Growing up in Singapore, Ralph Chen, CFO at Keppel Logistics Foshan always knew that he wanted to pursue a career overseas. "We're told that people are Singapore's best asset. I believe that wholeheartedly.
When I was young, I thought one of the strongest competitive advantages we Singaporeans had was our mobility," said the 34-year-old. It was little surprise then, that Ralph sought a career with overseas opportunities shortly after graduating from university. He was posted to China in 2010 with an agriculture and fast moving consumer goods company, where he faced a steep learning curve picking up the language.
"The first year was very tough. I was from an English speaking background and had to adapt to an environment where Mandarin was the dominant language - even for business documents! It felt like university exams all over again, familiarising myself with accounting terms in Mandarin," laughed Ralph. "But eventually you learn, and you adapt. That's how you get ahead."
Five years on, Ralph is more confident in his command of the language. Having joined Keppel Logistics in 2013, Ralph now leads a team of more than 30 financial staff and shuttles across the company's subsidiaries in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. He switches effortlessly between English and Mandarin while performing management and finance functions for Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation and its river port investments in China.
He shared, "Adapting to a new environment is never easy. Having experienced it myself, I now help secondees and management associates settle in too. "Although my team comprises a mix of Singaporeans and local Chinese, we all manage to bond over a distinctly Singaporean pastime - eating!
"Singapore food is not hard to find in Guangdong as the province is pretty cosmopolitan. Due to the local ingredients used though, you don't quite get the same taste of home."
Displaying Keppel's core value of agility and the Can-Do! spirit, the self-professed 宅男 (geek) took matters into his own hands and taught himself how to cook in order to satisfy his cravings for local Singaporean cuisine.
With financial knowledge and culinary skills to boot, Ralph remains modest. "I mostly cook for gatherings with friends and colleagues. Out of all the reviews I've received so far, the biggest fan of my cooking is still my wife. She rates my food 7/10," he laughed.
It was not easy at first, but Ralph Chen (pictured with his wife) quickly adapted to life in Guangdong province and now helps fellow Keppelites adjust too