Passion & Expertise: Staying in the moment

Now in her 14th year with Samsung C&T, Jamie Shin is making tremendous strides with the company’s Trading & Investment Group. As a Senior Professional, Shin’s passion and expertise are inspiring her colleagues, but she just takes it one day at a time.

“It’s not like I set a specific period to work when I joined,” she says. “I just committed myself to each day’s work and it has been 14 years.”

Shin is in charge of trading Palm Kernel Shells (PKS). As the name suggests, PKS refers to the hard, woody shell that surrounds the kernel of the oil palm fruit.

Palm fruits, as big as jujubes, consist of the fruit's flesh and a kernel.
The hard shell surrounding the kernel makes up the PKS commodity

Produced in countries with a tropical climate, PKS is supplied most abundantly by Indonesia and Malaysia. It has risen as an important renewable biomass energy source, especially as the use of fossil fuels has come under increasing international pressure.

A daily formula for success: clear that ‘to do’ list

In essence, Shin’s task is to sell PKS from palm plantations to other foreign countries. Of course, the process is not that simple and requires great effort and patience to succeed in a highly competitive industry. She reveals the routine that has brought her gains so far – a formula that is vital when the stresses of everyday work begin to mount.

“I start the day by checking emails, and then sort out priorities and finish urgent work first. I also read industry-relevant articles or materials if I have time,” Shin explains.

It might sound like a straightforward strategy, but it is this disciplined approach that keeps distractions at bay.

“I don’t have such grandiose goals as seeking a promotion or excellent performance. Instead, I have always focused on solving pending issues rather than looking further into the distant future,” Shin says. “I think I became more patient while focusing on doing my very best every day.”

Shin’s job additionally involves traveling, because of where PKS needs to be sourced and sold. Tasks like trading a commodity for the first time and signing a first contract present numerous challenges, and all the more so when adapting to a tropical environment.

“When I first started PKS sales, there was a time when I went to a loading port in Indonesia every month over a product quality issue. There was no adequate bathroom because it was an underdeveloped region, so I tried to limit how much water I drank despite the hot and humid weather,” Shin admits.

The well-dried hard shell surrounding the palm kernel becomes a source of eco-friendly energy in the form of PKS.
The PKS is taken from palm oil factories and gathered together in stockpiles, then dried, filtered, fuelized, shipped, and delivered to customers.
The last photo was taken with Japanese customers at a PKS stockpile in Lubuk Gaung, Indonesia in February 2018.

She adds that another difficulty of working abroad is the language barrier: “Generally, it is always an obstacle in overseas sales when we have to communicate in our non-native language, and I can’t always catch every nuance of what clients say. We need to carefully check and clarify with each other repeatedly in order to ensure that we are clear on our relative positions.”

Amid all these considerations, Shin’s formula for success is taking care of every detail involved in the various stages of PKS sales, including production, shipping and quality assurance. Maintaining this meticulous attitude each day requires a faithful and tenacious attitude, but the rewards are building trust with customers and becoming a driving force for long-term trading contracts.

Driven by an eco-friendly energy source, PKS

Shin’s passion to succeed helped her build the expertise required to support Samsung C&T’s active role in PKS trading, which it has been involved with since 2012. It is also helpful that she is able to sell a product that she clearly believes in.

“As interest in the environment grows globally, fuels like PKS and wood pellets have gained attention as eco-friendly energy sources that can replace coal,” she points out.

A byproduct of the palm oil industry, PKS is a low-cost renewable energy source because it is more price-competitive per calorie compared to other woody biomass fuels, can be used as a fuel without any complicated processing, is easy to ship, and burns relatively clean. Unlike weather-reliant solar and wind power, biomass energy is regarded as a stable power source, which has drawn the attention of major companies.

Indeed, the benefits of PKS are proving to be particularly attractive in Japan, which has taken an even greater interest in renewable energy since its 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. The Japanese market is expected to develop further as private entities are able to produce and sell electricity under a liberalized structure that makes it possible for individuals to generate and consume their own power. In fact, Japan’s biomass market is expected to grow continuously, as the country has the goal of getting 22% to 24% of its energy from all renewable sources. Currently, Japan produces 1.8% of its energy from biomass and wants to increase it to 3.6% to 4.7% by 2030.

Naturally, rising demand attracts fierce competition, but Shin’s perseverance is paying off. She recently sealed Samsung C&T’s second long-term contract to sell PKS to Japan – which is all the more significant as no other foreign company has concluded such a deal. While she acknowledges that she “worked very hard” to complete the contract, Shin is typically modest about the role of her colleagues and the importance of cooperation.

“I did not conclude the contract alone,” she insists. “It would have been absolutely impossible for me to do so without the assistance of the division head, the team head, and those who worked together with me. And we got generous help from related departments.”

Shin also stresses the role of her co-workers both in terms of achieving team goals and communicating with each other to resolve any difficulties. “It can be comforting to open your heart to colleagues when things are difficult and annoying,” she says. “In doing so, sometimes you can come up with a good solution from the opinions and ideas of your colleagues.”

Going forward, she shows no sign of slowing down. Shin wishes to help create a “lucrative” future by concluding the company’s third, fourth, and fifth long-term PKS contracts.

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