Working at EDB gives you an understanding of what makes businesses tick.
Kah Peng clocked almost 17 years at EDB, rising from her entry-level role as an officer in the Chemicals Industry division to Assistant Managing Director. During her time at EDB, she spent more than six years abroad, heading up the Chicago office and subsequently EDB’s entire European operations. She was also awarded an EDB scholarship to pursue the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership in the US.
Kah Peng, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the National University of Singapore, returned to Singapore in mid-2001 to take on the post of Deputy Director of EDB’s Chemicals division. She was later appointed Chief Executive of Singapore Tourism Board from Jan 2009 to May 2012. She is currently General Manager Global Commercial Strategy Development at Shell Eastern Petroleum.
You spent a significant part of your career journey at EDB. What were some of the highlights of your time there?
During that time, we played a part in drawing quite a few large projects to Singapore such as Exxon’s first chemical cracker on Jurong Island. Shell also made a big investment in Jurong Island during the late 1990s. However, I must stress that a lot of these projects take a long time to develop. They also take the collective effort of a team. Our success was really the success of the EDB system. I was lucky that those investments came to fruition during my time.
The Chicago posting was another highlight for me, since I had never been to Chicago before that. The geographical responsibility was large, extending from the Mid-West down to Texas in the south. I was on a plane very often- it was quite an adventure! Cities like Houston, for example, were very strong in oil and chemicals, and oil & gas equipment, while its biotechnology sector was also growing rapidly.
What is it like working overseas compared to the Singapore headquarters?
When you’re out there, the offices are often very small in size. It’s no more than two or three people, or five to seven people at the maximum at bigger centres. So you have to be very independent and resourceful; you have to figure things out by yourself. You also quickly learn how to run a small office, dealing with everything from installing a new printer, paying bills for overheads to bigger things like liaising with banks.
After Chicago, you moved to London. What was that like?
Again, there was a lot of flying around. I was based in London but handled the European portfolio where I covered different countries and had to manage a much bigger team. I also had to pick up on business practices in Europe which were very much different from those in North America.
What is unique about the EDB experience?
Working at EDB gives you an understanding of what makes businesses tick. At the same time, it also gives you an insight into the concerns of a country and what makes good government – how you keep the economy going, and how you create jobs. It exposes you both to the private sector perspectives as well as the public sector’s goals.
Any thoughts to pass on to someone who's considering a career at EDB?
You don’t know what you’re missing! Honestly, how many jobs give you diversity, engagement at an operational level, and exposure to perspectives from the top level as well as that of government? There are not many jobs out there that will give you all that, and at an early stage of your career.