Living and working overseas has been nothing less than an eye-opener for Oh Kheng Huat, 44. In 2008, the General Manager of Keppel Logistics’ Strategic Business Unit accepted a job posting to Vietnam, far away from what he is used to back home.
At the time, Keppel Logistics had just set up Indo-Trans Keppel Logistics in Vietnam, and Kheng Huat’s role was to integrate Keppel’s best practices into the company and grow the business. The overseas stint, he says, was a good opportunity to leave his comfort zone.
Taking your young family overseas
When Kheng Huat accepted the overseas posting, his youngest son was just six months old. He recalled being concerned about whether his family would be able to adjust to a new environment, and whether his children would have access to good education in a developing country.
His worries, however, were largely unfounded. Kheng Huat and his family soon made friends with other Vietnam-based Singaporeans, as well as the locals. They quickly adjusted to a new way of life, and the children settled into their new school, which followed Singapore’s educational curriculum.
Though Kheng Huat’s early experience with Vietnam was limited to several business trips he had made there before relocation, he found himself settling into the rhythm of his new work routine comfortably with the help of more experienced colleagues.
He says Keppel’s long presence in Vietnam has been particularly helpful in helping him adapt to a new environment. He credits his mentors for the sound advice which enabled him to gain a better understanding of the business climate in Vietnam.
“We also have a strong local partner in Vietnam through our joint venture company, Indo-Trans Keppel Logistics and they also played an instrumental role in helping me through the initial learning curve,” he adds.
Kheng Huat is also grateful for the support provided by his employer, in the form of a capable operations manager, whom he says helped him to focus better on his role. He adds that the company provided a “whole ecosystem” of support, including IT, regional sales, and HR, which enabled him to work effectively and have sufficient autonomy to ease into his new role.
Just a month into his posting, Kheng Huat sealed his first business deal with the support of his colleagues.
But his stint overseas was not without its challenges. Kheng Huat recalls that at the time, the logistics sector in Vietnam was largely undeveloped, and it was difficult to identify and recruit suitable candidates to fill job openings. However, he has come to recognise that such challenges are all part of the learning process.
“The network of customers and suppliers you have built up over the years, as well as the market knowledge, are things that stay with you – no one can take these away from you,” he says.
This knowledge includes learning how to break into a new market, which Kheng Huat says is valuable for work in any industry.
Reflecting on his overseas stint, Kheng Huat says he values the experience he has gained and encourages others to follow suit, should the opportunity present itself. He says: “Overseas postings broaden your perspective, both professionally and personally. It made me more resilient to changes and challenges. Even having to make some sacrifices along the way will be worth your while in the long run.”
He adds that his overseas experience is even more valuable against the backdrop of a rapidly-changing logistics industry. He says that in recent years, he has observed numerous changes and disruption to the logistics industry – a trend which he describes as ‘the new normal’.
He says: “My focus now is to stay ahead of the disruptive changes and support Keppel Logistics in its transformative journey so we can continue to do well in the new economy.”