Leadership Network member describes
how Asia OE broadened her horizons

To coincide with the Foundation's Travel to Asia research report, we've been talking to Leadership Network members about their OE experiences in Asia. In this article, we talk to Natalie Sew Hoy about the five years she spent living and working in Singapore and the impact that experience has had on her life.

From Singapore Natalie embarked of trips throughout Asia (Here she is in Danang, Vietnam)

Why did you decide to do your OE in Asia?

I guess for me, my cultural ties to Asia are strong with my mum being from Hong Kong and my dad from Guangzhou. I always wanted to get to know and understand more about Asia, having grown up in a very 'kiwi' family, and Asia always seemed exciting, innovative and growing.

Many of my friends went to the UK, and I also think this is a great place to get experiences in travel and general exposure to different ways of working, but for me the cultural pull was strong, and I am glad that I ended up in Asia.

 Beyond this, with the growing nature of the region, and the impact it has on the NZ economy, it is a more obvious choice for an OE today.

How do you think your OE helped you develop as a person?

My OE experience enriched me, both personally and professionally. The career opportunities I have had I would never have got in New Zealand. I met a lot of amazing people from all over the world, some of whom have become good friends.

At the end of the day for me it boils down to exposure and experience. New Zealand is a great place to grow up and work, but we are isolated, despite the world getting much closer with increasing technology.

How has it helped your career?

Natalie (seated) says working in Singapore broadened her career horizons and opened her eyes to what she was capable of

From a professional perspective, I landed an amazing job at a rapidly growing marketing consultancy.

As Kiwi’s, we have a fortunate reputation for being great problem solvers and able to think outside the square, which I believe put me in good stead for employment in Singapore.

My work experience taught me to be a lot more considered, and really gave me an opportunity to test and refine my management and leadership skills.

I had many opportunities and built the team from 6 to 20 in the time I was there. I was involved in management decisions and headed up HR, which was something I had zero experience in, but my manager had foresight to enable others to achieve their goals, and get out of their comfort zones to develop.

I am now more conscious of what I value in a career, more self-aware and more confident. This has led me to really consider my career choices, and ensure that I am developing at a rapid pace, just like I was in Singapore.

Did you travel much in Asia outside of Singapore?

I had some amazing trips around Asia. I would hesitate to use my leave to come home and visit family, and instead spend my holidays in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. Being the gateway to Southeast Asia, it was super easy and relatively cheap. I know if I had stayed in New Zealand I would not have made it to all of these countries – and definitely not in the short space of time I did.

I think my OE also made me appreciate New Zealand much more. On my trips back to New Zealand, I would look at the scenery and really realise how lucky we are to have grown up here. The freedoms we have, the space, and the lifestyle are all things that brought me back.

Natalie (here in Hoi An, Vietnam) says one of the highlights of living in Singapore was the ease of travel to other destinations in Asia

What tips would you give someone considering an Asia OE?

I would encourage everyone to take some form of overseas experience – it makes you grow and develop faster than you would if you stayed in New Zealand and you are always learning new things.

Talk to recruiters before you go, generally if you have a few years’ experience in NZ that can be a great asset.

My friends in NZ were really amazing at introducing me to people who they knew in Singapore, and in some cases they were some of the best friends and connections I had.

When I moved over, I knew no one in Singapore, but it is what you make of it; if you reach out to your networks, you'd be surprised how easy it is to meet people.

Hook up with groups such as Meetup when you get there; I joined netball and touch, and that was a great way to meet others and keep fit, while playing sports I love.