Happy International Women’s Day in advance!
We have been highlighting our female leaders across the Asia Pacific, sharing their perspectives on generation equality and managing work-life balance in the past few days this week. Today we invite our female practitioners from our Patent: Engineering & ICT team, Indonesia office’s Director, Marolita Anwar and Michelle Lee, Senior Associate based in Sydney, Australia to share their thoughts.
How has your experience been starting in this profession?
Michelle: My experience starting in this profession has been largely positive. I transitioned into the patent attorney profession from an engineering design and consultancy role, so outside of the usual challenges of adapting to a new industry, it has been a wonderful learning experience and an enjoyable journey that has been made better by having supportive mentors and colleagues. I am very fortunate to be part of a driven and dynamic team of younger and older professionals alike since day one, and I believe that we challenge and support each other every day to be more engaging and knowledgeable attorneys, to better service our clients, and to always look for ways to contribute to the growth of the team. Our mentors encourage us to have fun and at the same time, to never be afraid to have an open and honest discussion about any problems or difficulties that we might encounter.
What was the industry like when you first started out?
Marolita: Back in 2000, appreciation of Intellectual Property Rights in Indonesia was still modest and for many people, seeking protection for their intellectual property Rights was not important.
There was a lot of counterfeiting of goods, retail piracy, and book piracy. Initially, local firms were receiving many trademark applications and requests for counterfeit of goods investigations as companies were not convinced of the importance of protecting their inventions. Patent applications were mostly from overseas applications. Companies in Indonesia did not recognise that Intellectual Property was an attractive business opportunity with a market opportunity that could lead to a high return. Professionals in the IP field at the time preferred to provide legal services and litigating than encouraging IP protection. Then a few years later, the link between the protection of IPR and economic growth, innovation and technology diffusion was more apparent to businesses and there was an increase in filing applications in Indonesia and a newfound importance in protection not just litigation.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing professionals / young professionals in the industry today?
Marolita: First are on how to ensure that the valuable Intellectual Property Rights are usable and how to ensure that their value is preserved in the face of relentless infringement on an enormous scale. Second are policy challenges which are a consequence of both globalization and the accelerating of technological change.
Michelle: Being proactive in seeking opportunities to contribute to the workforce (and society as a whole) and to focus less on personal needs, not taking anything for granted, and having the drive to be able to successfully convert the increasingly competitive demands of the corporate world into a positive and motivating force at work. Recognising that perception matters, and success is not forged overnight. In many ways, young professionals have advantages of technology, quality of education, and better standards of living that past generations may not have been so fortunate to have. It is an ever evolving challenge to harness these advantages and to make the best of what we do have, rather than complaining about what we do not have.
What advice would you give young professionals starting out in the industry today?
Marolita: The young professionals should understand well that intellectual property creates jobs, save lives, advance global economic and cultural prosperity and generate breakthrough solutions to global challenges.
Young professionals should master the advancements in technology in order to participate to alter and change the world they live in. Talented and bright minds are constantly emerging new ideas in industries all across the board, but it is the ability to protect these intangible creations that gives them their value.
What expectations do you have for the future regarding equality within the industry?
Marolita: The future for Intellectual property might heavily focus on digital reproduction and online developments. I feel that the role of gender would become more equal since men and women are equally creative and innovative and both could equally shape the future of technologies.
Michelle: I expect the push for equality – gender, racial, age, or otherwise, to continue to become a stronger voice of reason within the industry until there is no longer an issue with inequality in the workplace. However, this will not be an easy thing to achieve. Those who are perceived as “unequal” will always have to work harder, to varying extents, to prove that they are up for the same challenge and will perform at the same level, than those who are perceived as equals.
What do you think is key to achieving a successful work-life balance?
- Be happy with life;
- Be positive;
- Be open to new opportunities;
- Disconnect during stressful times or find something fun to do;
- Time management for effective working hours, break time and leisure time;
- Move outside my comfort zone; and
- Build a network.
Michelle: Setting clear life career goals for yourself, and recognising that the path you take to achieve one life goal could in turn help you to achieve another career goal, and vice versa. Having the confidence to ask for the tools you need to achieve these goals, and substantiating those requests with reasons that will be fair and beneficial to both the employer and the employee. Having mentors who understand and support your needs without judgement, and are mindful of the reality that life is not static – there will always be a new challenge, opportunity or a change in circumstance around the corner, and it would not be reasonable to expect working hours and responsibilities to remain the same throughout a person’s entire career. It also helps if you are fortunate enough to have family and friends who will support and encourage you go for the things that you want.