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Diverse experiences in maritime industry help set his career compass
Through his various roles within PSA, manager Chester Chng has gleaned a breadth of insights into the complexities of the maritime industry. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

The programme gave the SgIS scholar experience in five vastly different roles over seven years, enabling him to develop a versatile skill set

Like many young people, Mr Chester Chng was unsure of the exact path he wanted in life and work.

“I was studying business at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and I felt it was somewhat of a general degree,” says the 32-year-old manager at PSA International.

“I was afraid of getting jobs that I would be bored with and end up job-hopping,” he says. “I wanted to find a career that gave me options and the ability to try different things.”

He was, however, clear on one thing: Finding a job that would let him give back to his country.

While doing his national service, Mr Chng discovered the Singapore-Industry Scholarship (SgIS), an undergraduate scholarship for young Singaporeans who are keen to contribute to the nation’s key sectors.

“I only had to apply through one portal to many different organisations, and all these companies were part of Singapore’s strategic sectors,” he says.

“The scholarship helped to broaden my perspective by allowing me to explore industries that I had not previously considered.”

SgIS is the only multi-industry scholarship in partnership with the Government, offering Singapore citizens scholarships at different stages of their university education (before admission or in mid-course), either locally or overseas.

The organisations participating in SgIS hail from a wide spectrum of industries such as the arts, aviation and aerospace, biomedical and pharmaceuticals, engineering, energy and natural resources, and maritime.

Through the SgIS programme, scholars are exposed to various development opportunities such as induction programmes, internships, mentorships, dialogue sessions, leaders’ forums as well as the scholars’ network.

Diverse roles for greater understanding

Among the companies Mr Chng applied to, PSA resonated with him the most. Upon joining PSA, he was provided with a wealth of opportunities that has seen him take on five vastly different roles in the past seven years.

Currently a manager in the Group CEO’s office, he first began as an operations executive at Pasir Panjang Terminal in 2016 before joining the stowage planning team. His third role was with the finance team doing financial planning and analysis.

He was then rotated to the South-east Asia Chief Executive Officer’s office and is currently with the Group CEO’s office.

From the get-go, Mr Chng was exposed to challenging situations and got to witness how strong leaders dealt with them.

“During my on-the-job training in my first role, there was a container vessel that was carrying dangerous goods and we found out that the vessel was leaking,” he says.

“I felt a lot of uncertainty as I was still new, but my manager exhibited excellent leadership. He showed me what needed to be done to get the situation under control, how to coordinate with a lot of people across different divisions and still ensure the safety of everyone involved.”

Under the guidance of his mentors, Mr Chng learnt to solve problems by approaching them from multiple angles.

“One of my mentors was the head of the finance department and she taught me how to understand the different motivations of stakeholders,” he shares. “This was valuable advice that helped me to engage the stakeholders and develop holistic plans.”

With this strategy, Mr Chng has been able to rapidly adapt to new job responsibilities as he rotated among different departments.

“The best thing about being an SgIS scholar with PSA is having the diverse opportunities to broaden my horizons and hone my business acumen.”

Mr Chester Chng, recipient of the Singapore-Industry Scholarship

For example, he went from planning the loading schedule of container vessels to doing financial analysis and budget planning.

These diverse job rotations were vital in helping him see the breadth and complexity of work within the maritime industry, and get a deeper understanding of what it takes to keep Singapore ports at the top of their game.

“Thankfully, the strong culture of teamwork and camaraderie at PSA helped me to overcome the steep learning curve,” he says. “My experiences have also provided me with a good foundation in understanding the business.”

Making a difference

During the Covid-19 pandemic, he experienced first-hand how Singapore ports continued operating when ports in other countries had gone into lockdown.

“Witnessing the coordinated efforts across the organisation to facilitate cargo flow during this challenging period was a reaffirmation of the purpose and value that PSA delivers, and the difference that I get to make at work every day,” he says.

The future promises to be even more exciting as the Singapore maritime industry transitions to green technologies and Mr Chng is eager to play his part in saving the planet.

“Sustainability is something that we are really cognisant of,” he points out.

“We are working on reducing direct emissions, the electrification of our equipment and using renewable energy sources.”

As he looks to the future, Mr Chng is grateful for the dynamic path that SgIS has set him upon.

“The scholarship allowed me to get involved in different aspects of the business. It also provided opportunities for me to network with other scholars and gain valuable insights from senior leaders,” he says.

“The best thing about being an SgIS scholar with PSA is having diverse opportunities to broaden my horizons and hone my business acumen.”

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