60 Seconds With A Rising Star: Seah Yong Tat

Author Daphne Ng
November 16, 2021

This edition of 60 Seconds With A Rising Star features and celebrates the achievements of Seah Yong Tat, Regional Special Projects, People Team at Shopee.

Where is the first place you want to visit travel-wise when the borders open up?

London. I am appreciative for the opportunity I had to visit there for one of my work trips. It was an eye opener for me – a city with rich cultural heritage and bustling modern vibrancy. Would love to go there again with my family.

How would your friends describe you?

On a candid note, some would say I am like an “Uncle!”. I guess it’s not the age, but the stage. I am a proud father of two kids, and perhaps sometimes I can be naggy or share seemingly traditional thoughts. Hey but old can be gold! 

Why did you choose a career in HR?

A choice has to be matched with an opportunity.

To start with, the intent was for me to pursue the accountancy pathway when I took on a bond with my first organisation. After completing my stint in HR, Finance and Strategic Development, the Chief Talent Officer (then) gave me the opportunity to pursue my expressed interest. I am grateful as that is the opportunity that started it all.

Perhaps, instead of sharing why I chose HR then, let me share why I am still in HR and what I enjoy about my work – they are: Purpose, Possibilities and Passion.

Purpose – People are the foundation of an organisation’s progress, and often, the competitive advantage to sustain success. This will remain as a motherhood statement until you are involved in translating that to practice. I feel the HR field is one of the most direct ways you can make an impact.

Next, Possibilities. There’s a wide spectrum of roles you can be involved in – ranging from recruitment, talent development to employer branding and more. Being part of the regional special projects team in Shopee, the scope provides the latitude to partner with various functional roles, and across regions to deliver impact. It’s my first step into the e-commerce sector, and I look forward to more discoveries ahead.

Lastly, Passion – can’t really explain it but I enjoy what I am doing.

In summary, to me, having a career in HR has quite a charm, and I continue to be intrigued by it.

Has your HR career lived up to your expectations so far?

Yes and beyond! I see my career as a runway of experiences. Looking back, it has been quite a fruitful and exciting ride. I have been very fortunate to be exposed to a range of roles, and involved in several meaningful projects.

How’s it been at Shopee so far?

The colleagues around me have been a great help in onboarding me. The open and collaborative culture here creates an environment for constructive discussion and learning. For myself, I learnt to prioritise the work streams on hand and be practical in how we problem-solve. In a dynamic environment like this, I also learnt to be adaptive and take on an iterative approach as we move along in our projects.

What’s your biggest takeaway since the start of the pandemic?

Pandemic disrupts, not destroys. The biggest takeaway is to adapt to the changes, anchor the objectives for deliverables, and navigate towards achieving them. Do not fall into the trap of using the pandemic as a convenient excuse for delays or mistakes.

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

Understand the business. We have heard a lot about HR being a strategic partner in academics. If you unpack that, fundamentally, it’s about understanding the business. When you are not familiar with the structure, operating model and business priorities, at best, you can only value-add to HR, and not be value-adding HR to the business. With that sense of the business, HR is not just a function, it is a capability.

Another piece of advice would be “don’t settle”. As young graduates – be observant and learn from the best around you, be open to what comes, and always seek to improve yourself. Experience is not about doing the same thing for a long time; it’s about exposure to new areas, learning from people around you and sharpening your perspectives.

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

A typical response would be digital skills, people analytics, future of work & more. These are important, but again, I feel that the fundamental anchors back on connecting to your business. The pandemic struck us hard and fast. The agility to respond fast is important to help an organisation in navigating the unexpected challenges. Like a set of gears, we need to interplay with the business and other stakeholders well to move collectively. 

Without a core understanding of the business environment and priorities, HR, as a unit, may not be able to pivot fast and respond with practical solutions. 

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

In work – in the past, I believe career progression is the most straightforward yardstick. Now, I hope I can play a part in helping the team to be better versions of themselves. One of my managers told me that leadership is a choice (not just a privilege). Once you lead, you are accountable for people’s growth. I am still learning along the way.

On a personal front, I have a simple wish – a happy and healthy family. There’s nothing else I will exchange for that.

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


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