Living and working in Singapore

Photo: A view of the city from ConocoPhillips' Singapore office

In Singapore, old and new architecture intermingle.
by Jan Hester
photography by Patrick currey

Singapore is on record as a great place to live. In 2017, the city topped Mercer’s list of cities in Asia offering the highest quality of life, and its infrastructure was deemed the best in the world.

The recent blockbuster movie “Crazy Rich Asians” shined a light on the island nation’s stunning vistas, cultural heritage and culinary delights.

According to ConocoPhillips employees, the company’s Singapore business unit is also a great place to work.

Rita Carolina, accounts executive, Commercial, has been with ConocoPhillips for eight years. Originally from Bengkulu on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, she earned a double major in finance and information technology at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia and took night classes to earn her chartered accountant professional designation.

Rita moved to Singapore because she had friends there. “It’s a vibrant city, with great public transportation, so you don’t need a car.” Rita can get from home to the office in just half an hour by bus.

Rita Carolina

In Singapore all conversations eventually turn to food. “It’s the best thing. Singapore has a great cultural mix, and you can find any kind of food here — including Chinese, Indian and Malay.”

Rita enjoys being physically active and works out regularly at the gym, where she does yoga and Zumba. She and others from the office take advantage of its central location to go for brisk walks at Gardens by the Bay.

“I get 10,000 steps every day.” Her tactics include getting off the bus one stop earlier.

Rita spends her leisure time going out with friends, including shopping along upscale Orchard Road and going to Chinatown for the evening.

The iconic Marina Bay Sands resort

Senior IT Analyst Derek Sum’s diverse roles and responsibilities include supporting Commercial IT systems, managing IT enterprise rollout projects for the Singapore office and serving on the regional analytics team.

Born and raised in Singapore, Derek has been with the company almost six years and appreciates the workplace culture.

“Because the office is small, it’s a close community, and you’re exposed to a lot more roles. The only limit is your imagination.”

Derek Sum

Derek also leads the business unit’s corporate social responsibility efforts. Each year, the American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Embassy organize Corporate Community Day to encourage American organizations and their employees to build stronger ties with their adopted home through community work.

“Every year we try to do something different. One year we cleaned up forested areas on one of the islands to support the environment. We’re making plans to visit homes for the elderly, and we donate to charity organizations.”

Derek takes advantage of Singapore’s central location as a travel hub and is planning a trip to Japan in January to celebrate his wife’s birthday.

Like most Singaporeans, when he travels to other countries he misses his favorite food, Hainanese chicken rice. “You don’t realize it until you’re away from it.”

Lanterns in Chinatown
Sharon Wong Ho

HR & Office Facilities Manager Sharon Wong Ho was born and raised in Singapore and started with ConocoPhillips in 1989.

Sharon sheds some light on how the nation evolved over its short, 53-year history as an independent country.

“As a young nation with no natural resources, Singapore was dependent on its deep-water port and its people. The government has a vision for all its people to have an opportunity to be educated and reach their potential. I feel like we have great leadership and an open economy that attracts talent from all over the world.”

Anish Kapoor's "Sky Mirror," with the ArtScience Museum in the background

Sharon enjoys spending time with her family, including her two daughters ages 26 and 27. She also enjoys playing golf.

“I’m not fantastic, but I do it to get outdoors and exercise.”

As a human resource professional, Sharon has a special vantage point on working in Singapore.“We have a diverse population, and everyone brings a different perspective.”

Sharon’s biggest challenge is nurturing an environment that’s a good place to work for employee retention.

“We have a low attrition rate, but losing even one person with critical skills and deep experience is too many.”

She also loves to travel.

“Singapore is great for traveling in and out. We love our Changi Airport!”

Sharon is planning to visit Berlin next year to visit her daughter, who works for Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and will be studying the German language.

When asked what else she’d like for people to know about Singapore, she responds: “It’s a small country, but it’s beautiful, with plenty of opportunities. Everyone with a passion can come here and realize it.”

The Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel frames the Millenia Tower, home to ConocoPhillips' offices.

Praveen Bajaj, Asia Pacific Offshore Vetting & Marine Operations lead, started his marine career in 1981, sailing aboard container vessels and tankers and achieving the rank of captain. “It was fun but hard on family life.”

In 1997, he took a shore job to be with his family and moved to Singapore. Born in India, Praveen became a citizen in 2008. He supports Asia Pacific marine operations, working with Marine Assurance in Houston to vet LNG tankers, offshore vessels, jack-up and drilling rigs.

Praveen Bajaj

Praveen appreciates the social opportunities his adopted home offers.

“Living in Singapore, weekends are busier than weekdays.”

He and his wife, who teaches yoga and meditation, have two sons.

“The younger one is studying medicine, and the older one is working as a public policy consultant to help lower-income people.”

Praveen loves Thai and Mexican food. As a frequent traveler, he appreciates the fact that, when you return to Singapore’s Changi Airport, your luggage is always on the carousel.

“I’ve never had to wait.”

Praveen adds that Singapore is the only country in the world that does Formula One racing at night. The 2018 Singapore Grand Prix took place in September. Holding the event at night enables organizers to broadcast an Asian race at lunchtime in the U.K.

Ships anchored at the Port of Singapore
Grant Logan

Asia Pacific & Middle East Regional Medical Director Grant Logan is responsible for making sure ConocoPhillips people throughout the region — including those who work in remote areas — stay healthy. Born and raised in northern Scotland, he’s been with the company for 14 years.

“Occupational medicine is mainly about prevention. We want people to prevent work-related injuries and illness, so we do thorough pre-employment screenings and regular checkups to make sure people are fit for working in remote areas.”

Grant manages doctors and nurses at the company’s offices and remote clinics, assists with specialist referrals and deals with medical emergencies.

He notes that it’s also important to keep office workers healthy and safe. In the company’s popular annual Energy in Action! competition (EIA), regional business units regularly win the Wellness World Cup.

“We have a motivated workforce, so EIA is big fun for people.”

In Chinatown, a group of men enjoy a leisurely game of checkers.

Grant is based in Singapore but travels 40 to 50 percent of the time. What does he miss while he’s away?

“My favorite thing about Singapore is the weather. It’s hot and humid, unlike northern Scotland.”

And of course there’s the food. “You can spend $3 to $300 for a meal. I love the hawker centers — the vibe, the smells and the wide variety. I learned early on that you can’t go wrong if you join the longest queue.”

Grant also likes the family benefits of living in Singapore, including high-quality international schools and good healthcare.

“Also, it’s a great travel hub. You have a choice of airlines, and you can get on a plane quickly and rarely have to change flights.”

Daisy Lim

Shared Services & Personal Assistants Team Lead Daisy Lim has worked for the company for 16 years and describes herself as a “thoroughbred, born and raised in Singapore.” Second-generation Chinese, Daisy speaks the Hainanese dialect and notes that most locals speak several languages.

Before joining the company, she worked as a Singapore Airlines flight attendant for 11 years. “Then I became a mom,” said Daisy. She and her husband have two daughters, Natasha and Kyra. “When I joined the company I was pleasantly surprised by the company’s strong support of families. The culture is awesome.”

One of her favorite things about Singapore is that it’s such a safe city. “If the girls are out at midnight, I know it’s fine.”

Again the conversation turns to food. “We have Michelin restaurants, but you can get a meal for as cheap as $3. When my husband comes back from a trip, we go right to the food court.”

When Daisy has visitors interested in seeing the city’s stunning views, she saves the $29 it costs to ride the Singapore Flyer giant Ferris wheel by taking them to ConocoPhillips’ offices on the 40th floor of Millenia Tower. She also loves the glittering Gardens by the Bay, with beautiful indoor and outdoor gardens as well as a nightly musical light show at the Supertree Grove.

“Come see Singapore,” Daisy said. “We’re more than crazy rich Asians.”