The Gift of Time

Be it colleagues, family or a good cause, Senior Vice President, Human Resource, CapitaLand Limited, Angeline Oh, spends time with them all

Issue: Dec 2012

Ms Oh and 11-year-old Nur Wahidati Bte Jamil, a child beneficiary she hosted during the CapitaLand Family Day at Jurong Bird Park
Ms Oh and 11-year-old Nur Wahidati Bte Jamil, a child beneficiary she hosted during the CapitaLand Family Day at Jurong Bird Park

Angeline Oh is a lady who believes in expressing her care and concern for people by spending time with them.

“It is important to know what you want, then you will make time for it,” said CapitaLand Limited’s Senior Vice President of Human Resource.

Clearly, ‘people’ play an important part in her life. She has been in Human Resource for 18 years out of her 24-year career. Caring for people is her job and is something she is inimitably suited to. Ms Oh has a warm, approachable demeanour and, when you meet her in person, it is easy to see why she is so well-liked. She endears with her unassuming, unobtrusive manner; and her humility and sense of contentment with self and the world are inspiring.

Making Time for Colleagues

Ms Oh (third from the right, last row) and her colleagues at the HR teambuilding event in 2011; she makes it a point to spend time with each member of her team to get to know them better
Ms Oh (third from the right, last row) and her colleagues at the HR teambuilding event in 2011; she makes it a point to spend time with each member of her team to get to know them better

But this Bachelor of Business graduate at National University of Singapore (NUS) did not start out with a job at Human Resource.

“I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do. But six days after graduation, I got a job at a multi-national company. I was put on rotation, starting in operations then marketing support, sales, planning and human resource,” recalled Ms Oh who specialised in Marketing at NUS.

“So I kind of fell into HR. But when I was on the job, I liked it so much. I fell in love with it.”

In return, the people love her back. They come to her with their concerns about their children and family; they discuss the struggles of managing work and family life; they seek her out for career advice; and they talk about their work stress.

“I like that I have access to people. They tell you things; they come to you for help; they open up. I don’t always have a solution. Most of the time, I provide a listening ear. Making time for people and listening is important because a lot of people need just that.”

So, Ms Oh makes time for them all, opening her door and her heart. She also takes the effort to spend time with each individual member on her team. But hers is a non-judgemental kind of support.

"I don’t tell them what to do. I draw them out. You need to let them come to their own conclusions. It’s a skill that I am still working on.”

Making Time for Family

Family time is very important to Ms Oh who makes the effort to spend time with each child individually
Family time is very important to Ms Oh who makes the effort to spend time with each child individually

This skill is especially handy when it comes to dealing with her two teenage children, 18-year-old Vanessa and 17-year-old Jeremy.

“I don’t talk for more than five minutes. I try not to talk about myself too much. Instead, I listen to them. I try to be in their world; know what they are going through. And I suggest rather than tell them what to do,” Ms Oh said.

So, these days, when she wants to discuss a value or share an opinion with her children, she uses subtler techniques.

“When they were young, I used to read to them. Now, if there is story I want to tell them, I borrow a DVD of the movie that has that theme.”

It takes time, she confessed, to sift through programmes and select those with topics they can discuss. But it is worth the effort. Perhaps that is why her children are willing to spend time with her and her husband, Peter. Apart from family holidays, Sunday evenings are sacred. That is when she and her husband whip up home-cooked meals for the family.

Another family routine they make time for is their annual goal-setting exercise.

“At the beginning of the year, we sit down with a piece of paper and do objective-setting as a family. We do it at a nice restaurant and talk about all the goals we want to achieve for ourselves in the year.” she said.

“Then, in the middle of the year, we will have a review of our progress. And the kids will talk more. We started when the children were quite young and I have kept a collection of the goals all these years. It’s our family treasure.”

The couple also makes time to spend with each child individually. They take turns driving each child to school and to their various activities, and use that time to talk.

“My husband also took art classes with my daughter. I support my son in his co-curricular activity,” added Ms Oh.

Weekend breakfasts are couple time which she will not compromise because “a woman must not neglect her husband; the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse”.

Because she believes in putting family first, there have been times in the past when she has had to let her career take a back seat. She had given up overseas postings twice so that she could spend more time with her children.

“But I have no regrets. I believe you can have it all, just not all at the same time.”

The bond she works hard to develop with her family is the result of coming from a close-knit family herself.

“There are seven of us and we are all very close,” said Ms Oh of her siblings. “We didn’t have much but we were happy because we knew we were in it together.”

Her father who had a small transport business and home-maker mother were at times so poor that the children could not go to school on some days because they could not afford school fees. But Ms Oh remembers some really happy times.

“Once a year, even though we barely had enough to eat, my parents would buy a big basket of durians for us. It was such a luxury, we felt like kings,” she said.

Till today, the siblings still spend some time together. They regularly have family gatherings and have started meeting on every public holiday to visit a national park.

“It’s just us siblings, like the old times.”

Making Time for Others

Ms Oh volunteered to host children supported by CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, at the Group’s Family Day at the Jurong Bird Park
Ms Oh volunteered to host children supported by CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, at the Group’s Family Day at the Jurong Bird Park

Ms Oh is also one who makes time for others. When her children were young, the entire family would volunteer at a dog farm.

“The children were about two or three when we started doing that. We all love pets. So we would spend almost every weekend there caring for the abandoned animals. I wanted to teach the children to be kind and responsible and not be self-centred but to give back to society.”

Now that they are older and the farm has moved to Malaysia, she turns her attention to helping people.

“What I do is not very structured. I work by referrals. Friends of friends who need help with a troubled child, marriage counseling, assistance with a special needs child; I listen to them,” she said.

She exudes such a friendly persona that even strangers she meets open up to her.

“The best way to touch people is to be there for them, make time for them. When I pass on, I hope people will remember me as a kind person.”

Because she volunteers outside of work, Ms Oh understands the need to recognise such efforts. CapitaLand has always encouraged volunteerism. Since 2006, all CapitaLand staff are entitled to three days of Volunteer Service Leave (VSL) annually to participate in charitable causes during work days. CapitaLand staff who expend all three days of their VSL will ‘earn’ a S$500 donation towards a selected Singapore-based children’s charity in Singapore of their choice.

Staff volunteers have made good use of the VSL. In 2011, CapitaLand staff volunteered close to 10,000 hours in various activities across Asia.

To further encourage philanthropy and volunteerism within the Group, CapitaLand is encouraging staff to also volunteer outside of work hours.

“Going forward, we will be including volunteer work done during personal time such as in the evenings or over weekends as well. We want to track the hours and recognise them for it,” said Ms Oh.

To that end, CapitaLand is introducing the first inaugural Because iCare Volunteer Awards in 2014 where volunteers will be recognised for their involvement in community development initiatives, whether it is done during or outside work hours.

As Ms Oh sows the seeds of kindness by giving to others the precious gift of time, it is certain that where she goes, she will reap goodwill from the people whose lives she has touched.

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