Leadership Network member impressed by future-focussed Singapore

Prior taking part in the Leadership Network's Singapore Hui, network member Raphael (Raph) Jo had never travelled outside of his home countries of New Zealand and South Korea. Needless to say, it was an experience of a lifetime, one that opened his eyes to the island nation's unique culture and thriving economy. Raphael was particularly impressed by Singaporean's passion for their country and their desire to see it progress.

The group visited some of Singapore's thriving businesses and famous cultural sites

I still vividly remember the moment I received the email that I had been selected to go to the Singapore Hui. I couldn’t believe it! I was so stoked to experience my first ever overseas experience outside of my two home countries in Aotearoa and South Korea.

Going into the hui, I didn’t quite know what to expect aside from the schedule I had been given beforehand. I was telling myself that I had to let go of control and let the whole experience navigate me into a road not previously taken.

It was a blessing to connect with some of the most influential and talented people of Singapore.

Ranging from going to Meta’s Asia headquarters, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Centre for Strategic Futures, the New Zealand High Commission, Xero and Zespri (just to name a few!). One consistent theme I noticed was the passion, impeccable work ethic, and energy of our hosts and the Singaporean people as a whole.

Every person who spoke to us spoke with immense passion not only about their job but also about how their organsation was contributing to Singapore as a country.  Every person I met and spoke to told me about the long hours involved in their day-to-day lives and how they enjoyed the thought of contributing to a cause bigger than themselves.

I admired this social ethos - it explained a lot to me about how Singapore has become one of the business hubs of Asia and how a nation of its size could achieve such incredible economic development.

It was amazing to hear how Singapore as a nation arranges its affairs with a clear vision for growth and development. We were told on numerous occasions that if the Singaporean government wants something done, it will get done.

Our guide at the Urban Redevelopment Authority told us Singapore as a nation plans ahead in 10-year increments, with each decade consisting of various projects to be achieved. These projects tend to take on a specific theme such as economic development, sustainability, and efficient infrastructure.

I admired how a lot of our hosts spoke about Singapore almost as a business pitch – there were very clear goals to be achieved, how these would be achieved, and how their work would be a part of those goals. For instance, Singapore is currently working on reclaiming land to build a self-sufficient dam that will help the nation rely on 95% renewable energy by 2050.

The details and thought processes behind what seemed like near impossible tasks to achieve within such a short amount of time were mesmerising to hear about.

The seemingly impossible projects of Singapore started to make a lot of sense when our group noticed how much intellectual rigour was valued in Singapore.

One of the more eye-opening discoveries about Singapore was that a 12-year-old student's grades can fast track them into a career in government – special curriculums and scholarships are provided to aid the student and engineer a career path for them.

This has the flow on effect of Singaporean government departments being comprised of individuals who were the top one percent of their cohort throughout their studies.

Learning this explained Singapore's incredible projects and rapid development – intellectual rigour is sought out very early on and there is a strong belief that this will aid in the continued growth and development of the country. This is one of the many values and approaches Singapore adopts that explains how the nation became the super city it is today.

The Leadership Network member and Foundation staff pose with a ceremonial guard dressed in white

Raphael: "This experience would not have been the same if not for the 15 amazing people who were there with me."

This experience would not have been the same if not for the 15 amazing people who were there with me.

Visiting various private sector and public sector organisations, I felt out of my depth in various meetings, as I had very limited familiarity with some of the industries we learned about. However, my fellow Leadership Network members were all engaged at every meeting and their curiosity, coupled with insightful questions, amplified my learning and understanding of the different organisations and their place in Singapore.

Thanks to Adele, Linh and the rest of the Asia New Zealand Foundation team who helped to put this hui together and thank you to my fellow network members: Amarind, Derek, Dewy, Emily, Hannah, Imche, Kauri, Marie, Michelle, Seb, Serena, Vic and Zack – this hui would not have been the same without you guys.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network equips New Zealand’s next generation of Kiwi leaders to thrive in Asia. We provide members with the connections, knowledge and confidence to lead New Zealand’s future relationship with the region.