Home voices My Learning Diaries: How skills upgrading helped me pivot from operating cranes to running trains

My Learning Diaries: How skills upgrading helped me pivot from operating cranes to running trains

My Learning Diaries: How skills upgrading helped me pivot from operating cranes to running trains

The fast-changing nature of work has prompted many Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to stay relevant. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of young Singaporeans who have recently done so to give their careers a boost, or even pursue new paths in life.

In this instalment, Ms Mardhiah Ahmad, 32, describes how she moved from construction to a more challenging role in rail operations through a career conversion programme. Ms Mardhiah, who started her career as a crane operator, says she’s putting her prior work experience to good use as an assistant station manager at SMRT.  


Published July 9, 2023 Updated July 9, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

I’ve always believed in the importance of continuous learning. After all, we live in a world that is constantly evolving, and if we don’t keep up, we risk being left behind. 

I am an assistant station manager at SMRT Corporation, supporting the day-to-day operations at the Gardens by the Bay station. 

Before this, I was a crane operator from 2012 to 2018, and a safety coordinator from 2020 to 2022 at a construction site. 

I graduated from ITE College East in 2010 with a certificate in audio and video production, and completed an advanced certificate in workplace safety and health, which was relevant to my previous jobs, at NTUC LearningHub in 2020. 

I wanted a more challenging role that would give me better opportunities for career growth. 

In March 2021, I came across Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for Rail Operations Professionals

It is a place-and-train programme offered by SMRT for mid-career individuals keen on joining the rail industry. 

It has classroom lessons covering topics such as first aid and train service operations. 

After about five months, trainees go on to become assistant station managers or station managers with SMRT.

I was convinced this programme was what I was looking for as it would allow me to venture into a new sector but still put my prior experience to good use. 

What attracted me most about joining rail operations was the opportunity to operate trains and to learn more about them. As someone who enjoys hands-on work, I was keen to explore the ins and outs of train stations and services. 

I was employed by SMRT and accepted into the programme in January 2022. 

Initially, it was difficult for me to catch up with the training, as it had been a while since I had left school. 

However, I was thankful to be able to grasp the different concepts and skills and relate them to my experience as a crane operator. 

For example, having a good understanding of how to operate and maintain machines and tools, and being able to remain calm in stressful situations, are relevant in rail operations. 

I was confident that this would help me to step into the new role successfully.

The five-month training helped me better adapt into my role as an assistant station manager. It was a big change from my previous job, but I was excited to take on this new challenge. 

My responsibilities now include conducting security patrols, providing customer service, and performing duties in the passenger service centre. 

I also act as an emergency train operator when required and provide support during rail incidents and emergencies. 

Although my previous construction role had its fair share of leadership opportunities, there were limitations to how much I could contribute, which impeded my ability to showcase my potential as a leader. 

I feel that I am much more challenged in my current role as it allows me to put the skills I have learned to use on a daily basis. 

Adjusting to a new work environment can be difficult, but I knew that having the right attitude and beliefs, such as wanting to serve from the heart and always putting commuters first, play a huge part in this industry. 

Thankfully, with the support of my colleagues and trainers, I was able to cope with the challenges, juggling work responsibilities with family commitments. Not only have I built good rapport with my colleagues, I also feel more valued at work. 

Both my mother and grandmother are happy with my career switch, too, as they feel that the new role promises better stability and allows room for me to grow and learn. 

After attending in-house and external training, I hope to take on bigger roles in future, such as becoming a senior assistant station manager or station manager. 

Through this experience, I’ve learnt that embracing new opportunities can be incredibly rewarding, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. 

I’ve gained new skills, made new connections, and have a greater sense of fulfilment in my work. More importantly, I’ve also learnt it’s never too late to start learning something new. 


Ms Mardhiah Ahmad, 32, formerly worked in construction and successfully switched to being an assistant station manager at SMRT with the help of Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme.


If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.