By Grace Ng
While many of the Singaporeans posted overseas are male, a growing number of female executives are jetting off too.
Ms Foo Mee Har, 42, who is currently the global head of priority clients at Standard Chartered Bank, is one prime example.
She was posted to China in 2003 to head the consumer banking business and expand its branch franchise across China, then moved to become the president and chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank (Thai) in 2006.
The high-flying executive believes that taking up overseas postings is "always a family decision".
When Ms Foo was offered the China position in 2003, her husband, then a general manager of a multinational company, quit his job to take up a China post with another company so that the family could relocate together.
Being a firm believer that the family should be together for overseas postings, MsFoo makes it a point to help her subordinates when they relocate.
"Given the growth of the business in China, there were many occasions while I was in China where I successfully placed spouses within the bank's China operations."
When Ms Foo was offered the CEO post in Thailand, her family rallied behind her again. Her husband quit his job and took up a teaching position in a Bangkok university while pursuing his PhD. Her sons Martin and Matthew, then 13 and 11, were "sad to leave their friends in Shanghai, having settled into the international school", she recalled.
"But having had a positive experience in Shanghai, they were receptive to the new move and the relocation experience was much easier," she said.
The family settled into Bangkok at a "historical time" when Thailand was undergoing political upheaval, including the bloodless coup that ousted then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
"It was business as usual and our entire team stayed in Bangkok throughout the political transition," recalled MsFoo.
She also had to handle a hectic schedule while juggling various projects, including the bank's "Seeing is Believing" initiative in Thailand to restore the sight of villagers. There were also the usual challenges of language and cultural barriers in an overseas posting.
Ms Foo overcame this with a feminine approach - peppering her conversations with basic Thai, doing the traditional Thai wai greeting instead of shaking hands, and wearing Thai silk to show her respect for the culture.
"My whole family adopted the approach " when in Rome, do as the Romans do " instead of questioning why things weren't done the same way as in Singapore. That helped us to settle in more quickly," she said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on September 8, 2008.