Mr Esa Han Hsien Masood, 39, will be the youngest ever to lead the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) as its chief executive from next month, and he knows his age could be an issue to some people.
Acknowledging such concerns during an interview on Tuesday, he said he hopes to show that he can do the job despite his age.
"My age, to some, could be an issue. But I hope, through working with the various stakeholders, to try to show that I'm here to listen," said Mr Esa.
"I'm here to contribute, and hopefully, by being able to support the stakeholders and then be of service to them, hopefully it will not be an issue so much."
Mr Esa will take over from Mr Abdul Razak Hassan Maricar, 64, who is retiring after 43 years in the public service.
Mr Esa, a Public Service Commission scholarship holder, read electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before securing a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT as well.
He joined Muis, which looks after the administration and interests of the Muslim community, late last year as its deputy chief executive.
Mr Esa was with the former Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, working on policies to strengthen families, before moving to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, where he developed strategies for Singapore's future energy needs.
Mr Esa was also a deputy director in the corporate planning office of the Education Ministry, where he was involved in coordinating reviews of education policies for the general education sector.
Before joining Muis, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, he was the director for policy at the Early Childhood Development Agency, the regulatory and developmental authority for the early childhood sector here.
Mr Esa, a Muslim of Malay and Chinese background and a married father of two, said he never thought his career would take him to Muis, but he believes in keeping an open mind.
On his appointment as Muis' new chief executive, he said: "When the opportunity came up, I thought it was very meaningful. I thought it was a good time for me to contribute to the community."
Mr Esa said that when he joined Muis, Mr Abdul Razak assigned him the religious education portfolio, which comprises six full-time madrasahs and part-time education programmes for children, youth and adults in mosques.
He was also put in charge of the development of the mosque sector, overseeing the governance, finance and infrastructureof all 70 mosques here.
Mr Esa said his time in Muis has given him "a lot of opportunity to build the network on the ground, understand the organisation and the priorities better".
As the new chief executive, one of his top priorities is to continue building on the momentum of collaboration between the three Malay/Muslim organisations here. They are: Muis, self-help group Mendaki and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council.
This collaboration, known as M³, was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Aug 19. It seeks to combine resources and volunteers among them to uplift the community.
BRIDGING THE AGE GAP
My age, to some, could be an issue. But I hope, through working with the various stakeholders, to try to show that I'm here to listen... I'm here to contribute, and hopefully, by being able to support the stakeholders and then be of service to them, hopefully it will not be an issue so much.
MR ESA HAN HSIEN MASOOD, who is 39.
Said Mr Esa: "Each of us has different programmes, but together, we can look to address specific groups or concerns, specific client groups where they can benefit from a more holistic support."
Muis is specifically looking at using M³ to support families with incarcerated parents, said Mr Esa.
"We want to support the family, we want to strengthen the delivery of counselling services to those in prison so it gives them spiritual and moral support to help them get back into society later on," he added.