What this seasoned expat misses most about his 14 years in Singapore

After 20 years of working abroad, Johnson & Johnson Vision CFO, A. Krishnan explains why he finds Singapore to be “the best country in the world to live and work in”.

By SGN | 3 Aug 2023

In a journey spanning nearly three decades, Krishnan’s career with Johnson & Johnson has taken him around the world. 

Starting out as a Finance Executive in his native India, he was subsequently posted to Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and now the US, where he works as worldwide Chief Financial Officer of Johnson & Johnson Vision. His current role involves regular travel across Asia, Europe and the Americas. 

Though based in Florida since the start of 2022, Krishnan is still an employee of the Singapore office, on assignment in the US. His personal ties and assets remain in the city-state, which he visits two or three times a year. 

“I adore everything about Singapore, but what I love most are the meaningful connections that I have formed within the community,” he says. “Many of my Singaporean friends are like family to me. 

“Singapore will always hold a special place in my heart. Every visit is like coming home and I know I can never have enough of it.”

Krishnan and his family were based in Singapore for around 14 years.

The evolution of a city

Between 2005 and 2021, Krishnan and his family spent around 14 years based in Singapore, punctuated by stints in India and Japan. 

“My time in Singapore has been filled with incredible memories and a deep appreciation for the country’s unique blend of urban vibrancy and natural beauty,” he says. “Taking long walks or cycling at East Coast Park and Gardens by the Bay was a delightful way to unwind and connect with nature amidst the bustling city life.”

Krishnan loved walking and cycling in Singapore’s green spaces to unwind.

He also enjoyed Singapore’s vibrant arts and culture and participating in its many festivals. Eating mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, watching the Chingay parade during the Lunar New Year, visiting Little India at Diwali or Orchard Road at Christmas all became fixtures on the family calendar. 

“Having my son grow up in Singapore and thrive in a safe and inclusive society was a blessing,” Krishnan adds. “He is now a medical doctor in UK and I witnessed how Singapore’s values and ethos played a vital role in shaping him into a responsible world citizen.”

Krishnan revelled in Singapore’s multicultural environment and its many festivals.

Over time, Krishnan also witnessed the city’s evolution. “When I first arrived, Singapore was already a bustling hub,” he says. “But I saw how the downtown skyline transformed with the addition of iconic skyscrapers like Marina Bay Sands.” 

Economically, he observed how Singapore’s industries began to diversify. “It has evolved from being primarily a tourism hub into a global financial and technology centre. From digitalisation in government services to promoting research and development, Singapore has become a hotbed for tech-driven advancements.”

Krishnan’s wife Geetha paints and creates kolam art. “Our house is like a museum full of her wonderful artworks,” he says.

Keys to success on the global stage

For Krishnan, it has been a long and fulfilling journey working at Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest healthcare company. His years as an expat have been especially eye-opening. 

When he arrived as one of the company’s first expatriates in Singapore, he was part of a small setup with just a handful of employees. Today, the APAC office has grown manifold and is a bustling regional headquarters overseeing its businesses in Asia. 

“Before working abroad, I was like a frog in the well,” he shares. “Coming to Singapore exposed me to a completely different level of thinking with senior regional leadership and the opportunity to have enriching interactions with diverse talents. There was so much to learn and absorb.” 

What has remained a constant is the life purpose (ikigai) Krishnan finds in Johnson & Johnson’s mission to positively impact the trajectory of health for humanity. “This alignment has been a driving force behind my passion and dedication to the organisation,” he says. 

Moreover, he believes that the company’s commitment to being an equal opportunity employer has opened doors for individuals like him to explore opportunities around the world.

“I am fortunate to engage with diverse talents and thought leaders around the world. It’s a rewarding experience to be part of such a dynamic and impactful global team,” Krishnan says.

Within Johnson & Johnson, Krishnan has found success as General Manager and CFO in multiple verticals such as Consumer, Pharmaceuticals, Diabetes Care, MedTech, and Vision. In 2016, he was named CFO of the Year by CFO Innovation Asia. 

Reflecting on his rise through the ranks, Krishnan cites five attributes – the 5 Is – that are instrumental for any business leader striving for excellence and impact:

  1. A good leader is able to motivate and inspire their team, fostering a positive work culture that encourages growth and innovation.
  2. Success as a leader requires the skill to influence both internal and external stakeholders, building strong relationships and aligning everyone towards common goals. 
  3. Embracing a culture of continuous innovation, whether through incremental changes (kaizen) or transformative ideas, is crucial for forward-thinking leaders.
  4. The ability to execute or implement strategies and turn them into tangible results ensures that the organisation stays on track to achieve its objectives.
  5. Leading with integrity and ethical values builds trust among the team and stakeholders, building an environment of transparency and credibility.

Don’t even think twice

Having lived in multiple countries, Krishnan is an ardent advocate for Singapore as a destination for business and professional opportunities. 

“Singapore’s streamlined government services and transparent regulatory environment make it remarkably easy for entrepreneurs and companies to set up and operate businesses,” he says. 

He adds that the country’s strong currency is advantageous for businesses conducting international trade, and the robust banking system offers a stable and secure financial backbone for both local and international transactions.

Krishnan says Singapore’s blend of modernity and cultural richness is hard to find elsewhere.

To people thinking of moving to the city-state for work, he says, “Don’t even think twice. It is the best country in the world to live and work in. Singapore offers a unique blend of modernity, cultural richness, and a welcoming environment that is hard to find elsewhere. And joining communities like Singapore Global Network helps build connections. 

“Whether you’re seeking new career challenges, a vibrant lifestyle, or a safe and nurturing environment for your family, Singapore truly has it all. So, if the opportunity arises to work in this amazing country, seize it without hesitation – you won’t regret it!”

About Krishnan

As worldwide CFO at Johnson & Johnson Vision, Krishnan is a key leader driving growth, value and innovation in eye health. He is a seasoned expatriate who has been based in India, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and the United States, and was named CFO of the Year by CFO Innovation Asia in 2016. 

Connect with him here.

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