Learning by being open to other perspectives

Fragomen's team of international employees includes (from left) Mr Carlos Agana, Ms Jamie Gan, Mr Mark Buchanan and Ms Bianca Stokhorst.
Fragomen's team of international employees includes (from left) Mr Carlos Agana, Ms Jamie Gan, Mr Mark Buchanan and Ms Bianca Stokhorst.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Ms Jamie Gan has seen first-hand how sensitive the issue of a foreign workforce can be to a government.

While on a five-week stint at her immigration consultancy firm's Melbourne office last July, the Australian government tightened its policy on immigration.

But she also saw how it took many stakeholders to work out a solution. She recalled: "I saw how MNCs, government officials and employees… collaborated with each other, gave input on their needs and concerns so they could agree how to move forward."

Ms Gan is a client services manager at US-based firm Fragomen.

The Singaporean, who holds a Bachelor of Law from Murdoch University, started with the Malaysia team in Fragomen's Singapore office in 2012, helping companies ensure foreign employees complied with the country's work and immigration regulations.

Fragomen Singapore has 122 employees, of whom four in five are Singaporeans and permanent residents.Because of the international nature of its business, it is essential that Fragomen's staff depend on each other and work together.

"When calling, say, Vietnam, the person on the other side will likely hang up on me. With such a diverse team, I can count on my Vietnamese colleagues to help translate, and understand the economic and cultural landscape there," Ms Gan said. "They can help quickly, and as a business we can help our clients resolve matters quickly."

Ms Gan, who is in her mid-30s, added: "People don't realise how much you can learn just by being open to perspectives from people living overseas, and from other cultures. They bring a lot to the table, and that can help you work better."

And it not just all about work.

Besides Singapore's public holidays, the diverse team also celebrates international holidays such as Thanksgiving.

Mr Mark Buchanan, the firm's partner for Asia, is equally familiar with local festivities, having lived here for 24 years. A British national, he considers himself a "local foreigner" who has been trained by Singaporeans and mentored by leading practitioners here.

Mr Buchanan praises Singapore's open economy, which he said gives it an edge, especially in those industries disrupted by technological changes. These offer opportunities for Singapore to emerge as a leader in new sectors, like fintech, for example. He said it is a golden opportunity for Singapore to attract companies in these sectors to come here.

Jessica Leow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline 'Learning by being open to other perspectives'. Print Edition | Subscribe