From India and China to Chile and Cuba, Ms Natalie Choo, 36, has travelled to many countries in her 10 years at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.
IE Singapore is the government agency that drives the growth of Singapore’s external economy by helping Singapore-based companies grow and invest overseas and establishing Singapore as a global trading hub.
Its global network spans more than 35 locations, and 30 per cent of its staff is based overseas, where they gain market knowledge and exposure through international business missions and visits, says Ms Choo.
As divisional director for the Americas Group at IE Singapore’s headquarters here, Ms Choo develops, coordinates and implements IE Singapore’s strategy to develop and strengthen Singapore’s trade and investment linkages with North America and Latin America.
She works closely with the Americas Group’s overseas centres in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City and São Paulo in Brazil to support the growth of Singapore companies and investments there.
She also helps Singapore-based companies and stakeholders looking to expand in the Americas to understand the market and establish connections.
In the course of her work, she travels to the United States or Latin America several times a year.
She says: “I could be visiting a water treatment plant in Singapore one day to deepen understanding of our water strengths, or visiting a lobster supplier in Cuba to explore how our companies can partner them.”
Ms Choo, who is nearly into her third year in her current role, is due to receive her long service award from IE Singapore soon to mark her 10th year with it.
She had joined IE Singapore because it married her personal objectives of public sector work with a forward-looking business focus and a front-line role that requires significant interaction with businesses.
In the last decade, she has developed expertise across various portfolios and fields.
For example, she played a part in promoting Singapore as a trade exhibitions hub.
She has also dealt with functions of business capability and corporate communications. These different roles have given her a lot of overseas exposure through business missions and study visits, she says.
She adds: “These included taking a delegation of Singapore companies to India to seek business opportunities; presenting at a seminar in Shanghai on Singapore’s role as a business hub; attending international trade fairs in Germany and France to showcase Singapore companies in the various sectors; and visiting design councils, institutes and leading designers in Italy, Germany, Denmark and Finland.”
She also led delegations of precision engineering companies to meet automotive and medical technology companies in France and the United Kingdom, and met with her counterparts, stakeholders and team members in the US, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Chile and Cuba.
In addition, she completed a three-and-a-half-year term as IE Singapore’s centre director in London, overseeing the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and France markets and deepening IE Singapore’s trade ties with them.
Given the international nature of their job, proficiency in foreign languages is an asset, she says.
“But even for those who do not know a foreign language, IE Singapore provides ample opportunities for staff to pick up a third language,” says Ms Choo, who now speaks French and is learning Spanish.
The language lessons are sponsored by IE Singapore.
One of the things she loves about her job is the involvement in discussions and projects that cut across countries and sectors, from water treatment projects in Latin America to contract furnishing for hotels in the US.
The broad exposure gives her a breadth of insights, which keeps her constantly learning, she says.
She adds: “I also enjoy meeting all kinds of people in the course of my work. They come from various sectors and nationalities, representing public and private interests and views, and often are at the very top level of their countries or organisations.
“How many jobs give you the chance to meet with Singapore corporate personalities one day and the President of Panama the next?”