As a young girl, Ong Ai Hua wasn’t a great student, but with her mother’s unwavering faith in her she forged ahead. Now, she oversees all of South East Asia for a multi-national corporation. Her desire to make a difference fuels her work and the community she serves.
Here are her strategies for creating a vision with many parts:
Redesign what’s best
My job is the first of its kind in our company’s history. Usually, the consumer, pharmaceutical and medical divisions are run separately. In this new model, they are under one management team. Now we’re able to truly look at the needs of the patients, medical professionals and consumers.
Build alliances with key people
Being “smart” means you don’t do everything yourself. Having allies is good business. You draw strength from others internally and externally—it helps you work faster and more efficiently. Share success with the people you’re aligned with. Doing so builds trusting and lasting relationships.
Diversity breeds innovation
Differences in gender, culture, race, and experience build a diverse team that you can count on. You’re more likely to solve a problem if people have different points of view and strengths. If everyone comes from the same place, your insights may be limited.
Let them know you and what you stand for
By revealing your authentic self, you let people see the real you. You build trust and can support them to overcome challenges that may seem insurmountable. In my role, there are many internal challenges, but I focus on our purpose—which is serving patients and consumers. Knowing that makes it all worth it.
Get together—face to face
I oversee ten countries, so scheduling face time is very precious. I prefer to be the person going out and meeting with people, rather than flying them to the office. Deliberately scheduling these meetings also makes the other person feel important, and you can accomplish more together.
Go the extra mile—tackle projects you’re passionate about
Early in my career, I was very absorbed by my work, and I didn’t have any time to volunteer in the community. I lost perspective. If you only focus on your work and results, your leadership, parenting, and friendships will suffer. Once I realized this, I knew I needed to make a change, and I decided to commit time to helping others. The more I serve the community, the smaller the problems at work become.
How do we get more women and girls interested in STEM?
We need people to think about the sciences differently. For example, cooking is just organic chemistry. I love to cook, and I see my kitchen as my laboratory.
Tell us about your community work.
Project Operation Smile is a charity that performs safe, effective cleft lip and palate surgery for children. One of the doctors I met in Vietnam teaches the kids how to speak after surgery. He actually came back to volunteer because he was a child who benefitted from this charity.
Where is your favorite travel destination?
Hokkaido, Japan. It has beautiful mountains and great nature walks. And I love Japanese dining.
How do you spend your downtime?
I take long walks with my chocolate Labrador, Kiwi. She’s very calming and always listens to my work worries!