As we approach the end of 2017, I wanted to share with you an article summarising a panel discussion on career ownership at the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries Asia Conference in Hong Kong in May this year. It was chaired by Yanum Venkatrathnam (RGA), and the panelists were Mark Saunders (AIA Group), John Chen (Swiss Re Asia) and Ka-Mon Wong (Axa Asia).
Reading the words of the panelists brought back good memories, reminding me particularly of Asian culture – I especially enjoyed leading project teams, launching products, and working with local distribution and marketing experts in the East. The panel discussion brought to mind the sense of respect and sacrifice/dedication in many Asian workplaces.
In the discussion, respect was shown to the people who affected the panelists' careers, with references to both previous managers and Chen's PhD supervisor. And, personal sacrifice "in terms of time, energy, resilience and emotional effort" was highlighted as necessary "to become a true leader". I also found the eagerness to "create an impact" and "make a contribution to society by giving back" telling.
Other suggestions included:
The contrast between Asian culture and Western culture was also referenced: "Asian culture concentrates on performing well, earning good performance reviews and being given promotions based on being recognised as a valuable contributor by one’s managers" i.e. recognition and promotion stems from good performance which seniors will notice. However, Western culture expects more active behaviour, including "speaking out and advertising that you can handle the next role and that you wish to be considered for it". This can be seen as too pushy/demanding/aggressive/entitled in Asian contexts. Wong (who has worked in both cultural environments) explained that, "when prepared, she raises her hand, and shows her interest in a role". Saunders suggested "volunteering for projects" (rather than pushing for roles) to demonstrate how keen you are to get involved and work with other departments. He warned that relying solely on your seniors to notice your output can be challenging as "managers often cannot keep detailed track of everyone, especially in big teams".
The full article can be found here: http://www.theactuary.com/features/2017/09/take-charge-of-your-own-destiny/
We'd love to hear from our readers in Asia (across all professional backgrounds) whether these career lessons have applicability and relevance to you, especially given local approaches to work (by employees and employers), the economic environment (including high growth in China) and the shifting cultural norms over time. Please do share your experiences with us.