Host, Amos Tay speaks to New Soon Tee of PICK Network on his journey of moving from the private sector to the government sector, PICK’s values and how that translates to making hiring decisions, and his views on what is the right mentality to have as a candidate.
Hello, and you’re listening to Single Steps, a podcast by Hatch Asia Consulting, inspired by Lao Tzu’s “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
You will be hosted by Amos Tay as he meets New Soon Tee of PICK Network.
Amos Tay 00:20
Every talent has a story. And each story starts with their single steps. Today, we welcome our very first guest, Mr. New Soon Tee, Chief Executive Officer of Pick Network Private Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), who will share with us his career journey spanning across more than 20 years in the logistics, infocomm, and manufacturing industries. Welcome, Soon Tee.
New Soon Tee 00:45
Hi, thanks. Thanks for having me, Amos.
Amos Tay 00:49
So, Soon Tee, I’ve been following your career progression on LinkedIn. And in fact, over the last few years, I’ve seen a few career transitions. You have moved on from a private organization where you’ve spent almost 20 years within the industry and into a government agency. I’m very curious what made you make that move back then when you took up the offer from IMDA?
New Soon Tee 01:15
Well, thanks for the question, Amos. It’s more like an opportunity that was make available to me at a time when I’m with the private sector and in the- leading a team of IT professionals as a technology lead across twelve different countries. It reached a point where I feel more or less than supporting an enterprise in the logistics sector and also looking out for something else. And the opportunity just came by when the HR director of IMDA called me up one day and suggested for me to join them because they’re looking for industry domained people who understand their technology as well as supply chain to help their journey in digitalizing the sector. And hence, I decided to give it a try and I’ve been since then working for IMDA for six or seven years.
Amos Tay 02:20
Right. So, from a talent perspective, where you have transited into a government agency, I hear a lot of similarity when you were in a private sector. Do you feel that that was an advantage for you to transit into the role as quickly and as smoothly versus if it was another industry altogether where your expertise or your knowledge were not tapped on?
New Soon Tee 02:56
Certainly yes. If you look at the role that I was performing in the IMDA, I am almost like a transformation agent to help enterprises assess a sector, digitalizing trust. Hence, in their knowledge in terms of the particular domain like sup- trade and connectivity is important because that solves part of the problem: understanding what industry you want, understand the challenges, knowing what can be done and what cannot be done. So that’s one part which I think private sector individuals bring a lot of value to the public sector because of this understanding.
However, working within the public sectors also have a certain sets of requirement which is difficult to be found in the private sector. When I first came on board to IMDA, the biggest difference I see in terms of the public sectors and the private sectors is the thinking consideration are rather different. Commercially, a lot of time we focus on reducing cost, increasing profit, or maximizing revenue. So commercially what motivate us is quite straightforward.
A lot of time when a government agency try to transform the sector or support a sector or help them digitalize, they have to think in terms of sector-wide. That how a program can be designed to benefit the entire sector, the entire ecosystem combination. And that is quite difficult because in the entire ecosystem when intro- a new program is introduced transforms the sector, there’s uneven value creation across the ecosystem. Sometimes, a certain part of the ecosystem may witness a decrease in value where other part of it will see things an increase. How could we then design a means of reallocating these benefits, such that stakeholders would want to come on board because this is at a positive gain rather than a destroy- the destruction of value as an example. So, that thinking is very different from the private sector thinking. Yes, we will ask them – that we have more stakeholder to consider, hence we have to achieve this kind of benefits. But to think from that kind of perspective like- as a nationwide program, as a sector-wide program, a lot of time, private sector don’t have that kind of experience. But once these two parts is sort of integrated, then I think the individual can be very effective in delivering that out. Yeah.
Amos Tay 06:15
Right. So, when we talk about these skill sets, or even competencies, what would be the organization’s values in translation to how you hire talent, or how you view talent in the current organization that you are leading?
New Soon Tee 06:36
Okay. So, if you look at PICK Network, we incorporated to manage or personally deploy the nationwide personnel infrastructure, and then subsequently operating it and serving the sectors’ need. We’re almost like a start-ups. And therefore, the need to be very nimble in responding to the dynamics of the sector and the e-commerce sector is a sector that evolve very quickly. Hence, the need to be able to introduce new ideas, new services, and new way of doing things to continue to be relevant to the industry. That is one part and hence, I think nimbleness is important. Who is willing to also be able to be very creative about how we do things and make things happen. Sometimes it’s about leveraging on what you have. Sometime it’s about, you know, panelling with panels and make things happen. So being versatile is perhaps another key attributes that is needed more like a start-up.
