From The Straits Times    |

Coliwoo

Do you like your job? Or wonder what it would be like if you’d gone against your parents’ advice and pursued your dream career? Her World’s Career Confessions column spotlights the professional journeys of its subjects and reveals how each individual’s career path and the choices they have made can have an impact on their personal finances, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships.

Chong Ching Yeng works in a male-dominated sector but has never let gender stereotypes get in the way of her success. She reveals she has also been fortunate to have encountered collaborative and supportive team members, partners and vendors throughout her career. But she does recognise that some (if not most) women might have faced challenges while working in male-dominated industries, simply by virtue of their gender. 

“In my early years in the real estate sphere, I primed myself on how important it is to not let gender stereotypes limit my potential and what I thought I could set out to achieve. That confidence goes far, especially in environments you may not be familiar with,” says the chief commercial officer of Coliwoo, a co-living operator in Singapore. 

Credit: Coliwoo

“This was especially relevant when I was given an opportunity to work abroad. I pushed myself to continuously keep an open mind and embrace challenges head-on, and it subsequently opened the door to other opportunities that had a profound impact on my career,” she adds.

Ching Yeng believes it’s important to have female role models in every industry because it inspires women who aspire to take up bigger roles as they progress in their career. With diverse representation – especially in senior leadership roles – these successful female leaders can serve as tangible forms of inspiration for their team members to look up to and strive towards. 

“Beyond that, it’s also crucial to elevate such extraordinary profiles as males can also then increasingly realise the capabilities that females hold. This will encourage everyone to look beyond gender, mitigate unconscious biases and support our fight against gender prejudice,” she says.

Ching Yeng is a firm advocate of believing in yourself – it’s a piece of advice she gives her team members, both males and females. “Confidence is key and we should follow our passion. We should always try new things as ‘never try, never know’!”

She inspires her workmates by fostering a supportive work environment. This includes conducting regular check-ins with team members to find out if they are facing any challenges and, if so, determining ways to address and integrate solutions with the wider team.

“At Coliwoo, meritocracy and performance take precedence, regardless of gender,” she explains. “Work-life balance is also one of the cornerstones at Coliwoo, as we recognise the importance of implementing flexible work-from-home practices for our teams to provide caregivers – including working mothers – the flexibility to tailor their schedules according to their family’s needs. 

As the company’s chief commercial officer, Ching Yeng oversees Coliwoo’s commercial and business strategy through identifying new market opportunities, building strategic partnerships and optimising customer engagement. This includes developing and implementing sales and marketing strategies, plans, forecasts and KPIs to achieve corporate revenue objectives – all to maximise the company’s overall profitability as part of the senior management team. 

Name: Chong Ching Yeng
Highest Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Real Estate
Job Title & Industry: Chief Commercial Officer of Coliwoo / Real Estate & Property Management
Years of Work Experience: 17

Credit: Coliwoo

What do you think it takes to succeed in the real estate business? 

Having the right set of soft skills is integral as you need to be tactful, patient and communicate well, especially in negotiations. 

It is also important to consistently think out of the box. Real estate is a traditional industry by nature, so it’s even more crucial that we come up with ways to approach modern problems differently. As clichéd as it might sound, change is the only constant and we must continue keeping up with on-ground feedback to perpetually innovate new solutions that answer to the market’s needs in an efficient and timely manner. By creatively building the brand and its various product offerings, only then will you thrive in the sector. 

Why do you think co-living has increased in popularity in Singapore? 

Rising interest rates and soaring housing prices in recent years have impacted the ability of Singapore’s younger generation to purchase their first homes, forcing many to consider rental options that may be costly. Additionally, they are competing not only with fellow locals but also mid- to long-stay foreigners returning to Singapore after the easing of border restrictions post-pandemic. 

Construction delays caused by supply chain disruptions are also a contributing factor to the increased demand in interim housing arrangements for many families, and all this uncertainty is driving interest in shorter lease terms. 

As the typical lease term for traditional rental arrangements is a minimum of two years, alternative accommodation such as co-living has become a much more attractive option for cost savings. In the case of Coliwoo, we offer a minimum lease of one night for certain properties and have consistently flexible terms and extensions throughout our portfolio. We also see a drive for independence among individuals looking at joining community events and activities. 

As such, co-living emerged as a favourable rental alternative due to its affordability, flexibility and ability to cater to these changing lifestyles among various groups. We have introduced various co-living concepts including Coliwoo Hotels, Residences and Serviced Apartments with differing price points to provide the perfect accommodation for consumers of all walks of life. Whether it is a student on a budget or a working professional seeking upscale accommodation, Coliwoo is able to answer those needs according to their preferred lifestyle. 

Credit: Coliwoo

If you could go back and change one thing about your career, what would you choose? 

It’s funny to think how back then, I wanted to be an architect or an air stewardess – and how much has changed since then! Nonetheless, I stumbled into the world of property management/real estate and grew to appreciate every milestone, progression and lesson – and I’ve never looked back since. 

What drives you in your career? 

The heart of co-living lies in community building and that has always been my passion and the reason why I decided to join the real estate industry in the first place. Humans are social creatures, so it is important to develop liveable, productive and conducive spaces where they can best interact with one another to build close-knit communities. This is something that continuously inspires our work here at Coliwoo. 

Beyond that, I also truly believe in the importance of developing innovative solutions that solve today’s problems and bridge market gaps. The topic of ever-rising housing costs is not something new and we want to consistently value-add in the industry by coming up with new ways to provide affordable homes to individuals from all walks of life. 

Credit: Coliwoo

What are your career plans for the future – anything in particular you wish to achieve? 

It’s been heartening to see how Coliwoo has grown tremendously in recent years, to its existing position as Singapore’s pioneer co-living player with the goal of achieving 10,000 keys by 2030. I have my strong and capable team to thank for that, as we work tirelessly to ultimately provide our members with the best possible stay experience. 

Moving ahead, I will continue focusing on seizing business opportunities both locally and overseas to further expand the business. 

What advice do you have for women who want to make it in the real estate/property management industry? 

Perseverance, patience, and motivation – these are the three ingredients I believe to be essential for women who are looking to make it big in the real estate sector. Always welcome challenges with an open mind, as you’ll never know what milestones (and lessons) await you as you seek to achieve your goals.