Not every business executive would be comfortable paddling a dragon boat alongside their employees or belting out a karaoke song in front of their teams. For Ivy Kong, CEO of WSP Asia, these CSR events go beyond simply participation. It is an opportunity to connect and deepen relationships with her teams.
“At WSP, we strongly believe in going above and beyond to support local communities by volunteering our time and skills. For example, we regularly reach out and work with people with disabilities, elderly and the local community organisations,” says Ivy.
Although Ivy loves being able to support the community, she also relishes the opportunity to connect with the younger professionals in her company. “During these activities, I meet a lot of our young professionals. They are passionate about doing voluntary work and sacrifice their free time on the weekend to do so. This is something that I don’t see in my daily work, so I treasure the chance to get to know the young people on my team,” she smiles.
Looking back on when she joined WSP at the start of this year, Ivy says she was attracted to the global engineering firm’s “people-centric” focus, both internally and externally.
“I believe that people are the greatest asset in any company and for an organisation to be successful, it must involve and value its people. This belief is demonstrated here at WSP. The firm has a great people culture that I can personally relate to and it excites me to be able to work with many talented people,” she explains.
“I am focusing on a deeper outreach to my teams across Asia to listen to their views and share the vision I have for the firm. In addition, I am working with our people to cultivate their talents and assist them to achieve their fullest potential.”
Since settling into her new role, Ivy has also made a point of connecting with the firm’s clients and partners. “Through active and constant engagement, we can gain valuable insights into their needs so that we can continue to deliver exceptional quality and value to them,” she says.
“Communication is essential to the work that we do. We have to understand what we are doing right, and more importantly, identify the areas for improvement.”
As one of the world’s leading professional services consultancy firms, WSP employs approximately 49,000 people around the world. The company opened its first Asian office in Hong Kong in 1978. Today, WSP prides itself on purposeful, sustainable work that helps shape communities and the future.
WSP’s Future Ready program is one of the many ways in which the company is striving to better serve its clients and remain at the forefront of the industry. Recognising that the future world will be very different, this program aims to identify the changes that are likely to occur and develop solutions that can be implemented by their clients to meet today’s needs, as well as those of the future.
“In the next decades, we are facing changing conditions such as climate change, increased urbanisation and technological advancements. We need to be prepared so that people can cope with these big changes,” Ivy explains.
“Most people think engineering is about calculations, concrete, paper, materials and robots. But to me, it’s primarily about developing relationships with people.”
“As engineers, we need to see the future more clearly and understand the impacts of future trends to society so that we can provide workable future-proofed solutions to our clients today. We also need to challenge ourselves to seek ways to deliver our projects more efficiently, whether it’s through automation, artificial intelligence or something else.”
Ivy, who is a Chartered Engineer and has a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil and Structural Engineering, enjoys working with people. “Most people think engineering is about calculations, concrete, paper, materials and robots. But, to me, it is primarily about developing relationships with people,” she says.
Ivy believes that attracting and retaining talent is vital to the firm’s continued success. “Market leadership can be achieved through quality project delivery. Additionally, attracting, developing and retaining the best in our industry to run these projects will enable us maintain our success,” she says.
“Everyone has talent and companies need to provide a platform for development to enable its people to achieve their fullest potential. By investing in our people, it will in turn help drive growth for the company. I care about our people and I want to build a culture where they are not only excited to come to work but also about what they do.”
“Everyone has talent and companies need to provide a platform for development to enable its people to achieve their fullest potential.”
Ivy is also keen to see more women working in the engineering field. Acknowledging that the number of female engineers is comparatively low, Ivy hopes to inspire more women to pursue a career in the engineering industry.
“I would like to help develop their potential through professional guidance and mentoring, and also demonstrate that it is possible to balance both work and family,” she says.
Striking a balance between work and family commitments is something that Ivy takes pride in, given that she has spent most of her 20-year career doing just that.
“I learned to manage my time well. When you’re at work, you need to focus on that. When you’re off-duty, you need to take care of your family and devote your time wholeheartedly to them,” she advises. “Your family will understand and it is a matter of striking a good balance. I hope I can share my experience and support other women who are developing their careers, not only in engineering, but in any area.”
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