Developing promising talents

CapitaLand’s Graduate Development Programme gives Mindy Teo an unexpected twist to her career

Issue: Nov 2009

Mindy Teo, GDP graduate, (2nd from right) with her colleagues at The Ascott Group

The technicalities of lasers and optics seem a world away from that of the corporate world. Yet 27-year-old Mindy Teo, a trained electrical engineer, is now completely at ease working at The Ascott Group as a strategic planner.

Teo, who studied at the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, came to know of CapitaLand’s Graduate Development Programme (GDP) in 2005. Lured by the promise of career flexibility, Teo made the drastic switch from an engineering career to a corporate one.

Finding the right fit

The GDP, which is an 18- to 24- month broad-based management training programme, gave Teo the opportunity to explore the hospitality, real estate and financial services sectors while working in CapitaLand. At the end of the programme in 2006, Teo finally found the right fit with The Ascott Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CapitaLand.

“I liked the fact that there was flexibility for transition between different divisions for you to figure out what you’re good at before settling in,” said Teo. “It really is a good place for people who want exposure as it provides continuous on-the-job learning, interaction with senior management and a better understanding of the company direction.”

Teo began the GDP in March 2005 where she started out at CapitaLand Limited working in the treasury and research units. She also garnered experience working at Capitaland Retail, where she was attached to the investment and asset management team. One of the major projects she was involved in was the joint acquisition of Raffles City Singapore by CapitaMall Trust and CapitaCommercial Trust.

“Dealing with the financial and legal documents gave me good training to have a very careful eye,” Teo said, adding that she has become more observant and critical in thinking.

Cultural exchange

Teo (centre) dressed in traditional garb for the Loy Krathong celebration at Somerset Lake Point, Bangkok
For Teo, the highlight of the GDP was a six-month stint in Bangkok with The Ascott Group. There, she picked up ground experience working at the Somerset Lake Point, Bangkok serviced residence, and was involved in strategic planning for The Ascott Group’s Thailand cluster. Teo said this gave her the opportunity to live overseas and learn from a different culture.

“It was an experience with different corporate cultures and management styles—for example, you need to be more sensitive when communicating with the workers there,” Teo said.

Teo recalled celebrating a traditional Thai festival, the Loy Krathong, with residents of Somerset Lake Point. She helped to organise games for the children, and taught guests to make floating lanterns. This gave her hands-on experience with a unique local celebration—helping to round up the programme’s holistic learning scheme.

Teo organizing games for the children of residents at Somerset Lake Point, Bangkok during the Loy Krathong Festival

Having spent four-and-a-half years in America, Teo is no stranger to living abroad. “It wasn’t purely a technical education, but also a chance to interact with the people from different cultures. Michigan has a diverse mix,” Teo explained.

As former president of the Singapore Students Union at Michigan, Teo has had plenty of opportunity to hone her leadership skills and confidence—qualities that have helped her through the years.

Learning by example

Although she was not assigned an official mentor, Teo found her bosses approachable and inspiring—playing the unofficial role of teachers and friends throughout the course of the GDP.

She continues to keep in touch with some of them, occasionally asking them for advice on different matters. “Rather than being assigned someone, I think it’s important to find people you can learn from as being part of the GDP gives you great opportunities,” Teo said.

“Once, while I was working at CapitaLand Retail, one of my bosses, Jesline, was pregnant with her second child, but she worked very hard,” Teo added, explaining how her bosses’ commitment was inspiring.

“Also, my other ‘mentor’ Anna Choo from CapitaLand Treasury is a really good role model. She is committed to her work, yet also finds time to spend with her two daughters,” Teo said.

Encouraged by her bosses, Teo herself attempts to keep a healthy balance in her life, by prioritising and having discipline.

Doing this allows her to maintain her commitment to teaching Sunday school every week, as well as to enjoy Latin dance classes and watching movies with friends in her free time.

And although it can get very hectic, with effort, she is enjoying her dynamic job with The Ascott Group—the scope for which constantly changes.

On the whole, Teo has gone down a very different path from what she expected—but either way, her boldness and eagerness to learn have definitely paid off.

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