She has worked in China for 10 years, moved across cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, and is effectively bilingual. Mae Ng, 37, is Ascott’s Assistant Vice President for Pre-opening and Franchise.
Mae graduated with a double degree in Business and Hotel Administration from Nanyang Technological University in 2001. In 2003, she enrolled in the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Asian Business Fellowship (ABF) training programme and was offered an overseas work opportunity with Ascott China. What was to be a two-year stint turned into 10, and changed her life beyond her imagination.
Overcoming challenges with help from local friends
When she first relocated to China, Mae was unsure if her command of Chinese was sufficient to get things done in a business setting. To her relief, most email exchanges were in English. She soon learned she needed her Chinese colleagues as much as they needed her. She helped them draft English emails, while they helped her vet Chinese legal documents. These colleagues soon became her friends and were valuable in helping her settle down in China. Her ability to converse in English and Mandarin clearly gave her an edge over others.
Mae added that, “Being overseas can be fun, but also very challenging. Being clear of your objectives will help you approach the experience with a positive mindset, and make the most of living and working in a foreign land.”
Developing useful skills for the future
Mae confesses that the sheer magnitude of China’s size was beyond her expectations, and she felt overwhelmed at the beginning. Over the course of time, she expanded her social network, and friendships she built with the locals helped her see things from their viewpoint. She added that each new city she visited gave her new perspectives, and all these experiences helped her better understand the inner workings of the country.
Mae’s China experiences taught her to manage difficult scenarios with ease and confidence. As the lead, she’s expected to manage different stakeholders to ensure projects are on track. Her experience managing different stakeholders served her well when she was tasked to drive Ascott’s entry into the US in 2017. “Being in China gave me a strategic view and taught me to always be sensitive to the needs of the local community,” she says.
Knowing what lies ahead
She highlighted that working overseas can be an enjoyable experience, but is not without its challenges. It is therefore important for individuals interested in regional or global careers to do thorough research before making a decision.
Looking back, Mae sums up her overseas job experience as one that strengthened her ability to adapt and cope with change, as well as honed her people skills and widened her professional network.
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