Daring to be different, Chia Zhi Wen shares with us how her days with CapitaLand whets her appetite for challenge, from connecting with different people in her line of work to making sense of the dollars and cents.
"A quirk I developed when I was in Primary School was to remember phone numbers instead of saving them into my mobile. The ability to ‘digest’ digits and make sense of them has enabled me to pick up financial concepts quickly, even though I had no proper training in school."
Do you think joining the real estate industry is a far stretch for a Psychology graduate?
Yes and no! Psychology graduates usually take on roles such as HR specialists, school counsellors, or positions in government agencies. So in that sense I’ve indeed taken the path less travelled. However, it is also a general degree that gives us the freedom to do whatever we want to do.
It was through a discussion I had with a university professor that piqued my interest and made me decide to apply for CapitaLand’s Graduate Development Programme (GDP). The professor specialises in architectural psychology and shared with me the concepts of interactions between humans and the built environment. The discussion opened my mind to new possibilities, and since I’ve always wanted to try something different, I decided to take the leap!
On top of joining the real estate industry, you also decided to take on an Investors' Relations (IR) role as your first rotation in the CapitaLand GDP. That sounds like a lot of number-crunching and financial-related work.
The learning curve was undoubtedly steep because I was not financially trained in my field of study, but time with the IR team has provided me with the opportunity to gain a holistic perspective of CapitaLand’s business structure. Through attending analyst and investor briefings, I was able to have an industry “crash course”, as well as gain insight about CapitaLand’s business strategies.
The team has also been really helpful in getting me up to speed. Great emphasis was placed on mentorship so that I could learn on the job.
I remember having to analyse numbers from the Bloomberg Terminal when I first joined the IR team. It definitely gave me first-day jitters, but stock prices and market trends are now part of my everyday work and I’ve become adept to reading and analysing them.
Besides, IR is not all just number crunching. I’ve hosted property tours to Funan and One Pearl Bank and organised events for bankers, analysts and investors. The wide spectrum of work, combined with structured training through the GDP, has provided me the breadth and depth to better understand CapitaLand and the real estate business. It has definitely been an enriching experience.
What was your most challenging day so far?
I was involved in CapitaLand’s first half financial results announcement briefing when I first joined the company. That was crunch time for the IR team and everyone pitched in for the event. It was also the first time we held our briefing at Funan. I remember the team staying at the venue until past midnight to make sure that the results briefing went smoothly the following day. Coupled with the fact that I had next to zero real estate knowledge when I first joined, those were indeed challenging days. But it was also through such experiences that made the job more exciting and interesting. I thrive in high-stress situations. 😊
Did you put in any extra hours to become attuned with numbers?
I have a hidden talent and that is I can bake without recipes! Everyone who have tried baking would know that baking without recipe is a “recipe for disaster”. I can memorise numbers by heart - a quirk I developed when I was in primary school to remember phone numbers instead of saving them into my mobile, so I suppose I have a natural affinity with numbers! The ability to ‘digest’ digits and make sense of them has enabled me to pick up financial concepts quickly, even though I had no proper training in school.
That's quite extreme but I guess you proved a point. So you bake to unwind?
I love café-hopping and recreating the dishes I discovered and loved on these mini excursions. I have a sweet tooth and being able to nail a dessert (without a recipe!) is gratifying. It is also extremely satisfying to see my friends and family enjoy the treats I baked.
I guess that's also a good way to keep doing what you love and those calories off your waistline!
(Laughs) It does help that my friends and family are more than willing to share the calories. I also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by swimming at least twice a week. It is a great way to unwind after a long day at work and allows me to clear my mind and relax before I rest for the night.
What’s even better is that CapitaLand has corporate rates to gym memberships and organises weekly running sessions around the CBD. I think that these initiatives are not just a great way to keep fit, but to also know your colleagues outside work.
”When you are willing to do what you’re not yet qualified to do, sometimes, that’s what qualifies you.”
Have you shared your winning bakes with your fellow Management Associates?
For sure. It is not a big group so we are very close. We make a point to catch up at least once a month and we never talk about work when we meet. The camaraderie that’s been forged is irreplaceable and I’m grateful to have made true friends during this journey. Who says you can’t make real friends at work! I think I’m the only Arts graduate in the current GDP batch but I have never felt out of place when we’re together!
Seems like relationships are something you value. Are there any other memorable connections at CapitaLand?
One thing which struck me deeply was when I had to do a case study presentation for my GDP interview, the interviewers offered advice and feedback after the presentation. They told me the areas I excelled at and gave feedback for those areas that needed improving. That struck a chord with me as I value conducive dialogue, which was also one of the reasons why I turned down other offers and joined CapitaLand!
What's your mantra and word of advice for fresh graduates wanting to join CapitaLand Graduate Development Programme?
”When you are willing to do what you’re not yet qualified to do, sometimes, that’s what qualifies you.” It is inevitable at the beginning of every journey to doubt yourself and feel inadequate. Now that I am part of CapitaLand GDP, I’m glad that I took the first step out of my comfort zone. Always keep an open mindset and keep learning. Be inquisitive and ask questions, because being willing to do so might just be all the qualifications you need to become someone whom you want to be.