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Dream swap: How an aspiring engineer found his footing in the logistics industry

With a positive attitude towards upskilling and help from his company, Lee Elfi Danial is now making his mark in the logistics sector.
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By Ian Tan Hanhonn 17 May 2023
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When it comes to finding a dream job, it is safe to say that a career in logistics would not be at the forefront of most people’s minds.


The same can be said for Lee Elfi Danial, 34, who currently works as a senior executive in the ocean freight department at Yusen Logistics.


The company was nominated for the Plaque of Commendation at this year’s May Day Awards by the Singapore Industrial & Services Employees’ Union (SISEU).


Beyond having a close working relationship with the union, Yusen proactively ensures that its workers’ salaries are competitive and that wage increments align with Singapore’s core inflation projections and the National Wages Council guidelines.


But perhaps more important is how the company has helped workers such as Danial reach new heights within the logistics sector.


Hopes and aspirations


In his youth, Danial was always more interested in practical work.


When enrolled in NITEC, he undertook a course in the building services environment where he learned how to maintain building works and service equipment.


He landed his first job with SATS Ltd in 2010. Although he was handling import operations for perishable items, he had hoped that his foray into the a

viation-related industry would lead him towards a more engineering-based career.


“Initially, I was not interested in logistics. When I was with SATS, I had dreams of becoming an aircraft technician or engineer,” he said.


However, he was dejected when he discovered the amount of advanced mathematics required for him to fulfil this dream – something Danial knew was not his strongest suit.


Despite the setback, he knew he needed to upgrade himself to not let his career stagnate.


After some research, he decided to enrol himself for a diploma in logistics and supply chain management at Kaplan – a decision which would alter his view of the logistics sector.


“While studying, it actually grew my interest in logistics. I also found out [through the course] that logistics is one of the key areas that many people are focusing on,” he said.


Then in 2014, Danial left SATS to join Yusen Logistics as he wanted to apply what he had learned and explore more opportunities within the logistics field.


Working at Yusen


Unlike his work at SATS, which he described as more labour-intensive, Danial’s work at Yusen was largely deskbound.


He started as an officer handling customers’ shipments – a role he described as handling all inbound cargo from when they arrive in Singapore until they are delivered to the respective clients.


Even though he had already attained his diploma, Danial did not stop upskilling. He shared that he used his SkillsFuture credits to undergo a course in robotic process automation with NTUC’s LearningHub (LHUB).


In 2020, he enrolled for a master of management (digital marketing) at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). He completed the programme earlier this year.


Over the years, Danial recalled Yusen working together with NTUC on different initiatives to uplift its workforce.


Most notable were Yusen’s partnership with SISEU to set up the Company Training Committee and the company’s completion of the Operation and Technology Roadmap (OTR) programme in November 2022.


What he valued most from the OTR programme was its bottom-up instead of top-down approach, where employees were allowed to express their views on how to achieve the company’s objectives.


“The OTR gave me the opportunity to understand the challenges faced by the different stakeholders within the company. It also allowed us to understand the strengths of the different departments so that we could work collectively towards our objectives,” said Danial.


In 2022, Danial was promoted to the rank of senior executive. He now supervises 10 other employees in the ocean freight department.


Making the best of what he has


Even though logistics was not his first choice, Danial is now making the best out of his career in the industry.


He hopes that, over time, he will have the opportunity to explore other areas beyond ocean freight as he feels there is still much to be learned.


He said: “I feel that logistics is the backbone of everything. Take the army, for example. Where would the battalions be without their supplies?


“In Singapore, we depend on other countries for our resources – we import practically everything. To me, this is a sector that will always be around.”


Read more about this year's May Day Awards.