Concrete Fun

Left: Foo Cexiang | Right: Harold Soong

Amazing innovations and incredible times can be found at JTC. We speak to two scholars who reveal a world behind the concrete and steel infrastructure.

By Kevin Lim

“JTC Corporation is Singapore's leading industrial infrastructure specialist spearheading the planning and development of a dynamic industrial landscape.”

Our pre-interview research into the corporation led us to believe we would be meeting two serious, intelligent gentlemen who would answer our questions with a calm monotone.

Instead, what we got were two incredibly charming men who were everything but boring. Besides being open and humorous, they were full of smiles during the conversation.

Meet the two men: Harold Soong, Acting Assistant Director of JTC’s Corporate Finance department and Foo Cexiang, a Planner in the Physical Planning department.

Ties That Bind

We soon discover that the common thread that binds both men together is their entry into JTC; they have both gone through JTC’s coveted scholarship scheme.

Harold credits the scholarship for giving him the opportunity to live and study overseas at the University of Chicago. This independence provided him with one of the most enriching experiences of his life, and developed him intellectually and emotionally.

As for what sets the JTC scholarship apart from others, Cexiang responds that while most scholarships provide somewhat similar financial and educational benefits, JTC offers its scholars a rewarding career replete with lifelong learning and opportunities, which was an important factor to him when he chose the scholarship.

“JTC is unique in our approach; we adopt a government strategic planning perspective that is economics-driven and customer-focused. Since these angles can be very different, seeking a balanced approach with win-win solutions can be a mammoth task at times. You quickly develop the sound analytical thinking and excellent people skills needed to get the job done.”

Cexiang also recalls fondly about how the Human Resource Division maintained contact with him throughout his studies, even assigning him a mentor to help him out.

“I felt like I was part of JTC long before I even stepped foot in its offices,” he says.

Career Highlights

Despite being a fresh face in the corporation with only a year of experience, Cexiang already has a pool of fond memories that he has gathered during his time in JTC.

He tells us about his two most memorable projects to date. The first was his maiden industrial rezoning project for Wenya Industrial Estate, which he successfully completed after his analytical, negotiation, communication, people and project management skills were put to the test.

The second was organising the inaugural JTC I³ Challenge. Conducted at the JC level, students who entered the competition were had to conduct real-life site surveys and design their own industrial estates.

As a key organiser, Cexiang guided and acted as a mentor to the students who as they drew up SWOT analysis, proposed conceptual plans, and built entire models of their developments. The students were judged based on the creativity and clarity of their ideas in achieving innovative industrial infrastructure.

Both projects were rewarding in their own ways. The rezoning project was a success after much hard work by Cexiang and his teammates, while the JTC I³ Challenge gave this young planner an appreciation for the passion and desire of future Singapore site planners.

Life at JTC

We ask Harold about life as a JTC employee.

“We work hard and play hard!” is his honest and immediate reply.

At JTC, life is never about being alone, and indeed, work can never be accomplished without a good team around you. Harold recalls his early days at the corporation, where he had a mentor who showed him the ropes and introduced him to the corporate culture.

He also attended an orientation programme, which included talks by the management and visits to JTC sites. By the time he was several months old in the organisation, Harold felt like he knew the company inside out thanks to the constant support and excellent programmes that JTC provided.

He adds, “New employees now have, in addition to the comprehensive orientation programme, a systematic process of training, mentoring, cross-functional exposure, overseas study trips, and training awards to get their careers kick started in the best way possible.”

Cexiang jumps in to remind us that despite the comprehensive training, newcomers should not expect any “honeymoon period” when entering the company. JTC employees are professionals who learn to overcome challenges in their jobs from the very beginning, and scholars should expect to face an intensive and steep learning process, aided of course, with a lot of help from friendly colleagues.

What surprised Cexiang though, was not his job, but how outstandingly fun his colleagues are. After all, a corporation specialising in industrial infrastructure is not the usual place you will expect to find colourful characters.

Cexiang tells us that while JTC employees are steadfast professionals at their jobs, they are incredibly sporting, as seen from the host of recreational activities and events organised by the corporation.

“JTC goes out of its way to make sure we have an outstanding work-life balance, and this has definitely improved our cohesiveness as a closely knit team,” Cexiang says.

Qualities for Success

With such a strong emphasis on personalities building up the corporation, we ask, “What qualities make a good JTC team member?”

“Open mindedness” says Harold. “No one has a monopoly on knowledge and good ideas, and in an organisation that is never short on bold ideas, everyone has a right to speak up. Keep an open mind, listen, and share because you never know where the next big idea will be coming from.”

Advice to Students

As for their advice to students who are considering a JTC scholarship, Cexiang has this to say.

“JTC offers you a real opportunity to make a direct contribution to Singapore. If you aspire to join the public service, and have a genuine calling to serve society, this corporation offers you that chance. Here, you will develop and implement ideas that create jobs and drive Singapore’s growth.”

Harold agrees and hopes would-be scholars will learn more about JTC’s mission and role in Singapore’s economic advancement. It has been his unwavering belief in the corporation and its purpose that explains the great success he now enjoys in his career.

JTC in a Nutshell

Before saying goodbye, Harold and Cexiang stop to give us their final thoughts.

“At JTC, the opportunities are in place for a thoroughly rewarding career, developing the future of Singapore. It’s up to you to make a difference.”

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