Never a Dull Moment
Joann Tung capitalises on opportunities in CapitaLand
Issue: Jun 2010
Before becoming part of the CapitaLand family, Tung (second from the left) had internship stints in various organizations, trying her hand at engineering, human resource and even internal audit.
When Joann Tung went for a casual chat at CapitaLand, she never suspected it would be a conversation that would change her life. Armed with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford, Tung was looking for a job that would let her meet people and see the world.
“Throughout the chat, I felt that they were not only looking if I was a fit for the company, but whether the company had a fit for me. When they brought up the idea of project management to me, it suddenly hit me how well the job suited both my technical knowledge and social personality,” said Tung.
Over a year into her job as Management Executive on the Project Management track of the Graduate Development Programme, Tung is now stationed in Beijing, China, and assigned to a residential project there under the CapitaLand China Holdings.
Delighting in Diversity
Before Beijing, Tung had interned in Shanghai with another organization and it made her realise she liked working abroad
Tung works with a team of some 20 people to ensure that the residential development in question is built and fully operational. Most of her colleagues are local Chinese and as the project grows, the size of her team is also likely to expand.
The excitement of a foreign posting aside, the job holds particular attraction for Tung because it appeals to her spirit of adventure. There are no “typical days” for this young lady who professes to be “interested in creating things” and has a “good grasp of mathematics”.
“Every day brings new problems that require new solutions and actions. My manager and I are neither deskbound nor are there shifts. We are around whenever and wherever we are required,” muses Tung.
Included in her job description are site visits where she hosts government officials who come to inspect the area, solving myriad problems be they engineering related or administrative, inspection of factories of potential consultants – generally anything and everything it takes to ensure a building gets from paper to reality. But it is precisely that kind of diversity and variety that Tung enjoys.
“I love that this job makes you travel. There are some people who might detest the mobility of this job but this is what appeals to me the most. You have to be constantly on the move, absorbing new experiences, working with different people from all walks of life, fitting into different local cultures.”
Not only does her job allow Tung to experience different aspects of the real estate supply chain, it also gives her the chance to encounter Chinese society in all its glory.
“In a day, we could find ourselves speaking with people from every strata of society – a superintendent of the water governing authority, our own bosses and fellow colleagues, one of the rural folk residing near our project site and even a member of the wealthy elite class wishing to buy our property,” notes Tung.
Even among her colleagues, Tung observes cultural differences that both amaze and amuse this 24-year old.
“Many of my Chinese female friends of my age are already married and some even have children. This is because many of them feel that it is very important to raise their children while they are young and able. Just consider how this may set apart our priorities in life!” said Tung.
But Tung strives to learn to work the Chinese way every day.
“E-mails and telephone calls are perfectly viable modes of communication in Singapore but in China, nothing beats face-to-face communication, especially with the local authorities and especially if there are many important matters to discuss. The emphasis on inter-relations in China, the so-called guanxi, still remains true to this day and one overlooks it at his or her own peril,” said Tung.
The Company that Cares
Interacting with her China colleagues was a new experience for Tung who found that they could be rather frugal during meal times
The need to keep communication lines open is also a lesson Tung is learning from her superiors. It is CapitaLand’s “people first” policy that Tung finds particularly inspiring.
“It is heartening to see how the management here truly believes that work is accomplished through people and hence, people remain the true driving force in our company’s success. What talents and resources the employees posses and how the company makes use of these is a matter taken very seriously by the human resource teams within the corporation,” Tung assures.
Tung was hired into CapitaLand’s Graduate Development Programme (GDP), which gave talents like her the opportunity to rotate amongst the various business units in order to let them find the best fit.
“The company is willing to allow us this generous amount of time to carve our niche, sending us on overseas stints for the exposure to observe and learn, at the same time, test our capabilities to cope with their diverse operations elsewhere,” said Tung.
“Our company’s belief is that each person’s strength is unique and must be utilized in the right way for true performance.”
In Tung’s case, astute observation of her skills put her on the technical track, allowing her to rotate through fields related to this role and making for a more focused career path.
“This time here in Beijing has been a most amazing exposure for me in terms of learning and training in my technical field,” said Tung.
“Because the difficulties presented in the China operations are on a much bigger scale than that in Singapore, I have garnered more lesson here than I would have had in Singapore where projects are already very mature in terms of operations and run like clockwork.”
A Long-lasting Future
Little wonder that Tung sees her future in CapitaLand to be a long and happy one.
“Project management happens to be one of those jobs where even with a lot of experience, there are still new things to learn and new ways of doing things because each project is unique with its own set of challenges and difficulties to overcome,” said Tung.
“I see endless opportunities to carve out a meaningful career on this path I have chosen and remain a very grateful beneficiary of the visionary of CapitaLand’s management.”