GSK – Singapore Blog 1

11-June-2012 to 16-June-2012 – TRAINING WEEK

Before leaving the UK and heading for Singapore, I had to undertake some training in the London head office so that I would be able to perform my role without being completely clueless.

The area that I am working in is procurement, which is linked to purchasing and supply chain management. During the training I was to understand how to use the companies E-Pass system, which is an e-sourcing tool where buyers within the company can set up questionnaires, get quotations or have reverse auctions in order to identify the best possible suppliers.

The week was very intense with so much to learn, it did seem a bit overwhelming, however, the support that is offered to me made it less daunting. I have contacts for support in England, America, India and of course Singapore. I managed to get a good grasp of the tool and how it worked, but most of the expertise will come with experience.

My role in Singapore is to facilitate introducing and encouraging the use of this tool in the Asia Pacific markets. To do this I need to encourage buyers to use the tool with my assistance and to eventually feel comfortable in using the tool themselves with minimal support. Furthermore, suppliers are required to accept the tool and particularly for auctions, I will be available to teach them how the process works. It is important to get both sides of the relationship to accept the tool, so I do feel some pressure, but it gives me the opportunity to learn so much, I am definitely up for the challenge.

My week in London was very enjoyable, and I got a real taste of what it is like to work within a large multinational company. I already feel like part of the team and am ready to learn more while I am in Singapore.

There were some close calls with getting my passport and visa in time, but luckily it was all sorted in time.

19-June-2012 to 20-June-2012 – LEAVING FOR SINGAPORE

It was a strange feeling in the run up to leaving for Singapore, as I couldn’t quite get my head around the thought of me actually being in Singapore for 3 months! Even when I was sat on the plane I couldn’t believe it.

I just about managed to get through the check in with my case being 0.4kg under the maximum limit. But I have never been able to travel light.
The journey was very long. A 7 hour flight to Dubai, 7 hours in Dubai, 3.5 hours to Colombia, sit on the plane for 1 hour then 3 hours to Singapore. To make things worse I worked out that I had spent £9.50 on a Chai Latte in Dubai Airport! The only thing I could think of doing in the airport was to window shop for most of the time. I completely lost count of the times I walked up and down the airport, but it can probably be best illustrated by the bottom of my shoe falling off as I went to board the plane.

I arrived in Singapore at 21.00 local time, jumped into a taxi and headed to a family friends, which is where my search for accommodation would begin and the process of trying to get my bearings around the city.

21-June-2012 to 22-June-2012 – FIRST FEW DAYS

A friend of the daughter who’s family I was staying with offered to take me around for a quick tour of Singapore. This was really interesting. Singapore is a very clean city with too many malls to count, which would be ideal for any shopaholic. Unfortunately for me that’s not me. I saw different areas of the city such as Little India and Arab Street, which each had their unique style of shops and were very authentic to their origins. They will definitely require some more investigating.

25-June-2012 – 29th June -2012 – FIRST WEEK IN MY INTERNSHIP

After a limited amount of practice on using the public transport system in Singapore, I was able to navigate my way to the office on time. The first day consisted of induction information on how the department was organised across the Asia Pacific region, which was the area that I would be responsible for with training and guiding through the e-sourcing system.

The second day I was had access to my laptop and my company email and other log in requirements. I emailed all the team members in the Asia Pacific region and waited for replies on what they required. Once I got some replies I was able to formulate my plans and make sure I knew what I would be talking about and how best to assist them with their queries. This was quite a daunting thought, as I had only had a crash course in the use of the system before becoming the ‘master’. But were resources available to help out.

I also had the support of the team members in India, who were partly responsible for me. I arranged meetings with them so that I could get some more practice in and learn more about the procurement department within the Asia Pacific region. This helped put things into context as there are numerous sub-departments that would use the ePASS system in slightly different ways.

