technology function, gave her the opportunity to work closely with people from the various agencies, the private sector and the International Olympic Committee.
Back in the IDA headquarters, she was involved in the formulation of the Intelligent Nation 2015 Infocomm Masterplan for Healthcare and Biomedical Sciences as well as industry development for the healthcare sector, seeding many innovative trials through various calls for collaboration.
From these myriad experiences, one of the highlights would be her involvement in jumpstarting the IDA Government Chief Information Office (GCIO) in 1995, as one of three key people tasked to set up the Infrastructure & Technology Office.
“There was no one to tell you what you could or could not do,” she recalled. “You had to be a self-starter, to define your goals, your direction, convince your stakeholders and just simply get things moving.”
It was indeed a ‘roll up your sleeves’ moment.
With few resources at their disposal, the team had to put all the management theories that they knew into practice to leverage and collaborate with others, establish the delivery and governance structures and implement controls to manage projects outcomes across whole of Government.
These experiences stood her in good stead when she had to transition agencies new to GCIO management practices and establish new IT delivery organisations. Over the years, the lessons learned have also enabled her to undertake large, complex and difficult programmes.
“I have been very lucky to have mentors, supportive supervisors and great colleagues who have walked the journey with me and helped me overcome many challenges,” she said.
Despite her achievements, Bee Kwan is quick to point out that learning and self-improvement never stops.
“I have not arrived. I am still learning to be an effective manager, a good leader for the team and an empathetic colleague.”