Global Business Leaders

Left: Desmond Yeo | Right: Yeoh Mei Ling

Despite being a mere little red dot on the map, Singapore’s companies are making waves on the global scene. Helping them make a name for themselves overseas are the officers of IE Singapore. We speak to two of them and find out what exactly they do to contribute to Singapore’s economy.

By Eliza Hamizah

Shape the course of Singapore’s economy, create jobs for thousands of Singaporeans, and travel the globe to rub shoulders with some of the world’s top business and political leaders.

That, in a nutshell, is the world of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore. For those keen on such a life, the IE Singapore Undergraduate Scholarship provides its recipients with invaluable experiences.

Two IE Singapore scholars, Yeoh Mei Ling and Desmond Yeo, take some time off their busy schedules and tell us how the scholarship has led them on the adventure of their lives, where the world is their oyster.

Abundant Opportunities
Squeezing in a quick interview with us before he rushes to an important meeting with China government officials, 26-year-old Desmond reveals that he sought the scholarship as it would expose him to international business and allow him to meet and interact with top industry leaders.

Desmond Yeo: “IE Singapore gave me opportunities to study in New York, Shanghai and Tokyo. It was amazing.”

Desmond explains that IE Singapore is split into different clusters that specialise in different regions and industries. Teams in the industry clusters, like retail and urban solutions, groom promising Singapore-based companies into globally competitive firms while teams in international operations provide market insights, identify opportunities, and connect these businesses to the right in-market partners.

Within each cluster, the market and sector teams work together to help Singapore-based companies identify business opportunities in key markets.

Desmond: “As a manager in the West China Division, I assist Singapore-based companies to expand into West China, specifically provinces like Sichuan. I look at different sectors, like the lifestyle or food industry, and assess if it’s a good time for local businesses to expand there and whether their products are a good fit for the local consumers."

According to Desmond, expanding overseas is the only way our Singapore-based companies can grow further, due to Singapore’s limited domestic market. Local companies partner IE Singapore and tap into the organisation’s expertise in emerging markets like China and Latin America.

Beyond Borders
Discovering a world beyond our borders is a common theme in IE Singapore. 27-year-old Mei Ling was consumed with the desire to leave her mark around the world and IE Singapore provided her with the perfect platform.

The travel enthusiast recalls how a simple scholarship fair ignited her love affair with IE Singapore.

Yeoh Mei Ling: “As a young graduate, the prospect of trotting around the globe to drive the growth of Singapore’s economy excited me. (Smiles) Having the chance to travel and at the same time, expose myself to different markets and sectors were appealing. However, it was after listening to a speaker from IE Singapore who talked about the merits of the job that solidified my decision.”

The scholarship opened up a world of opportunities for the manager at the Energy & Chemicals Division who sees the commodities trading industry as an area where she can develop deep expertise in various sectors like finance and management.

Mei Ling: “IE Singapore is responsible for driving Singapore’s external economy. Our two key missions are partnering Singapore-based companies in their internationalisation efforts and promoting international trade. As a manager in the Trade Promotion Group, I seek out overseas companies, specifically in the energy and chemicals sectors from Europe and Asia, and convince them to establish and grow their trading offices here.”

Memorable Experiences
Having to bridge connections between countries and companies means IE officers often interact with government officials and business leaders. Thus, networking and proper decorum is crucial.

Desmond: “On my first day, I was asked to have lunch with Chinese leaders. I had just returned home from my overseas studies and hadn’t spoken a word of Mandarin in four years! I didn’t know how to introduce myself properly, was unsure of technical terms, and I definitely didn’t know I had to toast to the leader! They certainly don’t teach you this kind of etiquette in school. It was a scary experience although the meeting did end on a positive note. Looking back, I’ve learned so much. You really need to observe and think on your feet. A piece of advice, if you don’t know what to do, just look at your peers or bosses and follow suit.”

Like Desmond, Mei Ling’s first overseas assignment was equally exciting.

Mei Ling: “I was sent to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to participate in a negotiation with the Gulf Cooperation Council. Work aside, it was a totally new experience. It was during the Ramadan period and I even wore a burqa, a traditional headgear for Muslim women! The environment and culture were completely different from what I was used to in Singapore.”

Despite having been with IE Singapore for more than four years, Mei Ling still looks forward to each overseas assignment with the same enthusiasm that she had when she first wore that burqa.

Mei Ling: “IE Singapore believes in exposing you to different markets and sectors. Everywhere I go, I always discover something new about the people and the way they work. Being exposed to their diverse culture broadens my perspective, which really prepares me for global business.”

Top Choice
Mei Ling: “IE Singapore has a diverse range of opportunities for you to explore at different stages of your career. You can be involved in strategic work, manage and develop a sector, or deepen Singapore’s economic engagement with foreign nations. The bosses here are great mentors and won’t hesitate to guide you.”

Desmond: “The scholarship's ability to groom you into a global business leader is unparalleled. If you crave exposure to international business, IE Singapore is the best place to be. In terms of being able to immerse in truly life-changing experiences, the IE Singapore scholarship is one of the best.”

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