WHEN Sharon Teo, 35, graduated from the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment in 2002, she assumed that she would pursue a career as a quantity surveyor or a building manager.
However, sending out a slew of job applications online led to an interview with Eastport Global, a ship brokerage.
A ship brokerage acts as an intermediary between ship owners and charterers, or between buyers and sellers of ships.
Eastport Global took her on as a management trainee that year and, after a training stint of six months, she went on to pioneer a new research and analysis department, non-existent in the local ship-broking scene then.
Today, as manager of the research and analysis department, she oversees a team of five people involved in data management, analytics and editorial.
They produce market intelligence reports for Eastport's in-house brokers and clients.
For example, a client who wants to go into vegetable oil shipping but is unfamiliar with it may ask for a tailored report on the soya bean oil market and soya bean oil producing regions.
The data management team gathers, organises and compiles shipping market data from brokers, the Internet and publications.
The analytics team - the big-picture people - uncovers the significance of the data gathered and gives it form, such as world map charts showing trade movements.
The editorial team packages the data into attractive, easy- to-digest reports.
A tricky part of her job is managing clients' expectations. They may ask for reports to be delivered within just a few days.
Some may be vague in their requests, asking for freight trends over the past five years, without specifying which trade routes or for what volume of cargo.
Ms Teo handles this by guiding her team on how to ask clients the necessary questions to establish the parameters of the reports.
She also works closely with her chief executive officer to review the department's budgetary and production goals.
"We are in constant dialogue about the changing business landscape and the evolving needs of market intelligence," she said.
She is also involved in the marketing of the department's research and analysis services to overseas subsidiaries and clients.
She said: "This line lets me learn not only about ships, but also about cargo, like the chemicals that go into manufacturing daily products. Now I know some clothing fabric is made from purified terephthalic acid, not cotton like I thought."