Lim Soo Hoon
First woman Permanent Secretary
Singapore’s first female Permanent Secretary, Lim Soo Hoon has held many high-profile positions in her public service career spanning more than 30 years.
The Colombo Plan scholar graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Economics in 1980. The following year she joined the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and then moved to various other ministries including Transport and Manpower. In 1999, she made history when she was appointed Permanent Secretary at the then Ministry of Community Development (MCD).
Soo Hoon has been involved in the development and implementation of many key policies and projects. She was involved, for instance, in the launch of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit System and the introduction of the Singapore Sports School.
She also helped shaped the training of public sector leaders by helping to develop the Civil Service College in its infant years, and she helped to promote rehabilitative care for juvenile delinquents.
Soo Hoon, who has a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University, has served also as Chairman of the National Library Board and the Civil Service College Board.
In an interview in 2010, she explained that one lesson she has learnt over the years is that there can be a large gap between the policy makers and the operational staff. Policy makers need to understand the operational constraints, and this is best done by talking to the people who have to implement them and making adjustments if needed so that the desired outcomes are achieved.
“Sometimes what we put in place has a long tail, and it may take a while to unravel,” she said, emphasizing that public service officers must be mindful of the impact their actions can have on others.
The mother of two sons is a strong advocate of work-life balance. She faced her biggest test in late 2004 when Samuel, her elder son, was diagnosed with cancer. The experience was a reality check for Soo Hoon and resulted in her writing a book SAM: A Mother's Journey of Faith.
Soo Hoon was Her World magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 2006.
"I love the work I do because it involves issues that affect the nation. Working on the big picture is an exciting challenge." "At the end of the day it’s not just one individual or one small group of people, but always the combined effort of a team that makes things work."