Industry Highlights: Alumni in Environment, Social and Governance

24 November 2021
Ong Jee Lian
Ong Jee Lian,
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Media 2001

The Industry Highlights series feature fellow alumni on a journey of their careers in various industries, sectors, and stories behind the scene. Find out more about our growing domestic and international community of over 80,000 Alumni through unique stories and experiences.

Murdoch Singapore alumnus Jee Lian found her calling working on corporate communications for a multi-award winning engineering and construction company in Malaysia.

With over 13 years of work experience in her organization, Jee Lian shares some insights on how sustainability and female leadership in the workplace over the years impacts her sector…

What did you study at Murdoch? What do you do now?  

I studied BA in Communications (majored in Media Analysis, minored in Journalism) and graduated in 2001. It was part of a

twinning programme with KDU Malaysia. My last 16 years of career in communications expanded to sustainability (ESG – environment, social and governance) in the last few years. Today I’m the Group CSO and Head of Communications in Gamuda Berhad, leading engineering infrastructure and property public listed organization in Malaysia. 

What do you think is Murdoch’s point of difference compared with other universities?

During that time in the late 90’s, communication studies wasn’t a very common choice as most of the trending double programmes in Malaysia with Australian universities were on commerce, accountancy, engineering. Murdoch University with KDU had a dedicated programme on communications which had good holistic coverage on communications that prepared its students (in my batch) to be all-rounder communicators. Today many of my ex-classmates who studied with me are in production work, advertising, PR, marketing and journalism across various sectors like construction, media, retail, FMCG. Besides academic, I enjoy my schooling days in Perth’s student village and found the worship center near bush court fascinating as it features a multicultural hall for different religions. Talk about inclusiveness! 

What motivates you at work, especially while working on your career progression over the years?  

The beauty of communication is the uniqueness of each communication piece. My main base is writing which I’ve been doing all these years being in communications. I write serious and corporate pieces like annual reports and feature pieces that work well for internal and external communications. Because of the variety of projects from building the MRT (mass rapid train), highways to township development – they are part and parcel of nation-building projects including stakeholder management as these are massive infrastructure projects; it’s fulfilling and inspiring to tell the story in so many forms – be it in reports, media stories, speeches, website, blogs, coffee table books, analyst reports, documentaries. How an empty land can transform into something great like a 50km railway line, a 2,000-acre township, kilometers long of urban highways whereby 2million cars use it daily, how a flood mitigation tunnel saves the city from a flash flood. This has always been the motivation for my career advancement, to turn technical projects into consumable stories for various audiences.  

What drew you to working in a role on ESG? Anyparticular intriguing experiences you would like to share?  

I took on the ESG role in 2018 as it is something I’m personally interested in. It is about climate science. It’s about quantity and quality analysis combination of works that aim to make the world (hopefully) a better place for future generations. So much talk on the Paris Agreement, COP 26, net zero, etc – but how do we play a role make positive impact with the change in our work. This is where I find my work interesting and intriguing – the part on operationalizing ESG and helping people to relate to best practices. Once again, communications come into play as buy-in is needed and later conveyed in the programmes and results. Because it’s ESG – the spectrum of content itself is broad, from the environment, economics, social to governance. I’ve completed my Masters in Sustainable Development from the Jeffrey Sachs Centre, Sunway University in 2020 to better equip myself. At the same time with new government policy on female representation in leadership, by merit, Gamuda walked the talk and gave me the opportunity in a management role to fulfil my enthusiasm to work on sustainability.  

What have been some of thebig changes in your line of work given the COVID-19 threat? 

As a Covid survivor myself (as a Category 3 and was hospitalized), I’m not going to discuss about life’s regrets. I believe the pandemic helps to prioritize what’s important in life, it has yielded some overall positive changes. Everyone is certainly more aware of health (both physically and mentally) and improved their hygiene practises (simple stance like no coughing, sniffing, spitting in public). Business priorities have also evolved. A lot of digital initiatives and work lifestyle traits that were mooted in the last 5 years that faced lots of barriers are now easily implemented (eg – WFH, online meetings) which to me personally have increased efficiency, productivity and certainly helped people to be more trusting of each other. As a working mom as well, the dual role at home is daunting but looking on the bright side – the simple joy in life such as spending quality time with family members is much appreciated. However, It will be great to just go to the beach or have a meal at the mall without the hassle of Covid-19 restrictions.  

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? 

Hard work will never kill you. I believe one must have perseverance and patience, remain goal oriented and enjoy the journey to your destination.  

 Who inspires you?

Many. From my parents to mentors, I’ve been fortunate to meet many along the line of my personal and working life. 

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