Life-saving and industrial design may not seem the most natural combination at first glance. For the 28-year-old however, they provide the best of both worlds in his eight-year career with the SCDF. He has not only thrusted himself into the thick of action in frontline emergencies, he has also contributed to the design of the next-generation SCDF ambulance.
Being able to make a difference in one’s life has given the Staff Sergeant (SSGT) great satisfaction in the work he is doing in the life-saving force. He reveals how his interest in ambulances in his growing-up years drove him towards his eventual career choice.
Subsequent interactions with the paramedics at roadshows and a volunteer stint with the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) in his polytechnic days reinforced his decision to pursue a career in SCDF. “I followed the ambulances and got inspired by the way the paramedics responded to emergency calls and being able to make a difference in people’s lives.”
His determination to contribute to saving lives drove him to sign on with SCDF after graduating with a diploma in Product and Industrial Design from Temasek Polytechnic. “I actually qualified for university with my polytechnic results, but I was at the crossroads on whether to further my studies immediately or gain some work experience first,” he shares.
“After all, I enjoyed my tour as a Volunteer Paramedic, so I couldn’t wait anymore!” That decision was an inspired one as he experienced the highs and lows of frontline emergencies after two years of paramedical training.
From the joys in successfully resuscitating a civilian in critical condition and delivering babies, to the lows of pronouncing death, there was never a dull moment in his paramedical journey.
Able to deal with people well is an important attribute a paramedic should possess when he is dealing with medical situations on the ground.
Yeo Ren Jie
(Staff Sergeant Rank)
HALO Award, SCDF Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design Year Four (Honours Year)
National University of Singapore
“You need to be cool-headed and possess leadership skills when something happens because we are dealing with uncertainty and emergencies all the time,” Ren Jie explains. ”You must also be passionate about helping people and be comfortable around them, because in emergencies they can get anxious and agitated and you have to calm them down.”
In addition to frontline duties, he has also participated in in-house design projects. His most notable contribution came in the form of the next-generation SCDF ambulance.
Admitting that he initially thought design would be a hobby rather than part of his career journey after signing on, he was grateful for the opportunity to put his academic skills into good use at SCDF. “The interesting highlight of my career was the ability to participate in both areas where I have strong interests in,” he adds. “We did a lot of research (into the new ambulance design). What I had learned in polytechnic, especially from the experience in designing cars during my industrial attachment in Mexico, I applied there.”
After some time on the job, a window of opportunity to further his studies came when the SCDF Manpower Department alerted him to the Home Affairs Learning and Growth Opportunities (HALO) programme.
The HALO programme is open to polytechnic graduates serving in the Ministry of Home Affairs who have performed well in their jobs for minimally two years and demonstrated leadership abilities.
It provides successful awardees full pay and reimbursement of tuition and related fees while pursuing their full-time studies.
Awarded the HALO sponsorship in 2014, Ren Jie is presently in his honours year in the Industrial Design degree programme in the National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Design and Environment.
Set for graduation next year, he is grateful to SCDF for the opportunity to further his studies.
“By the time I started university, I became very clear on what I want to do in life, and knew my strengths and weaknesses,” he says.
“Industrial Design is a very diverse discipline, so my experiences in work and Polytechnic have left me clearer in figuring out what I want to do in my area of specialisation.”
He is confident the accumulation of experience gained will put him in good stead as he eventually works his way up the ranks as a fire station commander after graduation. “It’s the work experience that counts. You know the ground and what the men need,” he explains. “What the policies are, you can empathise with the men. Because you have been in SCDF for a while, you can start off immediately.”
With more polytechnic diploma holders hoping to further their education and employers increasingly looking for relevant experience in job candidates, Ren Jie believes gaining work experience will bridge the gap and be beneficial to them in the long run.
“Don’t jump into a degree for the sake of paper chasing,” he cautions. “If you are not sure of where you are now and want to develop your skills with your Diploma, then work for a few years.”
“When you work, you learn from your mentors and get a much better idea on what the industry requires. Then you can pursue a degree relevant to your expertise.”
He also advises aspiring scholarship applicants to think about how they can contribute back when they graduate. “The most important thing is to find out what the organisation has to offer, and what you can offer. It goes both ways,” he adds.
“Choose an organisation or company that allows you to develop and learn, and gives you a lot of career and education advancement opportunities.”