An eye for potentials

Dora, the creator of luxury homes such as Leedon Residence and Wallich Residence to the recently launched Midtown Modern, is now preparing for the debut of Lentor Modern later this year

Chatting with Dora Chng, the general manager (residential) of GuocoLand, is like a catch-up session with a best friend. No subject is off the table as she discusses topics that range from career, hobbies, exercise routine, female roles and more.

We met on the 31st level of Guoco Tower and right off the bat, we get into her role as GM of residential where as part of a team she is involved in the various aspects of building dream luxury homes. Says Chng, “I take care of almost everything with regards to the residential components. I’m part of the team that conducts studies on land parcels that we think have potential.”

From there, she says her job scope gets interesting as she has the opportunity to think up a myriad of ways to develop the property. From what kind of development to thinking who these residents will be, who will be interested in this development, who the target audience is, who are they, and what they need.

Part of the planning requires Chng to make trips to the site to familiarise herself with the area and to observe the community. She says, “We go down at different times of the day. For example, in the evenings, we see different sets of people and how they’re coming home from work. For example, in taxis, MRT, or even by cycling. This helps me to understand the demand a bit better.” Chng is back on weekends to feel the vibe and to absorb a different feel of the location.

This is also her modus operandi when she was planning Lentor Modern and in her previous job marketing landed houses in that area has been a big help. She recalls, “At that time, there were no MRT lines travelling through, no supermarkets and it was a thickly forested area. I cannot recognise the area now as it has an MRT station but I saw opportunities then.” Lentor Modern sits above the MRT station with a mall attached. She adds that this will bring convenience to the residents there as the mall will have supermarkets, hair salons, and other essentials residents will need.

Dora is now in the planning and design stages for Lentor Modern. Her past career as an interior designer will be a big plus when it comes to this. Chng studied as an interior designer and later lent her creative skills to designing homes for clients. This was back in 1997 and 1998 and while enthusiasm was there, the demands of clients killed it. “After two years as an interior designer, I gave up because I had enough of destroying my own design. I guess it is the artist’s pride in me and because this is your design you put in so many thoughts and efforts and there are a lot of different reasons, why this is being done in this manner,” says Chng.

Chng offers two examples: a client had asked for a zen minimalistic look and when the design is done, the client asks for more storage cupboards. Another client requested a modern classical look and feel then wanted the room in pink. “Such things dampened my confidence; it means that whatever I am designing is not good enough for that person. I have to keep fighting that emotional attack on my confidence … after which, they might not even appoint me.”

That may have been a blessing in disguise, now with more than 15 years of experience in the sales, marketing, and leasing of residential properties. Chng is responsible for the conceptualisation and implementation of the company’s sales and marketing strategies for its award-winning residential properties.

With her background of trial and error and coupled with her effervescent personality in the business, Chng is the best person to offer some words of wisdom to women joining the workforce, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s good to ask because by asking questions, you actually encourage discussions.”

Two women Chng admires the most are Jacinda Arden and Yip Pin Xiu. The former is the prime minister of New Zealand, which Chng admires for the way she holds herself together when faced with critics accusing her of being too soft and having empathy and compassion are signs of weaknesses.

Singaporean Pin Xiu is a backstroke swimmer and five-time Paralympic gold medallist and a one-time IPC gold medallist, with two world records in the 50m backstroke S2 and the 100m back-stroke S2. Chng says many women battle weight issues and have tried many fad diets. Chng recognises that this is a struggle women face.

“This is our struggle, but I always take inspiration from Pin Xiu because if she can work hard to achieve her goals, then what’s so difficult about me going out for a walk or going for a swim?” Chng has started swimming and she also does her daily early morning brisk walks where she takes pleasure in the quiet solitude to people watch. It also gives her a sense of achievement that she has started the day right.

Another way she unwinds is to take care of her five cats. After her first adoption, she realised that her first cat needed company and soon four more kittens were added over the last three years. She says, “Yea, I adopt one almost every year. I don’t believe in purchasing because that encourages black market breeding.”

Finally, while most of us keep a journal with our written thoughts, Chng does art journaling, in which instead of words, she sketches her thoughts that range from work, cats and even political situations. “No one understands these drawings but me.”

Image by Albert Chua