When I decided to start my Executive MBA programme at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, my colleagues asked me about my motivation. A funny question to me, as it seemed so obvious: Of course, I want to learn and develop myself! Still, I received objectives and criticism, whether I am just looking for an additional feature on my resume or whether I am aware of this big financial investment. But throughout my career, I always felt that something is missing while working in human resource roles in different organizations.
Within the 23 years of my career in Human Recourse, I have been very fortunate to receive many learning opportunities: I worked in multinational companies with growing responsibilities by organization size and by geography, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing organizations, an insurance company in an Asia regional HR role, and now in the construction industry in a global role.
Various challenges have been part of the journey, from the closing of a factory to post-M&A integration or a business turnaround. In every situation, there have been opportunities for me to cooperate between people and organization perspectives. However, there has already been the feeling of not being completely comfortable in a business discussion. My brain and heart emphasize how people perceive change and how fast we can adapt to it. Even though there is nothing wrong with this focus, one important element was missing: understanding business as context. What if I would view a situation from a business perspective? What is our targeted market share this year or in five years? What changes are required to achieve those goals? Is the current leadership team competent in driving the required changes? I wanted to speak the business language. Each team member in the management team has their functional expertise, but after all, we all should be thinking ‘business’.
My colleagues believed there is no reason to put myself into a stressful situation of juggling work and study, considering I might only be working for another 10 years in the business world. However, all I can see is the opportunity to be able to adapt a “business mindset” in my role. And I believe that today is the best time to start off with something new.
My first time living and working abroad was not easy in many ways. I did not like the feeling of being a stranger in the way I approached problems and not being able to present and communicate my thoughts and ideas well enough in English. I pressured myself to meet my expectations. Even though I did not disappoint anybody at work, after 4 years of living and working in Singapore, I had no energy left. Although people told me that I completed all my missions successfully, I still felt that I merely survived on my life side. For my second time living and working abroad, I was mentally prepared. I lowered my own expectations, and I accepted that I was a beginner in a new life and new organization. I focused on learning rather than delivering to my own standard. I finally felt like I had a life, then working in Hong Kong.
Now being based in Norway, I do not try to speak and act like the locals. I realized that I would still be “the Asian” for everything I say and do. With that, I bring diversity to the team and to the organization. Moreover, I see things differently and since presenting my thoughts and ideas structured like the Korean language when speaking English, I feel valued for who I am. My English skills do not matter, but my impact on the work does.
All in all, I want to become more globally relevant. I want to meet people inside and outside work. I want to emerge myself more into the society of this part of the world. By acknowledging my own identity, I have the courage to do so.
In his book ‘The Function of Reason’, Alfred North Whitehead said that “the function of reason is to live, to live well, to live better.” Often, I struggle between work and study. But I learned a lot from many inspiring professors and classmates in the Executive MBA. Those learnings are rewarding, and this gives me the energy to keep going.