Senior Manager and Career Coach
NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates

Mentoring the Sustainability Champions of the Future

Not many of us have the good fortune to meet our childhood idols in real life. So, when NUS alumna Ms Cheo Pei Rong, Senior Manager and Career Coach at the NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates (NUS CFG), met famed biologist and natural historian Sir David Attenborough, she felt like “a total fangirl”.

Having lapped up nature documentaries narrated and produced by Sir David as a child, it was a dream come true for Pei Rong to be able to speak with him in person in 2018 at the University of Cambridge, where she was pursing her Master of Philosophy in Conservation Leadership.

“We discussed the marine conservation work that I was doing back home in Singapore, as well as with the Cambridge University Marine Conservation Society that I had helped to co-found. I was really inspired by his words of encouragement,” recounted Pei Rong.

mentoring-the-sustainability-champions-of-the-future-1Pei Rong met famed biologist and natural historian Sir David Attenborough at the University of Cambridge in 2018.

Aside from Sir David, the nature lover credits her father for sparking her love for marine biology and nature conservation from a young age. “I’d go on outings to beaches and mudflats with my dad, where I’d get my feet wet and chase crabs!”

After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences (Environmental Biology) from NUS in 2012, Pei Rong headed to Cambridge for her postgraduate studies in 2017, where she helped organise the university’s first World Oceans Day event, and completed a professional placement project with the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

Her career in sustainability and conservation began when she joined the National Parks Board (NParks) in 2013. As Senior Manager at the Coastal and Marine Branch of NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre, she was initially only interested in the science of flora and fauna, but realised over time that stakeholder engagement and education are extremely vital to the success of any sustainability effort.

“When it comes to nature conservation, while people may be part of the problem sometimes, they can also be an important part of the solution,” she shared. While at NParks, she developed and led Intertidal Watch, a national citizen science and outreach programme, and grew to enjoy public outreach as she trained more than 500 public volunteers to identify and collect data on various common marine species. She also coordinated outreach efforts to engage and educate the public on sensitive marine life in intertidal areas.

mentoring-the-sustainability-champions-of-the-future-2aPei Rong developed and led Intertidal Watch, a national citizen science and outreach programme, whilst working at NParks.

After office hours, she would volunteer with agencies such as the Youth Corps Singapore where she mentored the newly-formed Sustainability Cluster in 2019 to empower youth champions towards volunteerism for sustainability. This was a turning point in her career where she discovered a new-found love for people engagement.

She explained: “I find mentoring and guiding youth especially fulfilling, as I can help build them up and watch them grow in confidence as they explore their potential, figure out their interests and gradually take ownership to lead and advocate for whatever they are passionate about.”

Looking to integrate her long-term passion for sustainability with her burgeoning interest in people development, mentorship and leadership, Pei Rong took a leap of faith and made a strategic career pivot to join NUS CFG in March 2022, after close to a decade in the sustainability sector.

Today, as a career coach and mentor, she helps NUS postgraduate students take their first steps into the workforce or pivot to new roles. She provides them with career advisory, training and coaching so they can excel in both their personal and professional lives.

mentoring-the-sustainability-champions-of-the-future-3Pei Rong (far right, seated) and her fellow NUS CFG Career Advisors from the Postgraduate, Graduate and Lifelong Learning team

Given the increased global and national focus on climate change issues, Pei Rong agrees that her background in sustainability is definitely an asset in her current role. “I’m coaching a growing number of students who are interested in pursuing sustainability-related career roles, such as those reading the popular Master of Science in Environmental Management. Given how familiar I am with the sustainability industry, I can share relevant insights and advise them on the challenges they may face, as well as common pathways for progression,” said Pei Rong.

As NUS CFG has many ongoing plans to increase NUS students’ exposure to trends and careers in the sustainability sector, Pei Rong hopes to tap on her extensive network even further by helping to plan future events including career talks, workshops, and networking sessions with employers.

She said: “I believe that by mentoring the sustainability champions of the future, I’m amplifying the impact I can make as an individual for the good of society and the world in general.” 


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