Brenda Xie

Brenda Xie

Executive, Media Relations (Public Health, Hawker Centres)

My company and my job

I work in NEA’s Corporate Communications department and handle media relations for public health and hawker centre issues. I work closely with reporters and foster public understanding of NEA's initiatives and issues through proactive publicity, events and campaigns. I also do proactive issues management and crises communications planning, to ensure that accurate information is disseminated through the various print, broadcast and online channels.

How I got my job

I had to go through a writing test and an interview with my director and team supervisors. The trickiest part of the selection process was convincing them why I wanted to work in NEA. Back then, I did not have a strong calling or interest in environmental issues. However, I was keen to learn and experience handling ‘everyday issues’ faced by Singaporeans. I knew that if I were to join NEA, I would be able to learn a lot through the exposure to various aspects of NEA’s operations. I guess my earnestness came through during the interview. Other plus points were that I was also proficient in my mother tongue and I was also a strong advocate of teamwork. 

The highs and lows

They don’t call NEA the ‘Nearly Everything Agency’ for nothing. NEA has provided me with challenging work through exposure to diverse and multi-faceted issues. One week I could be dealing with the outbreak of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) cases in Singapore, and the next week I could be dealing with the Zika virus. In the past year and a half, the learning curve has been steep. Sometimes rising to the challenge can be daunting, but this is also what keeps my job exciting at the same time.

My happiest moment at work

This was during the investigation into the rise in GBS cases, when NEA decided to ban the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes sold by retail food establishments. Public interest and media traction were high, and close coordination was required between the working departments and relevant agencies. I recalled the night before the announcement, when everyone from the various departments stayed late into the night to prepare for the media briefing early the next day. The strong camaraderie and teamwork displayed during the weeks leading up to the announcement was certainly memorable, and getting acknowledged from senior management and colleagues for the close coordination and support was certainly a personal milestone for me at work.

Training and support

I underwent an employee orientation programme and a departmental induction conducted by HR when I first joined NEA. As I was a fresh graduate, these sessions were definitely useful in getting me acquainted with public service and the work that NEA does. I was also fortunate to have had a caring mentor/buddy from my department, who guided me through the first few months of work. Having awesome team mates also help with the dynamic pace of work, and I really appreciate the camaraderie between the team.

Additionally, I have attended various courses on public health issues that I do communications for, be it for vector control, food hygiene and safety and management of our hawker centres and wet markets. Attending these courses felt like I was going back to school all over again, as I learnt about the various policies and initiatives behind NEA, as well as the role and function they play in maintaining Singapore’s environmental public health standards. These courses were definitely crucial for me in terms of understanding more about the scope of my work.

Work-life balance

The media never sleeps, so being in media relations means that you have to be on call 24/7. Each of us in the team is given a work phone, which allows us to check emails on the go and be contactable by reporters even after working hours. There are the occasional late nights but going through the grind and forging shared experiences (and stresses!) with fellow colleagues is what makes you more resilient.

Some advice

Doing media relations in NEA is dynamic and exciting and the amount of exposure that one gets from handling diverse and multi-faceted issues is significant. The work that you do in NEA will leave a positive and tangible impact on many aspects of people’s daily lives and the strong sense of purpose in safeguarding the environment.