Meet the Singaporean - Tan Yi Zhong

Meet the Singaporean - Tan Yi Zhong

After more than two years in the workforce, Tan Yi Zhong had everything that many would consider an enviable position to be in – a stable career as an auditor with one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, and a promotion in the pipeline. Yet, Yi Zhong knew he was destined to get more out of life. Deep down, he yearned for a job that would allow him to contribute to the community in a different manner.

The catalyst for a change came unexpectedly in 2020 when Yi Zhong was casually chatting with his former colleague who had served in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for National Service. Yi Zhong, 30, recalls the moment vividly, “His accounts of what he did in SCDF were compelling. The idea of being on the frontline saving lives struck a chord with me. It seemed like a path that I am meant to take to make a real difference in the society.”

Preparing for the switch

Within days of his chat, Yi Zhong delved into research about career opportunities with the SCDF. He read up information online, caught up with friends who had previously served in the SCDF, and also contacted the SCDF’s recruitment office. The role of a fire and rescue officer captivated him but making the switch came with some concerns.

“My family had concerns over my career prospects as a firefighter,” he says. With this switch, it seemed like my accounting degree was all for nothing.” Yi Zhong himself was also concerned if he could lead a sizeable team in high-pressure situations, as this aspect of the job was new to him.

Recognising his determination in carving a different career pathway, Yi Zhong’s family eventually supported his decision. While his friends were surprised with his transition, they were supportive as they saw the fit between Yi Zhong’s passion in making a difference and his new career choice. Four months after he left his job as an auditor, Yi Zhong started his training with SCDF.

In a reassuring turn of events, Yi Zhong did not have to face a pay cut despite starting afresh on a job, as his qualification and prior work experience were taken into consideration for his application. 

Embracing new challenges 

Yi Zhong underwent a rigorous seven-month in-camp training as part of the Rota Commander Course. “Rota”, which is short for “rotation”, represents the team on rotation of duties at the station. He was trained in aspects of emergency response, including incident management, fire safety and investigation, and hazardous materials mitigation. He also went through several modules in leadership development. 

Yi Zhong at SCDF(Photo by Maven Potter)

For the last two years, Yi Zhong has served as a Rota Commander at Ang Mo Kio Fire Station, overseeing the operations and leading the team. 

Being responsible for a team of over 30 personnel was a fresh challenge that contrasted with his previous job’s small-team dynamics. “Being in a leadership position overseeing a relatively large team is an entirely new ball game for me,” he shares. “While I could apply problem-solving skills gained from my previous job to handle logistical challenges that I might face in managing time-sensitive operations, it’s been a profound learning experience in people management and understanding diverse perspectives. The role has taught me the importance of building trust and effective communication.”

Yi Zhong learnt the importance of building trust(Photo by Maven Potter)


Finding meaning in service 

Transitioning from a regular office schedule to shift work was Yi Zhong’s most significant adjustment. Balancing his social life became more challenging as most of his family members and friends have a nine-to-five routine. However, this compromise paled in comparison to the sense of fulfilment that his new job brought.

Yi Zhong reflects on one of the first few rescue missions that underscored the impact of his work: “We once rescued an elderly woman who had a fall and was trapped in her home toilet. The relief and gratitude on her face was indescribable. It is moments like these that made me see the direct impact we can have in the community.” 

Yi Zhong SCDF officer(Photo by Maven Potter)


In the thick of life-and-death rescues, Yi Zhong finds it meaningful working hand-in-hand with his team for a common goal to save lives. He recalls a harrowing incident, “There was once we needed to extricate two victims who were trapped in a car that had split into two due to a serious crash. The scene was chaotic but everyone on the team knew their role well, and quickly proceeded with the rescue mission. Our collective spirit soared when we managed to extract and resuscitate the two victims.” 

The road ahead

Having been in his current role for two years, Yi Zhong is preparing for a posting in a new area of work – a step in his ongoing professional development with the SCDF to help him broaden his expertise in strategic planning, project management and leadership. He says, “Other than being a meaningful job, I like how my work constantly pushes me out of my comfort zone to keep learning and growing. Frontline experiences have not only sharpened my professional abilities but also fostered my personal growth, teaching me the importance of staying composed under pressure, and embracing challenges with confidence.”

Yi Zhong liked how his work pushes him out of his comfort zone(Photo by Maven Potter)


Using his own experience as an example, Yi Zhong encourages those who may be contemplating a career change to give it a shot when it is a job that they are passionate about and have considered carefully. “Do your homework and know what you may be in for. Be well-prepared for the challenges ahead,” he advises.

- LTA Tan Yi Zhong, 30, SCDF Fire & Rescue Officer