April 07, 2022
Yam’s Global Education Leads to Singapore’s Ministry of Transport
Singapore native Denise Yam (CiVE/EPP ’13) longed to explore the world before returning home to build her career. A strong believer in challenging herself and broadening her world view, Yam’s passion for international exploration led her to Carnegie Mellon. She was attracted by the university’s focus on interdisciplinary learning—and what she calls the “softer aspects” of CMU (Spring Carnival in particular). Yam adds that the values instilled by the school—curiosity, creativity, and a can-do attitude to tackling hard problems—helped her immeasurably as she continued her world travels and started her career.
Following her CMU graduation, she went on to complete her Master of Science in Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis & Management from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. She then returned to Singapore, beginning an active career in public policy. In just six years, she’s worked for the Ministry of Communications and Information, Land Transport Authority, and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.
“I appreciated working through the whole process. Because at the end of the day, even in a course project, it is a real person taking that step on the beam, ladder, or bridge that you built.”
“I’ve gotten to work on exciting public policy issues in the past few years, from climate change to carbon pricing and cybersecurity,” she says.
Today, she’s the Senior Assistant Director at the Futures & Transformation Division, Ministry of Transport (MOT). Yam describes her work as being dynamic, fast-paced, and involving close collaborations with many public agencies and companies. She states that her interdisciplinary studies at CMU “cemented [her] interest to work at the interface of technology and society.”
Singapore’s Futures & Transformation Division at MOT works to develop strategies for future opportunities in the transport sectors.
“These include coordinating, incubating, and driving policies for emerging areas, cutting across air, land and sea transport,” she says.
To support that mission, Yam is part of a team focused on accelerating electric vehicle adoption. She’s studying issues from the end-of-life management of electric vehicles to communications and outreach with the public.
“We want to ensure that we take a holistic and sustainable approach to the transition to electric vehicles,” she adds.
Yam also works with partner agencies on advanced air mobility developments, bringing together technical, economic, safety, and security considerations. She says that her education at CMU and CEE provided the strong engineering, technology, and interdisciplinary studies foundation that she needed to build upon her undergraduate studies.
“I double majored in Engineering and Public Policy, which complemented my primary engineering program and broadened my perspectives on solving real world problems from early on.”
She recalls her senior design project and watching how each team approached the same engineering problem with different solutions. “I appreciated working through the whole process. Because at the end of the day, even in a course project, it is a real person taking that step on the beam, ladder, or bridge that you built.”
Now settled back in Singapore, Yam acknowledges the importance of her world travel and experiences in North America and Europe. She strongly recommends that current students take on new challenges to build their own life experience.
“Explore! This will mean different things to each of us, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.”