If you think that it’s too late in your career to change industries, a chat with 36-year-old Zen Lye, a senior associate at PwC Singapore, might just change your mind.

Previously an assistant manager in the construction industry, Zen made the switch to consultancy, so that he could pursue his passion for new technologies.

Following a dream

Moving into the world of consultancy work was something that Zen had never expected.

But it must have been kismet, that his work in construction got him involved in the development of PwC’s Experience Centre – a centralised location that combines experimental, technical and creative resources to create an immersive experience for consulting.

“What I learnt about Experience Centre intrigued me and I wanted to learn more,” says Zen, who then applied for a consulting role at PwC.

 

Zen Lye at the South East Asian Experience Centre in Singapore

 

Transferable skills in managing projects

What he lacked in consultancy experience, Zen made up for in transferrable skills in project and stakeholder management.

“When I was in construction, I had to manage several projects and many different stakeholders at the same time,” Zen explains. The project management and communication skills he gained in construction proved to be useful in his current role, which requires him to juggle multiple projects.

PwC Singapore also valued Zen’s earnest attitude towards learning, and his passion for technology.

From implementing to creating solutions

It was a shift that Zen desired – instead of implementing existing solutions like lighting and CCTVs, he could now move to what’s known as “iterative solutioning”, where he was involved in the creation of a brand-new product, testing it, and revising it for the next versions.

To bridge the gap in skills required for his new role in consulting, PwC Singapore placed him in a year-long Professional Conversion Programme for Consultants.

The programme enabled him to acquire new skills not just in consultancy, but also 3D Modelling, 3D printing as well as Python Programming. These skills would come in useful in building prototypes for new products in his area of work.

Potential for consultancy growth in technology and cybersecurity

Despite the current COVID-19 climate, major consulting firms have seen growing demand for technology and cybersecurity expertise.

Opportunities in the professional services sector 

Consultancy is part of the growing professional services sector. 

Since April 2020, 9,000 opportunities for jobseekers have been curated in professsional services. 

For job opportunities in professional services, click here

For instance, PwC’s Experience Centre team began developing a contact tracer in light of the pandemic. Inspired by the centre’s Bluetooth enabled access-controlled system, the tracer enables social distance monitoring using a low energy beacon, and it’s currently deployed in Singapore, Australia and Luxembourg.

I'm proud to see the fruits of our labour. The contact tracer is currently deployed by close to 10,000 users in Singapore, Australia and Luxembourg.
Zen Lye, Senior Associate at PwC

Zen says he is especially glad about how the contact tracer has contributed to the fight against the pandemic. “The tracer was piloted in a foreign worker dormitory to help the organisation understand the possibilities of infections in confined locations, and also at a healthcare institution to ensure compliance to safe management measures,” he says.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone and being global-ready

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting large sectors of the economy, both businesses and workers need to be agile and adapt to the current environment.

All the more reason that one should “continue to push oneself, and be ready to try new things by stepping outside your comfort zone,” advises Zen. 
Never be satisfied, and always push yourself; be ready to try new things by stepping out of your comfort zone.
Zen Lye, on what advice he would give those considering changing industries 

One way that employees can do this, to seize the chance to gain market knowledge through internships and overseas work opportunities.

Mao Zheng, a Senior Associate in Capital Projects and Infrastructure at PwC, was on secondment to Yangon, Myanmar, from September 2019 to March 2020. 

 

Mao Zheng, during his secondment to Myanmar

 

Besides relishing his visits to Mandalay, the ancient capital city of Myanmar, Mao had first-hand updates on project developments there, as well as face-to-face meetings with local clients and partners. “Being physically on the ground provided me with a good understanding of business norms in Myanmar” he explains.

Sharing similar sentiments is Yi-chung Tay, Asia co-CEO of marketing and communications company VMLY&R, who feels that employees stand to benefit from having overseas work experience.

Having worked in China for 15 years at companies like PepsiCo and VMLY&R, Tay shares that “it’s great to be in such a large market, as the stakes are very high.”

While working overseas “gives you a certain perspective on dealing with uncertainty and change,” Tay admits that it took a while for him to acclimatise to a different cultural context.

But he got used to it – albeit a bit too well in some areas. He chuckles, “My friends say I now drive much more aggressively.”

Nurturing Local Talents for Global Aspirations 

The Global Ready Talent Programme (GRT) aims to develop global-ready local talent for Singaporean enterprises to expand both locally and globally. 

Through internships and overseas work opportunities, Singaporeans will be equipped with market knowledge to navigate the different challenges in overseas markets. 

To find out more, click here

Strength in difference

Singaporeans are well equipped to work overseas – “we are bilingual, and work in a cosmopolitan environment,” says Tay.

Many local companies have a strong regional presence, offering Singaporeans opportunities to be seconded overseas.

The opportunities have always been there
Yi-chung Tay, Asia co-CEO of VMLY&R on opportunities for Singaporeans to work abroad 

For Mao, working overseas is a “great opportunity to learn and grow, both in and out of work.” Now back in Singapore, he is confident that he can apply the knowledge and leverage relationships he made in Myanmar for projects in South East Asia.

Mr Tay agrees, “You gain a heightened awareness, and an ability to handle different perspectives.”