By Ben Ibrahim

CEO of Parkway Pantai, Malaysia Operations Division, Joe Sim talks to GRADUAN® about his leadership style and the 3Hs that will help you go all the way

We all want to work for a dynamic and challenging company. Luckily for Joe Sim, this is exactly where he is as the CEO of Parkway Pantai, Malaysia Operations Division. You would think that one would need a healthcare-related degree to head a healthcare group like Parkway Pantai but our friendly CEO tells us that he is actually a trained engineer (though his initial ambition was to be a doctor).

Originally from Singapore, Joe was awarded a scholarship to study engineering at Cambridge University, UK. Upon graduation, he joined the Singapore Administration Service. In his first posting as an Assistant Director in the Ministry of Finance, he was assigned to look after investment and regulatory policies. As he progressed in his career, he was rotated to different ministries and portfolios.

It was a great learning experience for Joe working for the Singaporean government but he felt at that point in time that he wanted to try his hand at being his own boss. So in 2000, he set up a dot-com business called Auplex that was involved in the trading of golf products. “I was crazy about golf then and decided to venture into it after raising SGD5 million from an investor,” says Joe of his entrepreneurship experience. He ran Auplex for a year before deciding to rejoin the corporate world where he held several roles in Accenture, Singapore’s National Healthcare Group, National University Hospital Singapore and finally his current role at Parkway Pantai in 2017.

Joe’s focus as the CEO of Parkway Pantai, Malaysia Operations Division, is straightforward and clear - it is all about patients. Says Joe, “Healthcare in the private sector is more than just a commercial concern. There are also the professional and ethical dimensions that are important. We have a duty of care to our patients.”

The quality of healthcare is highly dependent on the quality of the healthcare team as well as the processes and systems in place. This requires an effective team from various disciplines. He says, “We are always looking at different and creative ways to develop our people. We want them to be multidisciplinary individuals and a master of control.”

To succeed in healthcare, Joe believes that one needs to have the 3Hs: Humility, Hunger and Honesty

He elaborates, “Humility is about acknowledging other people’s views and respecting their opinions. You can be the smartest person in the world but one will never know everything. We should always ask the right questions with humility. Humility is critical in order for one to continue to learn and grow in their career.”

With the healthcare system being complex and requiring continuous improvement, Joe says it is imperative for those working in healthcare to have this notion of hunger: “Wanting to do something well and doing whatever it takes to taste that success.”

Joe also refers to the fact patients trust their lives to those in the system. Therefore, one would need to be open and act with integrity at all times. This is where his concept of Honesty comes in. Joe explains, “This does not just involve telling the truth. It is also about doing the right thing as a matter of principle. The hardest thing to do in honesty is admitting that you get it wrong sometimes.”

Joe’s advice when that happens? “When this becomes difficult, you go back to the first H. After that, sorry does not seem to be the hardest word,” he says.

Yong Zi Ling, Chief Operating Officer of Gleneagles Penang, proves that age is just a number when you have the right attitude and skills.

“Action speaks louder than words. Continue to perform and people will eventually see your value.” That’s the motto that Yong Zi Ling, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Gleneagles Penang, has always lived by when it comes to her career.

Her determination has served her well as Zi Ling was only 28 when she was named the COO. And this is after just two years of joining the notable healthcare organisation as an Operations Manager.

Zi Ling credits her boss and mentor, Ivan Loh, in her rise to the top. “Without his guidance and support, I do not think I could have made it this far in such a short period of time. In addition, I am very fortunate that all my colleagues are open, supportive, and always willing to share their knowledge and experience,” says Zi Ling.

What’s important, she adds, is to not label people based on their age and generation. “For example, passing over a promotion of a competent staff just because he is young, or immediately dismissing an idea from a 50-year old because it will not be innovative. Competency should remain the main criteria to decide who is most suitable for the job,” says Zi Ling.

One of Zi Ling’s major challenges as COO is how to bring balance to the ecosystem at an established institution like Gleneagles Penang. “Many staff have been with the hospital for many years. One major challenge is to balance the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, i.e. how to advance the hospital and move forward without losing sight of our original roots. Another challenge is to bridge the generation gap between the long-serving staff and the newer, younger staff,” shares Zi Ling.

The young COO’s advice on how to get what you want in life, just like she did? “Work hard, work smart. Be humble and always be willing to listen.”

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