In college, you will be asked if you want to be a man or a woman in your next life. While you won’t be one to believe in reincarnation, you’re going to choose to be a woman thinking that life will be easier since men are thought to be the breadwinner, head of the household and so on. This cannot be more untrue as you will find out later in life. But don’t let that change your mind.
In 1999, the digital industry will be all the rage and you will jump straight into a role at Yahoo!. This is when you notice that only men are at the top and wonder if you’re in the right place. Trust me, you are and you will get there one day.
A few years into working life you might struggle to keep up with the fast paced tech industry. Everything is changing so quickly and you didn’t even study digital to begin with — there wasn’t even that option! But soldier on and put in twice the effort. You will learn on the job and someone will appreciate it soon. Never forget however that relationships are your most important assets. You may learn plenty, but people remember if you treated them right.
In your very first agency role, what you work for will pay off. You will be hired simply because according to your boss, “you are a woman” and “an Asian” who brings credibility to the position which oversees the Asia Pacific region. This is where you realise that being a woman is in no way a barrier to opportunities but rather people perceive you for what you do or have done and you are not defined by your gender. And while the industry may seem vastly strong in “yang” (male) energy at the beginning of your career, this will balance out. You will find yourself among growing numbers of women leaders being asked for your opinion in forums among other thought leadership opportunities.
You will move on through other roles in the industry that will help shape you to get to where we are right now at Amnet. Again remember that people are important. Hire not just for skill but for attitude, and recruit talents from diverse backgrounds and cultures. That will form a great team who will respect and benefit from each other’s experiences.
Keep these three things close to your heart: Be passionate, work hard and have a clear goal. Passion will keep you going like what Audrey Hepburn says “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” If you work hard and have a clear goal, you will regret nothing. Do not be disheartened if you do not see success at first. Our motto in life will be “天时地利人和” — you need the right timing, right place and social connections for something to happen.
You might be wondering where your personal life fits in all of this. You will have no lack of loved ones surrounding you together with four lovely dogs — made possible because you will set priorities. You will make time for family, friends and most of all yourself, and exercise.
Finally, back to where I started — if you are ever asked again if you want to be a man or a woman, keep to being a woman. You can only get stronger as you go through all the difficult times and I’m banking on the fact that we will gather a lot more stories to share with loved ones when we reach retirement.
Anna Chan is regional managing director of Amnet Asia. This piece was first published on 3 March on a Dentsu Aegis Network platform.