MOM x Shentonista: Renewal

There comes a time in our careers when we consider doing the fearful switch—for many of us, taking that first step is one of much apprehension and uncertainty. Often, the route ahead of us may appear shrouded by our own doubts. For those of us struggling to make the move forward, attachments and training for mid-career PMETs like the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP), is akin to the light at the end of the tunnel.

In a continuation of our series created in collaboration with the Ministry of Manpower, we’re speaking to Ammar, who spent a decade in academia before deciding to take the leap into the professional workforce. While the distance may have seemed daunting, his sense of purpose that drives him to make a tangible change was what prompted him to close one door behind him, to open many more. From the world of research to stepping into the role of a quality assurance manager, find out how the PCP for Medical Technological Engineer helped him achieve this shift and more in the interview below.

How did your interest in science and research first start?
I’ve always been curious about how things work and always wanted to find out the why behind things. That got me interested in the biological sciences, specifically microbiology. Understanding how  these microorganisms can adapt, evolve and thrive would be crucial to eliminating harmful organisms and reducing the spread of disease.

It seems like quite a big shift, going from academic research to the production and quality assessment of medical implants at Osteopore. What were some of your fears?
All changes come with uncertainty and apprehension, so I naturally felt those during the shift. For me, at the end of the day, I needed to have confidence in my own ability. The skills that I’ve learnt and picked up during my time in academia are quite transferrable. I knew that I might have been limited by a lack of knowledge of the new industry I was going into but nowadays, knowledge can be acquired easily. What matters is the willingness to learn.

I came to know about Osteopore first during my time in research. I learnt they were a leader in bone regeneration technology and I’ve always been interested to be involved in a role where I can make a difference to the patient’s well-being.

People might be familiar with 3D-printed figurines, but less so with the use of 3D printing in medical devices. Can you explain what Osteopore does and what your role is?
Here, we push the technological boundary of 3D printing to develop and commercialise biomimetic microstructures that facilitate natural tissue regeneration. My role as the quality assurance manager is to establish the policies and procedures throughout the product lifecycle to ensure the safety and performance of the medical device.

As part of your transition, you joined a 12-month PCP to gain some fundamental knowledge of the industry. Can you share more about the programme and the process you underwent?
It was quite heartening to know that there are such programmes that exist because it shows that the government is willing to help those trying to switch careers despite being from a completely different industry. During those 12 months, there was a range of courses that I attended and they were aimed at bridging the gap between the skills we had and the skills the new industry demanded.

In my case, I was moving into the medical technology industry so I took courses related to that. The trainers were actually all from the industry itself so their mentoring helped us understand what to expect when we went into our new roles. A lot of the instructors from the courses remained contactable even after the courses ended. With a deeper understanding of the industry, I could take what I’ve learnt and bring it back to my workplace. It was a good stepping stone for me.

What were some key takeaways from the PCP, both personally and professionally?
Professionally, the biggest takeaway would be the new knowledge and skills that supplemented my existing skillset. Osteopore was also very supportive about going for courses and upgrading ourselves. PCP brought me from where I was to what I needed to know and achieve, by opening my eyes to my future potential responsibilities in my new role. It also gave me an overview of the manufacturing side and I took away some meaningful insights about manufacturing concepts and principles.

What was something that you were surprised to learn about your job/the industry?
I come from a research background—while we have deadlines, we’re very much in control of our schedules and they’re quite broad and flexible. In the industry, things move very quickly because time is money (laughs). The expectation is, of course, to get up to speed and keep pace with how timelines evolve. At first, this wasn’t something I anticipated,  but over time, I’ve gotten used to the pace. Although the transition was a fast one, the PCP made the process less fearful for me.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge and the biggest joy in your work?
The learning curve is steep and you have to hit the ground running. We are a multi-disciplinary team and very dynamic. The constant drive to “get things done” has made me look forward to each day and there has never been a dull moment!

Can you share any anecdotes where you saw how your work helped to make a difference?
Seeing how the product we manufacture has made a difference in patients’ lives has been very fulfilling to me on a personal level. I’ve also heard from patients affected by disease or injury and this has helped me understand how our products have impacted their lives for the better, which drives me to give my best.

What do you feel is the next step for you? Is there something you would love to be able to work on?
For me, I’d like to be involved in the constant innovation of new methods and products that can provide solutions and improve patients’ lives. Research is still a very big part of my life and my current role, so that process remains. The products we develop stem from research, and while I do not see myself going back to full-time research, I’m still very much involved in it because the basis of innovation is research.

We all have little habits we carry over from work—what’s a habit from work that you find yourself doing outside of work too?
I’ve always been methodical, but it’s become even more pronounced, even outside of work. For example, when I bake or cook, I’m very particular about following the instructions and doing it by the book. Meanwhile, my wife is someone who likes to cook based on estimates, so we always clash when it comes to the kitchen (laughs). If I wasn’t in this field of work, I think I’d enjoy being a chef or a baker.

What’s one advice you’d give to people who are considering to do a mid-career switch?
I think the hardest step is making the decision to switch. For me, it was easier to take this first step because I knew there were programmes available that could help me overcome my initial fears. Making a mid-career switch is also about having confidence in your skills and ability and believing they can carry you forward.

This is a feature for the Ministry of Manpower. There are close to 100 PCPs covering 30 sectors to help PMETs acquire skills and move into new occupations or sectors with good longer-term prospects. Find out more at

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