2021 marked a monumental event in the history of women empowerment, where the US-appointed their first female Vice President, Kamala Harris, as she breaks the glass ceiling in politics for women. As we continue to strive towards an equal future for both men and women, International Women’s Day (IWD) serves to remind all of us that women too, in Kamala Harris’ words, can dream and do. To celebrate IWD 2021 this year, we sat down with Nicole Fong, the Head of Strategic Business Development Unit at Great Eastern Life Malaysia, as she shares with us her inspiring career journey in her climb towards success, as well as some of the lessons she has gained along the way:
1. Great Eastern provides a safe space for women to develop their careers, where equal growth opportunities are given based on capabilities, not gender
In any industry, for you to grow your career, you would need to build trust with your team and superiors. One thing that is amazing about Great Eastern is that we do not particularly look at gender when assessing performance; instead, we focus more on our people’s capability, capacity, and creativity. This performance-first culture ensures that those who work for it will be rewarded and recognised, regardless of gender. I think some people assume that being a woman brings limitations, but this is not true.
In my experience, women have a greater tendency to be more detail-oriented, and our analytical and meticulous nature works to our advantage in key supporting roles. When I first started in Great Eastern, my superior has always kept me in the loop for important meetings and projects because he acknowledges that I am able to work with the finer details while he navigates through the bigger picture. That is how I think men and women complement each other in a working environment.
2. No matter what industry you are in, developing impeccable communication skills is the key to building a successful career
Before joining Great Eastern, I used to be a trainer in the banking world for several years. I then transitioned to the insurance industry and started in Business Development, and I had the opportunity to immerse myself in many different projects that ultimately led me to my current role. In Strategic Business Development, we are essentially the ‘marketers’ of the product, in the sense that we market the insurance products that are developed to the 20,000 life planners that are part of our massive agency network. To market the product, we share with our life planners what is unique about each product, what value it brings to our policyholders, and inspire and motivate them to reach for the stars in acquiring new customers so that more and more people can live great.
In such a role, you have to be comfortable talking to an audience. These days, we reach out to our agents virtually and my highest record for the number of audiences so far is at 2,400! I really do enjoy talking to people and motivating them, and I think communication is a crucial skill to master if you want to progress in your career. It can be nerve-wrecking to take centre stage and have all eyes on you but all I can say is, when you’re under the spotlight, give the audience a good show.
3. If you want to lead a team to success, you must have a strong character
When we talk about what makes a successful female leader, I do think it is vital for that individual to have a strong character. In fact, there are several figures in the financial services industry that I find inspirational as role models, and it is not because they are nice or soft-hearted as a person. People in senior or leadership roles understand that they may not be likeable to everyone, but it is their character’s strength that helps drive the business forward.
4. To succeed in the working world is to be recognised, and graduates can start by putting their heart into a job they love
When it comes to career growth, it is all about the opportunities available and your ability to collaborate with people. With all the hiccups that businesses have experienced throughout the pandemic period, it is all the more reason that young graduates and professionals need to work hard and understand what they want to do or achieve in their careers.
I have been through it too, and as someone who is now in a senior position, one of the key characteristics that I look out for when hiring graduates is passion. For me, joining an organisation is like starting a new relationship. In the beginning, everything is exciting, but you must find ways to make that relationship work as you progress. You must continue with the same momentum, excitement, and passion. Being excited with what you do every day is contagious; people can feel it. And if I could share one piece of life advice to the younger generation, I would say, do something that you love because when you do, success will naturally follow.
Did Nicole’s story inspire you? Learn more about the opportunities available at Great Eastern Malaysia.
As part of the Great Eastern team, you will be making a difference the moment you walk through the door. There is no better place to kick-start your career than somewhere that provides equal growth opportunities for all. Learn more about the exciting career opportunities at Great Eastern here.