Today, we continue to celebrate International Women’s day by sharing thoughts on Generation Equality from our Hong Kong office Managing Director, Coral Toh and Principal, Amy Chan from our Singapore office.
How has your experience been starting in this profession?
Amy: It has indeed been a fulfilling journey – new experiences are created every day. It’s up to each of us to find fulfilment, and if you haven’t figured anything out, do not fear because everyone is still learning.
What was the industry like when you first started out?
Coral: I remember attending a nascent “Women in IP” type of program in the US in my early days as the managing director of our firm (pre-acquisition by Spruson & Ferguson). It was 9 am, and there were many women sharing about a glass ceiling, pay disparity, and the lack of support from both their superiors at work and their life partners at home. They had prepared convincing PowerPoint presentations with statistics and were candid and passionate in their sharing. Then they turned to me and asked what it was like to be a woman running a firm in Asia. I was put on the spot and embarrassed, because I had wanted to show solidarity with these women, but at the same time, the truth was that I had never really felt discriminated against at work because of my gender, and did not struggle with obligations at home because we are fortunate enough to have the help of grandparents and nannies in Asia.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing professionals / young professionals in the industry today?
Coral: Time management. As IP professionals, we are essentially selling our time, and constantly learning how to leverage new technology to achieve a healthy and sustainable work-life balance is imperative to being successful.
Amy: To do what I love or to do what pays? Figuring out what you really want to do is today’s biggest career challenge. There’s so much information to process, there’s more choices than ever. People have difficulty looking inside themselves to find an answer to what they really want to do.
What advice would you give young professionals starting out in the industry today?
Coral: As IP becomes the currency of the world, IP practitioners can only get more integral to doing business. I would advise young professionals to take a more holistic perspective of the practice of IP, and not just focus on patents and trade marks. Unfair competition and data privacy are some of the interesting and increasingly relevant areas.
What expectations do you have for the future regarding equality within the industry?
Coral: Spruson & Ferguson was a market leader in being the first to list on a stock exchange (through IPH Limited), and being one of the first to have a genuine pan-Asian Pacific footprint. I have no doubt that we will take the lead on the issue of gender equality in our firm, and in the wider industry.
Amy: I’m hoping that more recognition will be given to young professionals. Not only are you giving the person the recognition they need for job satisfaction, but you are also helping them to garner exposure in the marketplace/industry.
What do you think is key to achieving a successful work-life balance?
Coral: I stand by the same view last year. A possible interesting outcome of the work-from-home arrangement adopted by many companies during the outbreak of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) might be that employers become more accepting of flexible working arrangements if such arrangements prove not to hurt the business.
Amy: Plan, plan, plan, think 5 steps ahead and delegate. Some things just aren’t worth doing yourself, and delegating is key in achieving a successful work-life balance. When I feel like I’m not doing enough, I remind myself that we all have our fair share of challenges and no one is perfect.