Global Workforce: Singaporean Alumni Thrive in Overseas Employment

7 December 2018

By Kevin Low

This article is part of a two part series looking at alumni working in foreign environments. Look out for the next piece in Feb 2019 featuring international students working in Singapore.

Starting a new job after graduation is a daunting task for many. Starting a new job in a foreign country is even more so, according to Singaporean alumni from the Class of 2017. But thanks to the international environment of Yale-NUS College, they felt that they were equipped to take the plunge.

“The fact that I had many international classmates and friends helped me be comfortable interacting with many different people, so it was easy for me to acclimatise to the US,” said Environmental Studies major Valerie Pang, who was hired as a Business Operations Generalist by blockchain company, Trust Token, in San Francisco, California. She is responsible for partner on-boarding and management, providing training and support to partners on products and services, and developing data-driven analyses, insights, and recommendations for strategic process and product improvements.

Ms Valerie Pang at Santa Cruz beach. Image provided by Valerie Pang.

Ms Pang, who had already gotten a taste of living and working abroad while at Yale-NUS, sought overseas employment because she wanted to gain international working experience while she was still young.

“I studied and interned in Silicon Valley during my third year and really liked it here,” she said. “Silicon Valley is a hub for technology and innovation, and was the best place for me to immerse myself in the tech industry.”

Ms Pang said she found applying for an overseas job challenging. “You have to convince employers that you’re the best candidate for the job and that they should hire you and apply for a work visa on your behalf,” she said, adding that she missed being in touch regularly with her friends and family in Singapore because of the different time zones.

To alleviate this, Ms Pang said she spends her free time exploring the San Francisco Bay Area. “There are many interesting events happening here, new people to meet, and great nature and scenery everywhere,” she said. “I’ve been really inspired by the people I’ve met and their interesting ideas and different ways of being.”

Elson Ong, an Urban Studies major, joined Goldman Sachs as an Asia Funding Product Control Analyst in Hong Kong. Mr Ong credits the critical thinking skills and broad-based education he received at Yale-NUS with helping him “learn quickly about a brand new field that I do not have a background in.”

Believing Hong Kong to be the “Wall Street of the East”, Mr Ong decided to take up this position to gain more exposure to the finance sector. His new job requires him to handle daily profit and loss statements and balance sheets for the funding desk. He also monitors the revenue that the desk generates, reviews trading activities and assesses risk inherent in the trading positions.

Mr Elson Ong, on a hike on Ma On Shan. Image provided by Elson Ong.

Having lived in Singapore all his life, he wanted to learn to be more independent and meet a variety of people in the cultural melting pot that is Hong Kong. He said he has great appreciation for his colleagues, who are driven, knowledgeable and humble.

“No matter how busy they might be, they will make time to address any questions that I have,” he said. “There is also a sense of camaraderie because everyone strives to do their best, and this challenges me to give my best as well.”

Mr Ong’s challenges have been mainly logistical. He found the amount of effort he had to put into settling things like his housing, bank accounts, mobile phone plans and taxes staggering. Nevertheless, he enjoys building new networks with colleagues and friends, as well as travelling and exploring. “Hong Kong has more nature areas than Singapore, and I go on hikes to view the beautiful scenery and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “I also have the opportunity to travel to the Chinese mainland to visit historical sites and learn more about my cultural heritage.”

When asked if they had any advice to share with those considering taking up an overseas job, Ms Pang and Mr Ong agreed that the best thing to do would be to just take the leap.

“It will be a chance for you to go out of your comfort zone and experience something new,” she said.

He added: “The experience of stretching beyond your limits will help you understand yourself better and define new horizons in your life.”