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Interview With Alka Chandiramani

Alka, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be an expat.

I was born and brought up in Hong Kong, moving to Singapore was initially a daunting thought in 2003. Moving with young children from your hometown to the unknown is always challenging. My husband was given an opportunity to work in Singapore and we decided to move in 2003.You're Manager at the Career Resource Centre for Excellence in Singapore, and you also run your own consultancy firm. Could you take us through a typical day in your life?

My consultancy role at CRCE is a part-time one which allows me to assign designated days of the week that I work there and for my other consultancy projects I work around that time.

Having a multifaceted career necessitates excellent time management skills; do you have any advice for other people who want to run their own business alongside the job they're currently doing?

Definitely time management skills is key, I find that if I don’t plan my schedule a few months ahead of time then it becomes extremely difficult to juggle it all. Running your own business as well requires efficiency hence there are times when we all wear multiple hats!!

You speak several languages; what tips would you give to expats who want to learn the language of their new countries?

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Speaking several languages is great bonus, of course, I will need to thank my parents for inculcating that from childhood. That’s when our brain is at its utmost growth stage. However, learning a new language as an adult is a great asset too and while individuals may be in a new country within their own circumstances, it would be good to be able to set aside some time for personal or professional development as well.

What did you find the most challenging when you first moved?

Having no close family or friends around was a new aspect for me, having grown up in Hong Kong surrounded by an abundance of them. Also learning the culture and the way business is carried out. All in all, though, I’ve really enjoyed the experience as it has really enabled me to grow in more ways than one.

What is your favourite thing about living in Singapore?

The transport system and being able to drive everywhere. I love the wide roads (in most cases) and greenery. Having driven in Hong Kong, this was a breath of fresh air for me.

If you could give one piece of advice to people who are considering their first move abroad, what would it be?

Be open-minded and never let any setback take you towards a downward spiral, as this not only affects you but people around you as well. The biggest challenge is always taking the first step. Begin with baby steps instead of trying to take the leap.

Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love writing, reading and being in the outdoors. I have two lovely boys, one eighteen year old serving in the Singapore Armed Forces and another teenager who have both taught me to enjoy each passing moment as life’s too short to capture it all!

Alka Chandiramani is a columnist for ExpatFocus; you can read her columns here. Alka is a multi-lingual HR practitioner with over 20+ years of HR and legal experience. She has been the Manager of the Career Resource Centre for Excellence (CRCE) in Singapore since 2008 and also runs her own consultancy firm.

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