This group CEO of Kings­land De­vel­op­ment shows the strength of fem­i­nin­ity in a male dom­i­nated in­dus­try.


Some women wear power suits to show they mean busi­ness. But Shann Sok, group CEO of Kings­land De­vel­op­ment, doesn’t care for those con­ven­tions. An ad­ven­tur­ous dresser, she pro­fesses a love for state­ment jew­ellery made of coloured gems and has no qualms ex­per­i­ment­ing with fash­ion.

“It is the sub­stance that counts, not the clothes,” says Sok, who rocks up to our meet­ing at Kings­land Data Cen­tre in a fem­i­nine lace Three Floor cock­tail num­ber and Fer­rag­amo heels, topped off with bold yel­low sap­phire ear­rings and an emer­ald ring. “I dress for my­self, not oth­ers. It is about set­ting the mood for my­self, as long as what I’m wear­ing is re­spect­ful. Plus, be­ing youth­ful and fash­ion­able add life and colour to a meet­ing full of suits,” she says.

Just 37 years old, the mother of three aged one to eight is al­ready an ex­pe­ri­enced hand in her fam­ily’s real es­tate de­vel­op­ment busi­ness. Armed with an ac­coun­tancy de­gree from Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal Univer­sity, she joined the com­pany at 23, and her fa­ther, Sok Hang Chaw, threw her into the deep end in the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment depart­ment of the firm’s plas­tics man­u­fac­tur­ing arm. She de­scribes his de­ci­sion as “hen”, which means sav­age in Man­darin, but says: “It was a good start. I was in­tro­verted and this ex­pe­ri­ence boosted my con­fi­dence. I learnt to un­der­stand what re­ally mat­ters to the other party in or­der to close the deal. This is a crit­i­cal qual­ity for an en­tre­pre­neur.”

She was trans­ferred to the real es­tate arm of the busi­ness three years later. “Real es­tate is in my blood. Since I was young, my dad would bring me on site vis­its,” she says. The young fire­brand brought a fresh bold­ness to the busi­ness, of­ten chal­leng­ing the el­der Sok’s more con­ser­va­tive and tra­di­tional style by con­vinc­ing him to di­ver­sify from in­dus­trial projects to other sec­tors such as com­mer­cial, hos­pi­tal­ity and data cen­tres, and ex­pand­ing the busi­ness to new re­gions in­clud­ing China, Malaysia, and Cam­bo­dia.

In­stead of tack­ling ev­ery as­pect of com­plex con­struc­tion projects on her own, she is un­afraid to play to her strengths, which are in­vest­ing in peo­ple and keep­ing an eye on the aes­thet­ics of the devel­op­ments.

A re­cent jewel in the com­pany’s crown is Kings­land Data Cen­tre. It cost more than $100 mil­lion to de­velop and is the com­pany’s first foray into high-tech devel­op­ments. In­spi­ra­tion struck one day while she was drink­ing wine with her fa­ther.

“I wanted to do some­thing that was more ‘ high value-added’ so tech­nol­ogy re­lated real es­tate was a good op­tion. There was a real de­mand for data-cen­tre space then, so I thought, why not,” says Sok. “I saw this as some­thing that would con­tinue to grow. To­day, we never delete our videos or pho­to­graphs and we shop for all kinds of things on­line; we store ev­ery­thing in the cloud – the clouds are here in the data cen­tre,” she says. The Kings­land de­vel­op­ment, 208,000 sq ft across five storeys, opened in 2015 and was 99 per cent ac­quired by Kep­pel DC Reit this June for $295 mil­lion.

Next, Sok is fo­cus­ing her at­ten­tion on Global Tech Ex­change, a US$250 mil­lion (S$344 mil­lion) mixed de­vel­op­ment in Ph­nom Penh which com­prises a ho­tel, re­tail and of­fice space and an IT me­dia hub and data cen­tre.

To de-stress from the pres­sures of the job, she turns to her fe­male friends for con­ver­sa­tion, a night out at hot spots like Burnt Ends, or a girls’ trip abroad. She says: “I’m lucky to have a sis­ter­hood who sup­ports me when I am down. At the end of the day, we’re still girls at heart.”

DAR­ING TO BE DIF­FER­ENTSok is not afraid to project her­self as a fash­ion­ista, while head­ing her fam­ily’s real es­tate de­vel­op­ment busi­ness.

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