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Seah Chee Huang is the current deputy CEO of DP Architects. DP Architects has over 1000 employees and maintains offices in 16 cities. Some of their past projects include The Dubai Mall; Mariner’s Quarter in Royal Wharf, London; Golden Mile Complex and Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in Singapore; and Emaar Square Mall in Turkey. He was also a former board member of the Board of Architects Singapore; and immediate past president of the Singapore Institute of Architects
What inspired you to want to go into architecture? Was it always on your mind or did you ‘fall’ into the industry? Could you maybe tell us about what your role as CEO of DP entails?
A keen interest in the arts since a young age played a key role in shaping journey towards architecture. Credits to my parents who have faithfully supported me in this interest, to acquire deeper appreciation and skillset in the field of art and design. Another contributor is the context of my upbringing. I grew up in a humble HDB housing, lived in 2 different HDB flats and estates; this helped me to develop an innate sensitivity to the community and common place which subsequently cultivated a community-centric design thinking. Architecture became a natural draw and I decided to take the plunge into the abyss of this vocation.
The role of CEO is to be responsible for the overall success of the firm, top-level vision and managerial decision making, which in turn influences the structure and systems within organisation of DP Architects. This works hand in hand with a unique aspect of leadership roles in DP that all our directors are working directors who are involved in various projects. We believe that in leading by example and you can’t motivate, take charge and drive if you don’t know what’s happening in your landscape.
As somebody who multitasks numerous commitments such as overseeing global offices and thousands of employees, do you have any advice for students juggling different subjects, commitments? How do you stay on top of your priorities?
To be totally honest, the term struggle comes into mind. To say I can handle all these tasks on my own, it will be quite absurd and unbelievable. That’s where the value of teamwork comes in. I’m only able to do what I’m doing and to do it well because of a strong leadership and talent base in DP. Team participation also allows me to focus on delivering tasks specific to my role. Another key is our team formation which focuses on a shared vision and how collectively we can achieve our goals. We must support one another in developing and deepening skill sets and competencies, while minimising overlaps.
A large part boils back down to passion. I’m fortunate that I am doing what I love and loving what I do. On a personal level, it’s the belief that design helps me to take on tasks and challenges with optimism.
Students often find themselves in scenarios where they have to motivate their team members. In what kinds of ways do you influence your employees and incentivize them to work at their maximum potential?
I would always go back to this keyword – purpose. In our line of work, aligning with DP’s legacy, we recognise it’s not just about business; there’s a larger connection of what we do that has an immediate impact on the environment, and helps shape lives of the community. Thus, it’s important that we aspire to always elevate ourselves professionally and be the best we can be. Through understanding purpose and embracing our values, we can also come together to work towards the shared outcomes and goals.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
I will refer to a quote “Seek the truth and beauty shall emerge”. This saying has always been in the back of my mind and is an invaluable guiding principle in practice and life. It’s important to remind ourselves of the reasons we chose and are in this profession.
Photo Credit: https://www.dpa.com.sg/about/our-people/SeahCheeHuang/