So I felt I had a successful first week. Although it is a bit of an adjustment to get used to the long working hours that Singaporeans seem to find the norm.
Aside from work, the weekend allowed for some exploring. I have never known a place that had such an abundance of shopping centres. There is a main road that is just full of them as well as more on other road nearby. There is one thing that is apparent here. People like shopping and eating. As well as the many shopping centres, there are also many places to eat. Too many places to eat. One lunch break at work I ended up not having time to eat because there was too much choice and I couldn’t decide.

Another interesting experience that I may not repeat too soon was an unexpected visit to a wet market. This is a market that sells meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. It’s called a wet market because the when the ice melts from the seafood sections, the resultant water just drains onto the floor, making a slippery experience. So I entered what I thought was just a Hawker centre, which is where there are many stalls for people to eat and you can choose from any and find any table to eat it. I was looking at what was available, when someone suddenly said, ‘do you want some sheep?’, when I looked at what he was talking about there were sheep heads and lots of raw meat hanging up. I smiled politely and said no thank you and continued to walk. I noticed it had turned more into a market with many vegetables on display, however, looking to the other side was stalls upon stalls of raw meat, all sorts of varieties. There was a pungent odour, which made me feel very sick. So as I tried to navigate my way out of the market, I found the smell getting worse and the aisles getting narrower. I figured that I was not going to get out very easily as there were many people milling around making it difficult to find places to walk. I then was out of the meat smell and straight into the fish smell. I don’t know which was worse. I quickly tried to get out as I was struggling to keep holding my breath. I then ended up back in the meat area, near the man with the sheep heads so I knew I was near the exit. Luckily I managed to get out. But, although it was an interesting experience, it’s not one that is very pleasant.

I have noticed many cultural differences between Singapore and England. One being that everyone walks so slow and seems to be oblivious to what is going on around them. This can make a frustrating experience when it’s crowded. One thing that is nice though, is I fit in with the height of people. Most of the time I am actually taller than the people around me, which is something I don’t experience in England.
Something I have had to get used to is what is known as ‘Singlish’ this is English with a Singaporean accent. It is difficult to catch some of the words, and what is bizarre is they speak so much quicker than people with English as their first language. I have managed to get a bit accustomed to it, but I think it will take some more time to get used to.

There are some quirky things you see and hear in Singapore. For example an announcement on a train saying ‘if you see any suspicious looking person or object please inform a member of staff’ it’s enough to put you a bit on edge. I feel like I have to act as normal as possible so that someone does not mistake me for acting suspiciously. Commuting is a very solo activity for Singaporeans. You get on the train and look around and nearly everyone has their head down into some form of electronic device, be it a phone, iPad or games console. They are obsessed with playing games or watching programmes on their devices. It’s strange to see how there is very limited conversation between people. Again, all in their own worlds, oblivious to what’s around.
One thing I have to complain about, however, is the speed that people walk here. It is like slow motion. You see them moving their legs, but they just don’t seem to go anywhere! It’s as if they have not got a care in the world or anywhere to really be. I wonder if they visited England they would feel like everything is moving in fast forward.

I managed to find a place to live, finally. I am living with an elderly Chinese lady, who loves programmes like Downton Abbey. She is very friendly. I am also sharing with another Chinese woman, who rents the other room. The place I live is a homely but old condo. The highlight of it is the pool and tennis courts. The site that I’m on feels more like a holiday park than anything and I have to get on this crazy looking old fashioned tram like bus to get to work. Which is quite an nice quirky change.

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

2 thoughts on “GSK – Singapore Blog 1

  1. Some interesting cultural differences you seem to have experienced! Is the work culture different too, do you find this slower pace is only outside of work?

    • Yes, definitely cultrally different, its interesting how cultures have adapted differently to the environment. Work is definitely not slow paced. For example, its very difficult to secure a meeting room and my typical work day starts at 8am until 5pm (if im lucky). So I guess the slow pace is limited to the outside world. Some have said it’s because of the hot weather, so people don’t want to get too hot from being overly active in the heat. I just haven’t adapted to that yet!

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