Staff Reporters
Oct 27, 2010

Q&A: PHD's Cheuk Chiang is in the hot seat

Cheuk Chiang, Asia-Pacific CEO at PHD, on how he got into advertising and the last time he was forced to do something he didn't want to.

Cheuk Chiang, PHD Asia-Pacific CEO
Cheuk Chiang, PHD Asia-Pacific CEO

How did you get into the industry?
During my last semester at University, I was offered a work experience gig at Grey Advertising in Melbourne. 

I was so hungry to get a full time job that I went in with the philosophy of “differentiate or die”.

I didn’t want to be just another work experience kid. I planned to stand out and boy did I.

During my week at Grey, I gave myself the title of CFO – Chief Faxing Officer (we didn’t have emails back then and faxing and calling clients were the only way to communicate).

I went from person to person and office to office and offered to collect and send off faxes. I also did other jobs that no-one wanted to do like empty out dust bins, make coffees, clean out meeting rooms and re-organise their library.

By the end of the first day people were saying “Who is that guy?”

By the end of the week I was ask to meet with their CEO and they offered me a job (Not as their CFO thank God!)

What was your first ever job?
I started working as a waiter in my family’s Chinese restaurant. I was aged seven and it was the best introduction anyone could have to the service industry.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I’m a workaholic. I wish someone with start up an AA equivalent for ad people. The groups would be packed.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I tell my daughter that her daddy is the smartest and best looking guy in the world. I think she’s beginning to work me out.

Name one thing about yourself that few people know.
I’m a black belt in the kitchen.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Sure, leave it with me”, “Cheers” and “OK lah”.

What’s your most evocative childhood memory?
Being hooked on (Black and white) TV with my sister in the backroom of the restaurant and singing the tunes of great Australian TVCs like Aeroplane Jelly and Mortein “Louie the Fly”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My two beautiful children – James and Jade.

What makes you happy?
Spending quality time with my family.

What is the most interesting place you have ever been?
Mumbai, India. Exciting, colourful, full of contrasts and spiritually moving.

What is the last book you read?
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Very thought provoking.

When did you last cry and why?
Whilst watching the movie Mao’s Last Dancer, I cried (uncontrollably) during the scene where he sees his parents again after many years of separation.

It struck a chord with me.

What is your greatest regret?
Shaving my nose hairs. They always come back in full force!

If you can spend one day with a celebrity/historical figure, who would it be?
Bruce Lee. He has been a real inspiration for me.

He was a great symbol of success – An Asian person making it in the West, a lover, a fighter and a perfectionist.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Nose hairs.

Describe your typical day?
No one day is very typical for me. That’s the beauty of our business.

When were you last forced to do something you didn’t want to do, what was it and would you do it again? (question supplied by UM China's Simon Woodward)

We had to turn away a client during a pitch because the terms were not win win. I would absolutely do it again. There is too much “pants dropping” going on in our business when instead there should be partnership.

Can you suggest a question for our next Q&A candidate?
Is there such a thing as work life balance?

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