HEAR FROM EDB CHAIRMAN SWAN GIN

Dr Beh Swan Gin

A medical doctor by training, Swan Gin graduated from the National University of Singapore in March 1991. He is also a Sloan Fellow with a Masters of Science in Management from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and completed the Advanced Management Programme at the Harvard Business School.

Swan Gin’s 20-year career in EDB saw him rise from young graduate officer in 1992, to Managing Director in 2008 before he was appointed Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Law in 2012.

During his time in EDB, he held diverse appointments in divisions ranging from industry development to planning and policy, and from corporate development to global operations. He played a leading role in the development of Singapore’s Biomedical Science cluster when he was EDB’s Director for Biomedical Sciences from 2001-2006. Between 1995 and 2000, he was based in Washington DC and New York as part of EDB’s North American Operations.

On 1 December 2014, Swan Gin was appointed Chairman, EDB.

You studied Medicine in the National University of Singapore– but rather than join the medical profession after graduation, you decided to join EDB. What interested you in this career?

I was clear that I did not want to practice medicine as a career; hence, when I finished my housemanship, I applied to EDB. A friend of mine, Elaine Yew (now MD of East Asia at Egon Zehnder and part of its Global Executive Committee), was working in EDB’s Creative Business unit at that time, and I had always been interested in design so I figured that I would give it a shot! Nine interviews and six months later, I ended up joining EDB’s Chemicals Group to look after the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices portfolio. Mr Philip Yeo, the then-Chairman and Mr Tan Chin Nam, the then-MD, were wise enough to steer me towards a job where I could still put my medical training to some use! That may also have been the reason that persuaded the Ministry of Health to let me serve out my bond at EDB.

You’ve spent time in the four job families of EDB – Industry Development, Global Operations, Planning & Policy and Corporate Development. What are some memorable moments?

There are too many! Cutting my teeth as a Senior Officer and helping to secure our first US pharmaceutical investment was a highlight. My posting to the US and New York City in particular, was a wonderful experience where I grew as a person, made some good friends and learnt a lot about American society and culture. After my return to Singapore, I also had the opportunity to be part of Singapore’s Biomedical Sciences initiative, which has been and remains an incredible adventure. But I regard it as my good luck and deep privilege to have worked directly for two outstanding leaders in the Public Sector, Mr Philip Yeo and Mr Lim Siong Guan. Perhaps as important as good leaders, in EDB, we are blessed to always be surrounded by talented, smart colleagues who are constantly striving to do better and doing so as a team!

What do you feel you learned at EDB, which equipped you for success in MinLaw?

As a result of meeting so many companies from all over the world, I came to appreciate that different organisations succeed in different ways. It depends on the organisation’s mission, culture, talent profile, leadership, etc. What worked in EDB will not work in MinLaw. In fact, what worked for EDB in the 90s would not have worked for EDB in the 2000s, and indeed, EDB is busy re-inventing itself yet again as we now operate in a different socio-economic environment.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to applicants considering EDB?

What are you waiting for? Whether you stay for five years, 10 years or 20 years, this is probably one of the best places to launch your career. You will learn to be a manager and a leader, acquire good business skills and gain an international mindset. Even better, you will make many good friends and go home every day satisfied that you are making a difference!

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