Co-founder and Executive Director
of the Singapore Space and Technology Association, 39
Meet BAZAAR’s league of extraordinary women. Singapore visionaries under 40, they are paving the way in the tech and digital spheres and proving that the future is not only female, the future is now.
Propelling our little red dot light-years into the future, Tan is the female force behind Singapore’s introduction to the space game. Sharp, focused and energetic, the self-described “bundle of contradictions” shares common misconceptions about the space industry, and explains how a never-give-up attitude transformed a little organisation she founded 12 years ago—the Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA)—into the toast of international space agencies around the world today.
What are some of the challenges you face in your role at the SSTA?
Generally, people do not consider Singapore to be a space hub, as it is land scarce and hence not the most viable place for rocket developments. But the truth is, the space industry also entails spacecraft—both large and small—as well as satellites, downstream applications and a whole range of other fields and disciplines. Space projects are complex and can span years before one sees results. It is an industry that requires talented people with grit and in this aspect, we are not lacking. Changing this perception has been challenging.
Would you describe yourself as a risk-taker, a ﬁrst mover or trend-spotter?
I would consider myself 70 percent trend-spotter; 30 percent risk-taker. I’m not a first-mover as I need time to observe and learn.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned in your journey so far?
That it will always seem impossible until it is done. When we started the Global Space & Technology Convention (GSTC) right here in Singapore, most people thought it was crazy and that it would fail. Right after the first show, our partners left us. That made us seriously doubt the viability of it. But thankfully, a handful of believers stood by us and today it is the premier space show in Asia and has become quite a household name in the space sector. If we had listened to the naysayers and given up, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Why aren’t there more women in science?
I guess it must be because we are multi-talented and we have too many choices! Well, I do see more women now in the sciences. In fact, at the last GSTC, we had a panel of female speakers and—I stress—not by design. They were senior directors and vice presidents of rocket companies, such as Virgin Orbit, Spaceflight Industries, Exolaunch, and upcoming start-up, Firefly. I was very proud to see this all-women panel come together and really ﬂattered when invited to moderate it.
What would you like your legacy to be?
That I was part of the pioneering team giving Singaporeans a lift-off to our space dreams. When I am in my 70s, I hope to be considered part of a “pioneer generation” in my own way.
Click here to see the other four women on our list.
Photographer: Darren Gabriel Leow
Stylist: Adriel Chiun
Videographer: Stacey Rodrigues
Makeup: Cheryl Ow using Parfums Christian Dior
Hair: Sean Ang using OUAI
Photography Assistants: Eric Tan and Melvin Leong
Styling Assistants: Chandreyee Ray and Beverly Tan