Rising to the challenge

Serene (centre), Senior Manager, Regional Investments at Keppel Land, encourages fellow Keppelites to rise to the challenge and accept overseas postings when opportunities arise

Serene (centre), Senior Manager, Regional Investments at Keppel Land, encourages fellow Keppelites to rise to the challenge and accept overseas postings when opportunities arise

When the opportunity arose for her to venture out to Keppel Land’s regional markets beyond its headquarters in Singapore, Serene Phua, Senior Manager, Regional Investments, Keppel Land, gamely accepted the challenge.

It was an unexpected turn of events to those familiar with Serene – accepting an overseas posting was certainly out of character for her. Reflecting on her decision, Serene shared candidly, “To be honest, I am not a very adventurous person. Even when choosing vacation destinations, I prefer to visit modern and developed countries which I am familiar with. However, on hindsight, I’m glad I rose to the challenge, as it has exposed to me many new opportunities.”

In January 2014, Serene was posted to Yangon, Myanmar, to help manage Keppel Land’s investments in the country, as well as to explore new opportunities.

For Serene, transiting to a slower pace of life in Yangon took some getting used to. While Singaporeans are spoilt for choice with a wide range of entertainment options, the Myanmar people generally spend their leisure time playing a traditional game of chinlone with neighbours, spending time with friends and family at parks or visiting the pagodas.

“Many visitors have commented that Yangon reminds them of Singapore in the days past, with only a handful of high-rise buildings and streets filled with betel nut stains. However, as the city steadily develops, more skyscrapers are added to the city’s skyline and it is interesting to witness firsthand how the city has modernised within the two years I have been here.”

During weekends, Serene enjoys spending time with the new friends she has made and exploring downtown Yangon, which has the largest collection of colonial-era buildings in Asia.

She mused, “I have grown tremendously since starting this stint. Things run very differently here and if you expect everything to be as straightforward as what we are used to in Singapore, prepare to be surprised.

“Over time, I’ve gotten used to a different way of life here. The Burmese are also very hospitable and that has really eased me into my stay here. I also find my work here highly satisfying.”

Serene’s most recent project is Keppel Land’s acquisition of 40% stake in Junction City Tower, the office component of the highly anticipated mixed-use development in downtown Yangon. Junction City Tower was recently topped off in May this year and will be ready to welcome tenants in early 2017.

Despite the initial challenges, Serene encourages fellow Keppelites to step out of their comfort zone to accept an overseas posting if they are presented with the opportunity.

“Many will echo me in agreeing that working and living abroad not only expands your horizons but also builds strength and resilience in you – traits that are valuable in both your professional and personal life.”