New Culture Award Winners Embody Frontier Spirit

Samsung C&T Trading and Investment Group has recognized a selection of employees for their outstanding contributions to the company’s trailblazing trade creativity drive.

As part of its New Culture Awards, a number of the C&T family were rewarded for their efforts. Their number includes a Shanghai-based semiconductor factory guru, a woman who has earned the nickname “the problem-solver of Cameroon,” a palm farm specialist who just happens to be fluent in Indonesian, a star negotiator from Russia and a manager who won award endorsements from a staggering 15 different C&T departments.

The awards’ organizers say the winners have been exemplary in creating global business infrastructure, and that the winners’ commitment and selflessness helped them stand out.

Samsung C&T’s New Culture Awards were first held in December 2006. In conjunction with a Human Resources committee, the company’s staff members nominate and select the award winners.

Categories include the “Creativity and Challenge” award, given to employees who have developed new business models, and shown creative effort in pioneering new markets.

The Love and Trust prize, meanwhile, is awarded to staff members who exhibit a cooperative spirit in both internal and external dealings and make conscious efforts in the area of corporate citizenship.

The Frontier Spirit award is for employees who have pioneered ventures in new markets and countries where Samsung C&T operations have been less common.

And finally, the Global category is intended to reward employees based outside Korea who have exhibited excellent performance in the Creativity & Challenge and Love & Trust categories.

Dig Deep and Stay Personal

Few employees have managed to exhibit quite as intrepid an attitudes to their work as Nina Seohee Kim, Senior Associate in the Ship and Infrastructure Development team of the Project Division.

Her job often involves tough, hands-on work in the Cameroonian bush, where challenges regularly include the elements, such as the scorching sun heat and torrential downpours.

However, heat and rain are not the only obstacles for Kim. She only joined the company three years ago, and her work has thrust her into contact with staff at partner companies, some of whom have up to 20 years of experience. In some cases, she discovered, entrenched attitudes can be hard to overcome.

She explains, “When I first went to Cameroon, one consultant complained, ‘Samsung sent a girl. They should have sent a senior manager.’ I wasn’t happy to hear this, but I then told myself, ‘Headquarters wouldn’t have sent me if I wasn’t ready for the job.’ I was determined to prove that I was worthy and resolved to do my utmost in my time there.”

And that is precisely what she did – with great success. In fact, her resilience in the face of adversity has won her the respect of her colleagues, who are so impressed with her troubleshooting skills in the central African nation that they call her “the problem-solver of Cameroon.”

Putting in the hard yards can also bring about major rewards for your company, as Moscow Office Manager Alexey Provalov attests.

Provalov has been a key player in Samsung C&T EMEA’s successful partnership with metal supplier Amurmetal, based in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia’s Far East.

Even in the busy world of global trade, people like Provalov underline the value of maintaining good partner relations, even if that sometimes means going the extra mile – in some cases very literally.

“In Russia, personal meetings are very important,” he explains. “Sometimes it is impossible to build a relationship or agree on a contract over the phone.”

So, although Komsomolsk-on-Amur is located about 6,100km from Moscow, and a time difference of seven hours separates the two cities, Provalov made a point of meeting his contacts in person. Each time he traveled, the journey involved an indirect flight to the city of Khabarovsk, followed by a grueling 6-hour bus ride to Komsomolsk-on-Amur. 

In total, Provalov had to embark on this exhausting voyage six times in 2015. But his efforts quickly bore fruit, with a successful sourcing business with Amurmetal now thriving.

Think Fast, Involve Others

Another of the winners, Jae Yong Han, has been a mainstay of the Industrial Materials Team since 2000, and it is not hard to see why.

Currently based in Shanghai, he is the beating heart of a team whose efforts in the  semiconductor factory business in the Chinese city of Xi’an last year generated a staggering 17.3 billion won.

Yet Han explains that the Xi’an deal was no walk in the park. There was little in the way of infrastructure to help Han and his team. Before he could even place an initial order, Han realized that he would have to set up a warehouse and hire workers to get things going.

To solve the problem, Han had to think on his feet. He gathered information, sought out support and set up local operations himself, renting a warehouse and even hiring staff.

Despite his achievements, Han refuses to hog the spotlight, saying that the Xi’an team’s innovative initiative helped solve the conundrum.

“My team and I pushed the limits together,” he says. “I believe that our combined team effort led to these great results.”

These are thoughts echoed by another winner at the awards, Yong Soo Jung, Senior Manager in the Corporate Planning Part of Corporate Planning Team, for whom collaboration is key to everything he does.

Jung notes, “I still feel I have much to learn. I try hard to involve the sales division in every  projects, right from day one.”

Jung believes “execution” is more important than “strategy” when it comes to driving business success, and that departments can work hard to better execute strategies that reflect their opinions.

With this in mind, Jung says he aims to be good listener and someone who seeks out the opinions of colleagues. This outlook has not only paid off in terms of business success – it has also made him a big hit in the office. Co-workers from well over a dozen departments nominated him for a New Culture award.

Jung says, “I make a point of asking for opinions. Involving other people in this way makes a big difference when it comes to getting things done. I believe that I should reach out first and listen carefully.”

Understanding Is Key

Jun Ho Ahn, based in Indonesia, is the General Manager of SNG, Samsung C&T’s SEA&O Office. Although he only joined the company in 2012, Ahn is a long-term Indonesia resident and has even learned to speak the language.

SNG operates some 24,000 ha of palm farms in Indonesia. The oil extracted from the palms’ fruit is sold to large-scale refiners or exported. The office currently employs somewhere in the region of 3,000 workers.

Ahn has been charged with spearheading a so-called “Up 10, Down 10” scheme, aimed at increasing employee productivity by 10 percent, while lowering costs by the same amount – no easy feat as any business professional will attest.

As Ahn notes, “It was impossible to demonstrate the program’s benefits before it actually started, so we initially had a lot of trouble developing ways to raise awareness.” 

However, he says that a series of events that centered on increasing motivation helped staff build belief in the program. Ahn explains, “If employees are self-motivated, they can become more productive and efficient. This attitude can, over time, turn into corporate culture.”

And that is why he put his language and people skills to good use in this project – even personally translating key documents for the incentive.

Says Ahn, “Sometimes I feel that local workers are not fully heard, even though they are very important to the company. I feel like it’s my job to first listen attentively to what these workers are saying, and then make my voice heard on site.”

Exhibiting the importance of the personal touch when dealing with clients, listening to what your workmates have to say, truly understanding your colleagues, thinking fast on the spot and digging deep to find inspiration from  like Han, Kim, Ahn, Jung and Provalov have done all that and then some.

Frontier spirit and creativity are at the heart of Samsung C&T’s trade operations – and as this quintet show, the company’s employees clearly have plenty of both.

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