Last point is really about boundaryless because it’s a small entity that is not a very big team, limited resources. So, each one of us take on, we sort of take on a lot more responsibility than the typical well-established organizations. So, you’ll see that maybe my operation teams are also very versatile in terms of technology. My commercial team need to not just engage the commercial entity that they serve, but also to work with the public in terms of residence, as an example. The willingness to work across many different areas, I think it’s also important. So, I summarize the three key attributes: nimbleness, versatile, as well as willing to take on a lot more extra responsibility. Of course, being a small organization, we probably don’t have the complexity as much than that of a large organization. So hence, although the scope is wide, usually we are less complicated than that. Yeah.
Amos Tay 09:19
Right. So, with the digitalization economy, I guess our talent journey will always be a work in progress, because every time when there is a new technology, our talent will have to learn new skills. I think that’s also been a way where I believe there is a certain gap in terms of knowledge and skills. Were there challenges that you face when you were implementing project and you had to hire, but you could not find the relevant professionals in Singapore?
New Soon Tee 09:55
In the end, there will always be a mismatch. Sometimes, it’s not just whether it’s in Singapore or not. Rather, the opportunity that is made available, but the individual may not be ready to take on or when a particular individual is looking for something else, he may not find what he want. So that means mismatch always exists.
Yes, we do have some issue looking for engineers that understand the electrical environment in terms of how we connect the lockers to the power source, how do we do the wiring, because that requires understanding as to how the building’s construction is and so forth. So, that is something that we face; it’s a gap what we have.
And of course, from a different perspective, if you’re looking for resources that understand the new technology, whether it’s in the area of more recent developments, such as blockchain and AI, versus the more established one which is like, you know, database technology, and so forth. So, there’s always a gap there.
My belief is, I think the individual who is willing to learn and willing to experiment, and willing to explore the character of the person- the personality, is a lot more important than the skill, the skill match that he has for the particular role, or she has for the particular role. The reason is you can learn almost anything as long as you’re willing to explore and try. Hence, the willingness to learn, the willingness to explore, perhaps is the most important attribute, even though we may not find the best match. And there will never be a best match. Because even when I joined IMDA many years ago, I don’t have the public sector experience. I need to go through a learning process to understand how to think the entire sector, how think on the nationwide perspective – in terms of between what public needs to do versus what the private sector should be doing, and so forth. So those are things where you just have to learn because there’s no perfect match. So, my view is the most important part is really that the individual personality and character in terms of his willingness to try out and do new things. Yeah.
Amos Tay 12:33
Do you believe that, in order to look at the longer-term career perspective, at times you may have to sacrifice a certain lost within a short period of time, so that you can transit into a role, especially in the climate like this right now where we probably see some skills match within the economy. What’s your view, then, for talents, who are facing an issue of going to a new industry?
New Soon Tee 13:11
Yeah. I think that mental preparedness to sacrifice is important. I mean, it’s not just in the current context. But I think that’s always been the case, just it comes in a different form. When you decided to gain an international exposure, and you had to travel a lot more, there’s a sacrifice they make from a family perspective, because you cannot see them all the time. You’ll probably be travelling three times per month or having conference call every night with a international organization. That is also a form of sacrifice, which we’re quite familiar with, because that’s what the world is like, you know at that time, if I have to draw an analogy.
To your question specifically in terms of a career switch from one sector to another to a new area that they are not familiar with, they may have to be prepared to, you know sacrifice a little bit and learn the rope. Sure, because certainly in where you come from may not match where you want to be in the new environment and hence, people would not consider them as- I mean, you’re still relevant surely, but perhaps not as directly contributing to the new roles. And there may be some expectation that needs to be adjust in order to venture or gain into the new area. Hence, that willingness to sacrifice and to sort of take a step back before you launch out to where you want to be, I think that preparedness is important.
And of course, as an error we try to, as much as possible, take everything into consideration. Not so much we want to suppress the- let’s say the remuneration of that individual who is taking a transformation. But rather because as an enterprise, you always will have a budget to work with. We always have how much you compensate or reward a particular position depending on the scope of the work. And there’s also certain degree of alignment needed across organizations as well. All these are what enterprise would face in terms of how they need to design the package for the role that they are hiring. And therefore, there will always be sort of a mismatch if you are coming from a slightly different sector. But as individual, when we take on some of these new work area and hopefully the gap is not too big then, we always see that there is a potential for us to go further in the longer run because some sectors they are from could be contracting, and there are lesser such jobs available, and hence the need to transfer or to transform or to try something out different. So, I think as an individual the preparedness to sacrifice a little bit in a different form in today’s world, in this context we’re talking about, is important. I think it’s unavoidable. Yeah.
Amos Tay 16:53
Right, thank you. Thank you, Soon Tee, for sharing with us your journey. I hope this will give inspiration and provide insights to any of our listeners to learn, unlearn, and relearn from our experts and from our program. Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to invite you back again in the near future.
New Soon Tee 17:15
Thanks. Thanks Amos for having me.
Thank you for listening. We hope this podcast can help in your learning journeys. Check us out on our LinkedIn page, Hatch Asia Consulting. Till next time. Keep growing.
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