An End and a Beginning
This is my last week at the Ministry of Education. It’s been a little over four years, and I find myself in a very different place from where I envisioned four years ago. My time in the government has been a most serendipitous and amazing journey, and I am indelibly changed because of it.
I used to participate rather actively in the great Singaporean pastime of government-bashing. I despised the way the government worked - it was easy to find points of agreement with the cab driver: Singapore is fraught with hidden taxes that makes living very expensive; the politicians earn way too much; the government is full of bureaucracy and doesn’t care for citizens.
All the points are valid of course. But the greatest lesson I took home with me is this: the government isn’t a faceless machine. She is made up of fellow citizens. True, some are self-serving. Some are in it for the money. But no more and no less than in any other large organisation, private or public. As citizens we should not waste our time here; we should be looking to nurture a culture of selflessness and empower noble intent. Rather than be mired in a never-ending spiral of self-despair and finger-pointing, we should engage in a constructive relationship with the government.
Web 2.0 ushers in Gov 2.0, and Gov 2.0 cannot exist without Citizen 2.0.
A friend from another country once asked me why Singaporeans complained so much but did so little. It really hit home. We could attribute it to fear, but to be perfectly honest, we complain because it is the easiest path to take.
I joined the government 4 years ago with the intention of changing the way Singapore government agencies create websites. To my surprise the people at the ministry welcomed my ideas and were willing to let Selwyn and I build the corporate website from the ground up. It was then I realised that the ministry was made up of real people, many of whom genuinely want to improve the lives of people living in Singapore.
The line between the government and her people is an imaginary line, and contrary to popular movie wisdom, neither has need to fear the other. Citizens who want to change Singapore for the better should not hesitate to join the government and effect change from within.
The Road Ahead
I have grappled with this decision for about a year now. It has become clear that it is time for me to move on. The entrepreneurial dream is something that burns within me and many of my friends.
But it has dawned on me that entrepreneurship is not so much a working arrangement as it is a state of mind. The entrepreneurial spirit is one that doesn’t tolerate the status quo simply because, but constantly questions and endlessly strive through continual iteration to improve processes, products and people.
I have decided to continue being an intrapreneur. Come April I will be joining the folks at Temasek Polytechnic. I was totally blown away by how much the organisation valued me as an individual rather than a unit of resource, and the hiring process was thoroughly outstanding. I am excited at the possibilities there, and thankful that God has provided for me and led me down a path filled with peace.