E nthralled by human behaviour and game theory, Lee Chee How naturally gravitated towards economic concepts. Awarded the EDB Scholarship in 2008, Chee How pursued an Economics degree at Hitotsubashi University – a reputable university in Japan, well-known for its track record of developing business leaders.
“I had the opportunity to sharpen my proficiency in the Japanese language through rigorous classes and interactions with my fellow schoolmates. As President of the Singapore Students’ Association (Japan), I often had to deal with Japanese companies to seek sponsorship for events. This further honed my competence in the language and its application in formal business settings,” says Chee How.
Opportunities to Lead
Throughout the duration of his undergraduate studies, Chee How had plenty of opportunities to learn ‘on-the-job’. In addition to an eight-week internship at EDB HQ in Singapore, EDB provided him with a unique opportunity to do a four-week internship with a major Japanese chemical company.
“It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and a refreshing change from academic learning”, shares Chee How.
Today, Chee How is utilising his knowledge and skills in EDB’s Biomedical Sciences division. As a Senior Officer in the Medical Technology team, Chee How is required to be a subject matter expert for ophthalmic (eye) products as well as medical disposables, such as catheters, syringes and gloves. Chee How keeps up to date on a range of business trends and latest technological developments – from manufacturing technologies and supply chain models to commercial intricacies, industry trends and emerging business models. He then develops and executes EDB’s strategy to position Singapore as a home for companies to embark on high value-added research and development (R&D). Many a times, this also involves strengthening the talent pool and capabilities to meet the needs of the industry, and driving company and key stakeholder engagement worldwide.
Lee Chee How
Biomedical Sciences division
“Beyond geographical proximity to Asian markets, what companies find alluring about Singapore is the access to different ethnicities in a compact locality. This makes Singapore a great place to develop new tailor-made products from one central location that can subsequently be scaled up to reach regional markets such as China and India. A sterling example of this is Essilor’s Varilux India lens that was developed in Singapore to cater to the reading habits and physiology of Indians,” says Chee How.
Learning in a Fast-Paced Environment
Learning is never stagnant at EDB as officers can undergo an array of developmental programmes. Still, Chee How says that nothing beats on-the-job learning.
“In my day-to-day work at EDB, I am exposed to a wide variety of companies. This provides me with comprehensive knowledge in business strategies and industry insights, which helps when I’m crafting specific industry development strategies,” quips Chee How.
While exciting, the multi-faceted work that EDB officers do can sometimes be challenging. Chee How explains, “As EDB officers, part of our work involves engaging and convincing companies to invest long-term in Singapore. After securing the investment, the work doesn’t just stop there! We continue to work closely with the company and other government agencies to oversee the execution through which a range of issues may arise; from sourcing for a new plot of land for their facility to ensuring that the workforce capability in Singapore is able to meet the needs of the industry.”
Thankfully, Chee How is surrounded by helpful and encouraging colleagues who make work less daunting.
“All this can get a tad overwhelming if you’re in it alone. The strong supportive team culture in EDB means you can always find help amongst my colleagues and bosses,” says Chee How.
A Fulfilling Role
Chee How has had some episodes he deems memorable throughout his career. He recalls having to reconnect with a major eye care company which had fallen out of contact with EDB. Chee How says, “We had not spoken to the company for over two years, and personnel changes on both ends meant there were no existing lines of communication that I could tap on. I decided to give the company a call on a whim. To my dismay, I found out that they did not even know what EDB stands for!”
Not one to be discouraged, Chee How got the company’s receptionist to refer him to a sales executive, who then referred him to the marketing manager. After much persuasion, Chee How was then referred to the marketing director. Things moved pretty quickly after Chee How secured a meeting with the company. By the end of that year, they had secured an exciting new investment from the company. “The sense of accomplishment I felt was tremendous,” Chee How muses.
Creative and Committed Leaders
At EDB, officers dream, design and deliver value-added solutions for companies and investors in Singapore. Coming up with customised strategies requires a good amount of innovation, which is something that Chee How strongly advocates. According to him, aspiring EDB officers should be able to harness their imagination to come up with creative solutions to old and new problems. “For example, you need to know how to convince a sceptical executive about the merits of investing in Singapore. Beyond that, you should also make sure that the jobs we create are aligned with the aspirations of Singaporeans,” he says.
With that said, imagination is insufficient on its own. Chee How adds, “You also need the tenacity to see your ideas through, no matter how challenging things get. Take every opportunity you can to step out of your comfort zone.”