Rachel is sharing her career journey with Brunel Singapore, which is not only the regional hub but also a vital entity within Asia. During our conversation, she reflects on her humble beginnings and elaborates on her current position within the organization.
Operations Manager Singapore
Rachel, you joined Brunel Singapore in December 2011. Tell us more about your initial roles.
I joined Brunel Singapore as a recruitment administrator. I was responsible for supporting the team in processing CVs. At the time, there was no automation, and everything was done manually, including transforming CVs into the client's preferred format. After three months, my manager recognized my potential and offered me an opportunity to work in operations. In this new role, I was responsible for managing employment contracts and visas for the Perth office, collaborating with colleagues in Australia despite being based in Singapore. In 2014, my responsibilities grew as Brunel’s operations expanded into new countries, including China, Papua New Guinea, South Korea and Japan. While managing multiple countries at once was challenging and stressful, it was also interesting and fulfilling.
You continued doing that for nine years and then decided to leave Brunel in early 2021.
That's correct. I was presented with an opportunity to work for one of the big four as an immigration consultant, which was very tempting for me. Even though I was based in Singapore, I did not have any prior experience with Singaporean immigration laws, so I saw this as an opportunity to gain valuable experience and work with the Ministry of Manpower. Additionally, I was hoping that this experience would open new doors for me in the future. Little did I know that it would indeed lead to new opportunities – or should I say an old opportunity! In the same year, I heard that Brunel was looking for a new operations manager for the Singapore market. I reached out to them, and they were happy to take me back. This new position allowed me to utilize my new-found knowledge of immigration and build on my previous operations experience at Brunel.
We’re happy to have you back on board! What are your responsibilities as an operations manager?
As a manager, my focus has shifted from operational tasks to managing a team of ten people responsible for handling the countries mentioned above (excluding China and Papua New Guinea), as well as Vietnam and Taiwan, which were added recently. My primary responsibility is to ensure that my team is happy, motivated and not overworked. This includes addressing any concerns they may have and finding solutions to issues that arise. I have been fortunate to have had great mentors by my side throughout my career at Brunel, and I aspire to be a great mentor to my own team as well. In addition to managing my team, I also work closely with other departments and senior management to ensure that we are meeting our business objectives and delivering high-quality services to our clients and contractors.
When it comes to hiring a new person for your team, what are you looking for and what should a person know about working in operations?
Operations plays a crucial role in the success of any organisation, as it involves ensuring that all aspects of the business run smoothly and efficiently. This can include developing and implementing processes and procedures, managing budgets and schedules, and interacting with both customers and contractors. As such, a wide range of skills are needed if you want to excel in this field, including problem-solving, organizational and communication skills. While skills and knowledge can be trained, I personally prioritize hiring team members with outgoing personalities who are not afraid to pick up the phone and communicate effectively with external stakeholders, internal staff and contractors. In a people-centred industry, it's important to be able to deal with different personalities, including those who may be difficult. Overall, finding the right person who can effectively navigate the human aspect of operations is key to building a strong and successful team.
Having worked at Brunel for over a decade, what are the aspects of your job or the company culture that have kept you engaged and motivated throughout the years?
Working for an employer for an extended period of time often results in a blending of work and personal life. Colleagues become like family members, and we share our thoughts and feelings with each other. We discuss both the good and the bad experiences and support each other when necessary. While I can only speak for the operations team here in Singapore, I believe this is true of many departments at Brunel. Another aspect of my job that I appreciate is the flexibility and trust I receive. As long as we meet our responsibilities, no one worries about when we come or go. That makes for an excellent work-life balance. Additionally, I appreciate the promotion opportunities presented here. I have advanced from an administrator to an operations manager, which is incredibly thrilling. If you're passionate and ambitious about your work, you can succeed here.
Speaking of achieving a healthy work-life balance, what brings you joy and relaxation outside of work?
As a mother of two little boys, my time outside of work is primarily devoted to caring for them. While they bring me immense joy, looking after them can be challenging and not exactly relaxing. However, my family is my top priority, so I spend my weekends creating cherished memories with my husband and children. Interestingly, I met my husband at Brunel. He was a contractor at the time, working for an external vendor in IT. Now, our children are what we affectionately refer to as "Brunel babies."