Struan Chisholm, Judge Business School alum, takes us through his experience with the Swire Management Programme and the unique opportunity it gave him to be a generalist across business industries and cultures
Struan Chisholm, MA Judge Business School, 2013
I joined Swire in 2014, about a year after I graduated from Cambridge.
I applied to join the company after having been put in contact with someone who, at the time, was Country Manager for Swire’s shipping business in Kenya. It sounded like a challenging business-focused role in an exotic location, so I set my sights on pursuing a similar route. I joined the company, and five years later I was promoted to Country Manager for Ghana in the shipping business, bringing that idea full circle (in a way).
As a conglomerate, Swire offers something quite rare – the chance to work in business as a generalist across different industries.
I have worked in commercial, general management and corporate finance roles
First in the marine services division, and now in the property division, and lived in Singapore, Australia, Qatar, Norway, Ghana, Hong Kong, and the USA. Swire is an international conglomerate which invests across industries and geographies, and I have been learning constantly about the operating and investing realities across the group. As a conglomerate, Swire offers something quite rare – the chance to work in business as a generalist across different industries.
Working in Accra, I managed a JV business with up to nine ships rented out to oil & gas companies, which involved coordinating with customers, captains, partners, and suppliers. Leading up to that, I had held commercial and business development roles in different locations across the marine services division.
Now I am based in Hong Kong, where I work on the company’s investment cases and financial models for mixed-use property developments, as well as researching new business opportunities and reporting on trends in the commercial property market.
Having to lead diverse teams exposes you to how different cultures function and makes you adapt to get the best from people wherever you are.
It still surprises me that I’ve lived in so many different countries, figured out how each place ‘works’ and gathered friends and contacts in each place. Swire has 130,000 employees, many of whom have worked for the company for a long time. These colleagues form a strong community and one of the best things for me is that I have made many friends among the people I have worked with over the years. It has been an adventure; I have enjoyed it and learned a lot about myself, people, business, and cultures.
A career with Swire provides the chance to take lots of responsibility early-on, regular new challenges which force you to learn quickly, and lots of opportunities to learn about business and how to push for results as a ‘generalist’ business operator. Having an international career allows you to experience regular change, to appreciate nuances and different cultural outlooks, and hopefully it can help to inform you about what situations you really like and dislike. Having to lead diverse teams exposes you to how different cultures function and makes you adapt to get the best from people wherever you are.