60 seconds with a rising star: Tay Jia Wei from Sembcorp Industries

Author Daphne Ng
October 11, 2022

This edition of 60 seconds with a rising star features and celebrates the achievements of Tay Jia Wei, Team Leader, Talent Acquisition, Singapore and Southeast Asia Market at Sembcorp Industries.

Tell us about yourself, your views on the world, and your life at work. 

I am Jia Wei. Unboxed in mind, changemaker at heart.

Objectively, I think the world today continues to call for immense ingenuity and critical creativity. We have to solve novel problems without precedent cases we could refer to. Across public or private sectors, the “competitive edge” of any organisation is those able to execute solutions harnessed from the best critical thinkers on issues that matter most to the people of the organisation. On the other side subjectively, I feel the world today desires results at unprecedented speed where 10-years are realistically too long in strategic roadmaps as the world gets more brittle, anxious, nonlinear, unpredictable and paradoxical as ever before. 

Making those meaningful changes happen anywhere in organisations, in communities or in countries, moreover globally as with overcoming inertia to act on climate change, now more than ever calls to draw from people more courage, determination, wisdom and collective strength. To see through till the end when the outcomes finally help current and future generations continue to thrive in a sustainable world, wherever they live, work and play, and whenever they think, feel and act.

There were two important decisions I made in my work life so far. One, I started my career as an engineer in the shipyard. I learnt from the best on how to execute engineering projects. Building teams that build some of the firsts in the world safely, on time and within budget. Two, I switched my career to be a HR practitioner because I manifested a belief I had. That enlightened organisations can do more with designing careers where employees can galvanise their motivations, intentions, and achieve self-actualisation. Because I believe that being able to feel genuinely happy at work could help alleviate many fronts in the lives of these employees and their families. When I think about how I managed this career switch? I heeded the generous and wealthy experiences of many others including Einstein; replace the fear of the unknown by being passionately curious.

What’s your role in your company and what makes you happy at work?

I am currently based in Singapore as a team leader of two (one in Singapore, another in Vietnam) looking after Talent Acquisition for the Singapore & Southeast Asia Market at Sembcorp Industries. My team and I are responsible for delivery of end-to-end recruitment, working with external recruitment agencies, cultivating strategic employer relations with the community and education institutions to participate in targeted employer outreach events with prospects and candidates.

Happy at work because I get to put my belief into practice, where I can enable selected candidates to fulfil their career aspirations in roles they know they can thrive in the organisation. I am grateful to be in a strategic position because my work leads to positive impacts for both the organisation as well as people in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am a foodie of sorts. Having pints with friends and whipping up simple pasta, to voraciously consume a lot of articles from reliable sources to keep myself abreast of what is happening around the world, as well as browsing TikTok. 

What have you learnt about yourself recently or from after the pandemic?

As the saying goes, it is true that an untamed mind is a minefield. I learnt how a lack of deliberate regulation and focus can make anything persuade you into thinking about anything. Focus on the water you have in your kettle. Avoid boiling the ocean. Draw on consciousness to make conscientious decisions which can dictate a day and do not draw energy from fear or impulses. Prevent perpetual procrastination by having a routine as a guiding compass to navigate the day.

What advice would you provide to graduates thinking about entering a career in HR?

Talk to several HR practitioners. Especially those with career profiles you aspire to become. Gather diverse views of what HR work is really about. Every career choice is a strategic one. Ground your expectations with reality. Be aware of confirmation bias. What you want to do is to know what are the tasks you like and would not like to do. Put them on a scale to find your balance. Because in any choice you choose, you would still encounter countless moments which would test your resolve on your chosen career path. Hedge against uncertainties with passionate curiosity, continuous learning and deliberate practice. Remember to enjoy the journey and drop your worries.

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and I will be happy to share my HR experience over a cup of KOI.

When thinking about future of the workforce, what skills do you feel HR need now more than ever, as a result of the pandemic?

Change is an ageless constant. This constant will never change. We would need different skills at different times. As I write this in October 2022, with global inflationary pressures rising, a protracted war in Ukraine, the omnipresent geopolitical standoff in Taiwan, we know that critical thinking is one skill we need in our workforce now and I think we need to focus on character building as well. Because to overcome the tsunami of novel challenges which the world is facing at present and would experience in the future, we need strength in character such as having the grit and gumption again, as with our predecessors had in the past built the economy today from nothing.

Nearly every organisation is driving some kind of a business transformation. The current and future of the workforce needs to be empowered with skills on how to find calm and peace amidst uncertainties. How to disconnect and reconnect feeling recharged. We need skills to help us stay sharp in the long haul, such as taking “strategic pauses” which I have recently picked up from a book titled “A Minute to Think” where I quote that “when you take a strategic pause, you stop doing things and, instead, free yourself to think, feel, ponder, plan, create, reflect, question, dream or just rest. A strategic pause introduces white space into your day that can make your visible work more productive, purposeful and innovative. A white space mindset also means simplifying your work and home life to allow time for strategic pauses.” and this white space is not zoning out or being idle but it is a moment to introspect, to check in on your heart, mind and soul.  

What does success look like to you from a work and personal perspective?

I define success not as how many things you do. It is how well you do them. More is not better. Less can be more. The Pareto Principle holds. Success is defined by how happy you are at where you are and what you already have. For some, happiness is hoping to experience something else to what you have now. For me, happiness is not just to treasure what you already have. It is to continue to make intentional discoveries on what you already have in serendipitous and different ways. We may be taught that passion should drive our every thought, move, and decision, basically we are handicapped with the fear that we are not happy because we are not doing “enough”. Instead circle back and look at your North. Ask if this is still your North. Think a little less. Do a bit more. I wish to leave a legacy for future generations to harvest so they can afford to plant seeds for their next generation as well. To me, this is success in a sustainable way before each of us clock out.

Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the company.

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