Embracing International Assignments

 In my first Women in STEM blog, I wrote about Laying the Groundwork for an International Assignment.  Blog "Part Two," is about embracing the opportunity to try out an entirely different part of the world – Asia. By 2015, I had worked in supply chain for more than 20 years. Upon reflecting on my career journey, I realized that I really needed to challenge myself again and I was also interested in taking another international assignment. Again, I made this known to my manager. 

In early 2016, the position of President – Asia Pacific was presented to me and without hesitation I accepted the opportunity. I’d worked with amazing teams, performed multiple leadership roles and had a European international assignment under my belt. The combination of these factors prepared me for this new opportunity. The fact that I had previously traveled to Hong Kong (and loved it) made this opportunity even more appealing. Three weeks later, I began a new and exciting international adventure. 

My Asia role was completely different from my prior supply chain roles. As President of Asia Pacific, I was more involved in government relations, trade compliance, legal, human resources, security and finance for the Asia Pacific region and worked closely with other Emerson businesses in the region. The area of government relations was new to me and extremely interesting. In my role, it involved planning and attending key activities that were focused on building relationships with various organizations in the region. It is a critical responsibility to ensure we are doing business appropriately and enable successful business opportunities in other regions of Asia Pacific. Additional highlights of my tenure were helping support our businesses in key acquisitions and participating in leadership meetings with Emerson Senior Executives and government officials of various countries. 

One of the key initiatives (and my favorite) related to building Emerson’s culture in Asia was to help develop and grow Emerson’s Women in STEM employee resource groups throughout Asia. It also turned out to be one of the best ways for me to meet and work with many people across the region. I was fortunate to know a few extremely passionate women in the region focused on Women in STEM and STEM education - shout out to Lieny Jang, Lucy Lu, Rinita Laskar and Carey Ann Ramento! Women in STEM groups in the states were very strong, organized and structured so I began with sharing the US leadership model and best practices with the members I had recruited. It took off and Women in STEM spread very quickly across the region. These women were a true joy to work with and they continue to inspire others with their passion. I will always treasure my discussions with them and know they will continue to grow Women in STEM across the region. 

In addition to navigating new territory ‘at the office’, I was also navigating new cultural norms in my day-to-day life in Asia. Here’s a few tips:

Give yourself extra time to arrive. The public transportation system in Hong Kong is amazing and includes buses, the MTR subway and ferries. However, it requires some pre-planning to navigate at times.  My husband and I both play golf and looked forward to doing so on the weekends. However, getting to and from the golf course was quite the adventure! It involved a 10-minute shuttle ride from our apartment building to the ferry station, a 25-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong Island to Discovery Bay, followed by a short walk to the bus station and then finally, a 7-minute bus ride to the golf course. 

Since public transportation is so accessible, many people choose not to have a car.  I did have a car and enjoyed exploring the island on my own. However, it took a bit of getting used to as you drive on the opposite side of the road in Hong Kong. I remember getting up early many Sunday mornings to go for drives so that I could practice and get more comfortable behind the wheel. The extra time was necessary to get over the learning curve. 

Consider emergency care options in advance. When I was in Hong Kong, I needed unplanned shoulder surgery.  Much to my surprise, the emergency medical system was a one-stop shop! In one day, I saw the general physician to get an MRI and by the time I returned to the physician’s office he had read the scans and provided a diagnosis. The physician then sent me to the orthopedic surgeon on a different floor of the same building. In a time frame of about 3 ½ hours, I was fully-diagnosed and briefed; it was amazing!

Bring home with you!  This move, my husband and two dogs moved with me, which made it feel like home. Moving our dogs (Milo and Marley) was a small adventure in itself, but well worth it. They quickly became used to living in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is very dog friendly and they partner with the United States on international assignments to create an easy system of relocation for pets. In fact, it is one of the only countries where you can relocate that does not require you to put your animals in quarantine.

Utilize technology to stay connected to those who can’t make the journey.  FaceTime was a wonderful solution to keep in touch with my parents and our boys on a regular basis.  I feel like I was able to “peek" into special moments. While I was in Hong Kong, my son got engaged to an amazing young lady.  I was sad that I was not home for her special day when she and few others went dress shopping. As it turns out, I woke up around 3 AM (Hong Kong time) and decided to FaceTime her to see how the dress shopping was going.  When she picked up the phone, she said that she just found “the one!” She still had the dress on and I was able to enjoy that special moment with her from across the world! 

I’m blessed to have experienced two international assignments. I still remember when someone told me many years ago… “if you are ever offered an international assignment, don’t hesitate!”  This is my advice as well. With each assignment, I grew personally as well as professionally. The assignments also proved foundational for me to move into roles, including my current role. As President of Hermetic Motors, the people I’ve met and had the pleasure of working with will always be special to me.  We grow from our experiences. In summary, I recommend that you have career discussions with your management team early and often and let them know what you would like to do and where you’d like to do it. Don’t wait for someone to ask you before taking ownership of your career path.