Dennis Chua shares unforgettable experiences and insights into his rotation in Roche Diagnostics Finance

People development is one of the critical focus points for Roche. A common focus among the many people development initiatives is people exchange. This allows talent to take an assignment to a different part of the organisation to gain more insight and experience both from a cultural and work perspective.

Meet Dennis Chua, Diagnostics Finance Controlling Supervisor, and learn more about his experience during his job rotation and find out what he enjoyed most during his time on exchange.

The job rotation – I was originally located in Singapore and was assigned a role in China. Given the amount of investment being made in China; there is a great multitude of cross-functional projects. I gained deeper commercial insight into the “distributor model” in China by participating in a project that allows distributors to order Roche products online. Streamlining current pricing processes gave me an in depth look at the complexities of deals in China and an early look at upcoming pricing challenges with price reforms announced by the government. A great shout out to the amazing team that is currently working on these challenging issues. Getting to plan and organise a regional finance workshop also allowed for networking opportunities with APAC region’s finance counterparts.

First impressions - The first thing you will experience upon getting off the airport is the (magnetic levitation) maglev train ride from the airport to the city. With a train ride that is unnervingly smooth and yet travelling at up 430 km/hour, it is a perfect way to welcome a visitor to the sprawling city that lies ahead. The second thing that will surprise you is the “organised mess” you will see all around. Familiar sights of well known global brands will be mixed with major Chinese brands, cars and motorists will be weaving and honking at people at an alarming pace, making for quite a disorienting experience. But very soon, you will get used to a city with round the clock entertainment and amazing variety of food.

Office Politics - Working in Shanghai gives a first-hand experience of the importance of appreciating “guanxi”, aka personal networks between people. While the level of professionalism will definitely ensure that things get done, it is when you have formed close personal networks that you get tips on the best way to get things done, the most knowledgeable person to approach. You will also notice that having an open mind to food (be prepared to be assaulted by hairy crabs, stinky tofu, steamed dumplings) and joining in team lunches will endear you to the local Chinese quickly.

Cultural differences - If you are one who is a stickler when it comes to time, you have to be prepared to be challenged. Time runs a bit more fluidly and meetings do tend to overrun. However, it is culturally fine to have discussions on the spot without having to pre arrange for meetings, hence making it very easy to have decisions taken quickly if you can catch the person in a good mood! People also tend to be less outspoken here, thus more time has to be taken to observe the nuances in one’s body language and care has to be taken to appreciate the feelings of others in the work environment. This increased focus on relationship building allows for pretty strong bonds to form in offices.

New perspectives - Coming to China gives a newfound appreciation for the amount of opportunities in this giant growing market. No longer will I see China as one large market, but to see it in several tiers, with each tier having cities with characteristics and needs that are vastly different from other tiers. It is also a huge organisation, which forces you to hone skills to ensure that the multiple stakeholders are aligned. Big thanks to my bosses in China, Jackie Tang and Laurie Yan for providing me with ample opportunities to stretch and grow. On a side note, China was also a place where I had the chance to dance in front of 1,500 people as part of a performance for the annual meeting. Being new to the Shanghai office, I was among the “privileged” few to be selected, while my dance moves were frankly quite laughable, the experience was quite unforgettable.

Tags: Career Blog, Finance