Logistics firm open to mid-career professionals, newbies

Former civil servant and risk analyst Chen Zhirong took a while to find his way to the logistics sector, but eventually landed in global supply chain logistics company Yang Kee Logistics in May.

Backed by an interest ever since he did well in a logistics-related module in university, where he studied life sciences and finance, Mr Chen, 31, decided to take the leap.

The assistant manager of product innovation and implementation at Yang Kee told The Straits Times: "I was always fascinated about the whole supply chain, from manufacturing to the end consumers, and decided to attend a career fair organised by NTUC's e2i (Employment and Employability Institute)."

Mr Chen went there with no expectations and a short meeting showed him how open the firm was about hiring people.

"Before the event, they published a list of vacancies and I didn't fit the bill for all of them. Nonetheless, I went ahead to try and hoped to speak to recruiters, and see how I could add value to companies.

"Then I met Yang Kee's HR recruiter and tried to sell what I could offer. She said SK (Yang Kee's Mr Ong Swee Keong) is probably looking for someone like me. It was totally unexpected as I just went there to try my luck."


I was apprehensive at the start, and didn't know what I could contribute, but realised I could study issues with fresh eyes.

MR CHEN ZHIRONG, on joining Yang Kee with no logistics background.

Mr Ong, a senior general manager at Yang Kee, said: "I was the one who interviewed him, and what attracted us was one thing only: an attitude and desire to really learn, and not mind a steep learning curve."

Mr Chen was sent to Hong Kong within weeks of starting work to join the team working on its fashion logistics hub there.

He said: "I was apprehensive at the start, and didn't know what I could contribute, but realised I could study issues with fresh eyes.

"For instance, I observed that the communication between our team and other partners wasn't working, and I helped to smooth things out by doing up a visual of the process they were discussing, and that helped in meeting the timelines."

While it has been a new experience for Mr Chen, Yang Kee finds ways to help mid-career professionals like him to fit in and learn.

He recalled: "When I first joined the company, an e-mail was sent out to let people know, and that I don't have a logistics background. It helps that they understand."

Mr Chen was also selected to join the Professional Conversion Programme, which caters to professionals, managers, executives and technicians, including mid-career switchers.

Yang Kee also takes the time to nurture young graduates and give them similar opportunities to shine as newbies in the firm.

Take Republic Polytechnic graduate Tan Ming Hui, 22, who is an officer of product innovation and implementation at Yang Kee.

As part of her on-the-job training, she was given the task of initiating a project for a new set-up at Yang Kee's chemical warehouse.

She said: "I learnt more about real-life operations in logistics than from the textbooks... and am grateful to have a manager who is so enthusiastic as she is always discussing what else I should be learning.

"She has been in the field for 20 years, and I have a lot to learn from her. She taught me soft skills such as how to communicate with vendors and other teams, which you don't learn in school."

Ms Tan is also part of the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn scheme, where employees work four days a week and attend school one day a week, and earn a specialist diploma in supply chain management in a year.

Ms Tan appreciates the wide exposure she gets at Yang Kee.

She said: "Here, they let you do a lot of hands-on work. Once, SK took me to another warehouse in Tuas and told me that I can always go over to have a look to see if it needs any improvements.

"He said that if I have any ideas, (I should) let them know and they will see if these are feasible, so Yang Kee offers good opportunities for fresh graduates. Some companies are afraid to let newbies try things, but Yang Kee is willing."

Xin Yun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'Logistics firm open to mid-career professionals, newbies'. Print Edition | Subscribe