She gets to rub shoulders with British royalty

Singaporean Mindy Tay has been working at the British High Commission here for 32 years. She started out as a shorthand typist and is now a trade and investment officer.
Singaporean Mindy Tay has been working at the British High Commission here for 32 years. She started out as a shorthand typist and is now a trade and investment officer. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Singaporean stalwart at UK high commission awarded MBE by Queen for long service

She has curtseyed to Queen Elizabeth II; met Prince Andrew, the Duke of York; and shared a laugh with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

Singaporean Mindy Tay has rubbed shoulders with royalty over her 32-year career with the British High Commission, where she is now a trade and investment officer.

Last month, the 53-year-old was recognised for her long service and for promoting trade relations between Britain and Singapore.

She was awarded the prestigious Member of the Order of the British Empire in a ceremony officiated by the British High Commissioner to Singapore, Mr Scott Wightman.

Fewer than 10 Singaporeans have been given this award, which the Queen grants to citizens of other countries "who have made significant contributions to advance British interest", said Mr Wightman.

The medal also came with a citation signed by the Queen.

Ms Tay said the significance of the award sank in only on the day of the ceremony. "That was when I started feeling a growing sense of pride and achievement after years of service at the British High Commission."

Other recipients of the order include her former colleague, Mr Alan Yeong, who received it in 2001 after 34 years of service. He was part of the organisation's corporate services department.

Ms Tay started her career as a shorthand typist at the British High Commission at the age of 20. Prior to that, she had taken up a secretarial course at a vocational institute, where she had earned a distinction in shorthand.

Over the years, she has taken on more responsibilities: from providing secretarial support to arranging logistics as well as programmes for trade delegations travelling to Singapore in the 1990s.

By the 2000s, she had moved to her current position in the trade and investment department, which provides services to British-based companies looking to promote their businesses in Singapore.

Her latest event was organising a networking lunch and presentation on Oct 1 for a company which specialises in fall-prevention systems.

Mr Wightman described Ms Tay as having been "tremendously helpful" to many British companies.

"The award is recognition for the way in which she has done her job professionally and with commitment. She also embraces change," he said. For instance, Ms Tay started out on electric typewriters but switched to the organisation's digitised system without a hitch.

Ms Tay, who is married to senior technical service representative Richard Tay, has two sons aged 23 and 27.

She said the memorable moments in her career have been the interactions she has had with members of the royal family.

In 1989, she met the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who were in Singapore on a visit. For that visit, she had to learn how to curtsey.

In 2004, she met Prince Andrew, who was here to launch the UK-Singapore Partners in Science campaign and open the organisation's trade and investment department.

The standout moment was getting to chat with Prince William during his 2012 trip to Singapore. He chatted with her after visiting the Rolls-Royce campus in Seletar, where he tried out a multimillion-pound Trent engine.

She said: "The duke took on the offer to test it out. After that he told me nicely and jovially that he didn't spoil the machine. He knew how to put me at ease."

Besides meeting the royals, Ms Tay also gets to work in exclusive spaces such as the 1904 Eden Hall - a black-and-white colonial bungalow in Nassim Road built by the Public Works Department.

In July, she coordinated a reception in the hall for 500 guests, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Her fastidious work attitude has also earned her the respect of her younger colleagues, who often approach her for help.

Ms Tay said she has stayed with the organisation through the decades as they are like her family.

On her award, she said: "It will be something to show my grandchildren in the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'She gets to rub shoulders with British royalty'. Print Edition | Subscribe