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A humble leader who never stops learning everyday

Beneath Nicholas Cheng’s cool and calm exterior lies an adventurous soul with a passion for motorcycles. “I love motorcycles. I have been riding since [I was] 18, 19 years old. I have ridden to Thailand and tried many different types of [motorcycle] models…I wish I have a garage with every type of motorcycles if possible,” says Nicholas. Aside from Thailand, the motorcycle enthusiast also travelled to different parts of Malaysia, such as Penang, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, with his biking friends.

When his first child was born in 2016, Nicholas placed less emphasis on his hobby in order to spend more time with his family. “I still ride a bike [now], but I can’t ride those fancy bikes anymore. I ride the little scooter to and from work every day,” says the father of two.

Humble Beginnings

On the work front, Nicholas is an individual with a diverse background. After graduating from Temasek Polytechnic in 2003, Nicholas went on to join the Republic of Singapore Air Force as an Air Maintenance Officer. His multi-dimensional career also saw him working at OCBC bank and NTUC Income. The turning point in Nicholas’s career was when he landed a role at Paul Singapore, working as the Human Resource and IT Manager. It was there where he met a colleague who would later become his mentor in life. “The person who had the most impact on me was a man called Edmund Tay, the ex-Operations Manager at Paul Singapore,” says the 37-year-old. Nicholas added, “He is wheelchair bound and has to visit all the stores by himself everyday. I look at him and he’s working so hard. I felt that if he can do this well, I cannot be lazy [too]. So I have to work extra hard.” As a mentor, Mr Edmund Tay imparted wise words of advice which Nicholas still remembers, even till today. Nicholas shares, “He [Mr Edmund Tay] said something that was deeply ingrained in me that I also shared with other people. The phrase is, ‘不合理的要求是磨练.’ ” “It simply means you must have a growth mind set. If you feel that the job scope is unreasonable, take it positively. It may present another opportunity for you as a form of training or experience.”

Taking this precious work experience and valuable advice with him, Nicholas then went on to join WerkDone in 2018. As the head of the technology team at WerkDone, Nicholas’s role was to develop smart technology solutions to help his customers streamline their business operations. Though his days are often packed, Nicholas takes things to his stride. “There will never be a boring moment [at WerkDone]. If you have an open or growth mind set, then it’s even more beneficial to you because you’ll always be learning new things,” Nicholas says. “It will help you in the long run. You will never go obsolete. You will always stay relevant in the corporate environment.”

True to his beliefs in possessing a growth mind-set, Nicholas took up a Post Graduate Diploma in 2019. His area of studies was in strategic human capital management. Nicholas took the course as he wanted to upgrade his skill sets on human resource, an area of expertise he was familiar with while working at Paul Singapore. When asked the reason why he took the leap of faith to join WerkDone, Nicholas says, “What I [have] observed from Paul and WerkDone is that, though we are a small team, we work together so closely that we become like a second family at work. The close knitted bond was what attracted me to join WerkDone.”

Taking WerkDone to the Next Level

Two years into his job, Nicholas’s hard work was being recognised by the company. He was promoted to the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) in August this year. When Nicholas spoke about his promotion, he smiled. “I wasn’t expecting a promotion during this period [the Covid-19 global pandemic]. I was very happy that I have a job already. Being me, a person who always have an open and growth mind set, I would not shy away from opportunities or new challenges. So I accepted the offer and took it on. I am very grateful to James, Senior Partner at WerkDone, and to WerkDone for the opportunity to rise up to the challenge. James is a very inspiring and forward looking leader, he takes good care of his people and is always thinking of opportunities to help them grow,” he recalls.

As the COO of WerkDone, Nicholas meets up with existing and potential customers to find out their business needs. In addition, he also oversees the deployment of WerkDone’s latest smart technology, ensuring smooth roll outs for his clients in both Singapore and Malaysia. The key to the company’s success lies in customers’ satisfaction, an aspect which Nicholas is well aware of. “Maintaining customers’ happiness level or even making sure that it goes up during and after the deployment [is important]...Because when customers are happy, WerkDone [then] has work to do,” Nicholas says.

The newly appointed COO also has to tackle other challenges as the company’s leadership figure. “The challenge [in a leadership role] is managing the expectations of the bosses, management and people. It’s an ongoing process to try and balance expectations and the work being produced,” says Nicholas. He further adds, “You have to be very very resilient [when taking up a leadership role]. Never give up.” As a leader who greatly values his employees, Nicholas acknowledges and appreciates the hard work put in by them. He emphasized the importance of giving recognition to his employees. He says, “We need to recognise the good people, the people who really put in the hard work.”

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Aside from retaining employees with good performance, Nicholas also needs to ensure that the company stays ahead of the curve. “Almost on a weekly, or sometimes even on a daily basis, we want to look at new things. We want to piece up new technologies to form a good solution to really help people and businesses,” he says. Looking ahead, the forward thinking company has big plans for further expansion. Nicholas says, “In three to five years’ time, we want to grow really fast. In terms of growing the solutions that we have, and the people as well.”

As someone who has been through many tough challenges at work, Nicholas shares his thoughts on the topic of job search during rough times. He says, “Always remain open. Don’t reject any kind of opportunity because it might transpire into something very valuable to you in the future.” As a parting note, Nicholas encourages those who are keen to join the tech industry to embrace its speed and agility.

“Don’t shy away from things that you think it’s difficult and impossible. When you take on the job, you will get something out of it.”

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