As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia. In this story, we speak to Jingle Pang, Deputy General Manager and Chief Information Officer of Ping An Technology as she shares the greatest career risk she’s taken, what the ‘Adversity Quotient’ is and how it has helped her become a better, more confident leader.
Q: Which woman inspires you the most?
Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, is the lady I really admire. Although she is not nearly as well versed in technology compared to Mark Zuckerberg, she can still manage a big technology firm. She uses her charm to learn, understand and engage with people.
Q: As a female leader, how do you set the tone of the team?
I start out with two key messages. First, I am together with you, and I am not your boss. I am your team member. It doesn’t matter if it is a failure or a success. We will share the credit and the dishonour. That way, we can build mutual trust and we can work together to overcome every problem and challenge that we face. Second, I let the team know that we are here to make a difference, and we need to have a collective vision to fight.
Q: How do you unplug yourself from work?
It actually took me years to realise that everyone has his or her own ways to unplug. For me, when I [stop looking at] my emails, I request my secretary to allow me 30 minutes of free time, so no back-to-back meetings. This allows me to think about the root cause of each problem. This doesn’t apply to every incident, but it allows me to assess the situation that I am in, how I can move out of it and bring the team to the next stage. The second way [I unplug] is more personal. I observe that a lot of people bring their work back home to the family. So I think it is very critical [to not do that], so that you can sustain your focus at work and still enjoy family life.
Q: Was it always your desire to become a leader? Or did you stumble into this role along the way?
When I was younger, and I had just graduated from university, I didn’t have many choices. I grew from having no experience to overcoming many situations. Now I have more experience and knowledge compared to others. I think about how I can achieve greater career satisfaction and bigger objectives. It’s natural to stumble into situations, we learn and accumulate experiences, and we practise. When there is a problem, we overcome it and gradually learn to become a leader.
Q: As you learn to become a leader, how do you also gain more confidence?
Everybody learns from their lessons and failures. That is how we can achieve success. I’m not sure if you have heard of the writer from Japan called Junichi Watanabe. He wrote a book called The Power of Insensitivity, about the sensitivity of [people], about how we care about the comments of others, about our failures, about how we are fragile. We call this ‘office glass heart’, so if you have an ‘office glass heart’, that is a problem. You will be easily beaten and lose your confidence. That’s why, according to Watanabe, we need to build up this power of insensitivity, put aside the comments from others and do the right thing. Gradually, the confidence will grow. At Ping An, we call this ‘AQ’, or ‘Adversity Quotient’. It is your ability to stand up in a challenging environment.
Q: Why is being a mentor important to you?
Being a mentor is not just about benefiting others. You benefit from being a mentor as well. I enjoy developing young people and witnessing their growth as they take on more important roles. This is a real enjoyment to me. As a mentor, when I listen to others, it is also a chance to reflect upon myself. Human beings share very similar weaknesses and struggles, and everyone has their vulnerabilities. So our ability to share these vulnerabilities and learnings is very important.
Q: What advice do you have for people who are becoming mentors themselves?
A lot of people on my team feel that they are not going to be good mentors, or they do not deserve to be a mentor in the first place because they are not good enough. To me, a mentor doesn’t need to be someone who is very strong. Actually it is almost unnecessary to put up a strong front or pretend to be strong. You just need a listening heart and lend your ears in your daily work and in your life. People can see you for who you are. This shortens the distance between you and the mentee, so that you can build up mutual trust.
Q: What’s the greatest career risk you have taken?
When I moved from business operations to a technology firm, I had a 10,000-hour principle to fulfill. Generally, if you want to be an expert in a certain field, you have to deliberately practise in that specific area for 10,000 hours. I had been in the banking industry for almost 20 years at the time. One day, I realised that my work would soon be outdated. At that moment, I decided to take the risk of changing my career path. I tried to learn all the terminologies in the realm of technology. I still don’t know how to code or how to be a programmer, but I realised that the notion of management is very similar. So I made the decision to pick up technology, starting with my role as the CIO at Standard Chartered Bank. I tried to learn, to understand and leverage my skills in an area I was familiar with. This in my opinion was the greatest career risk I took. However, I want to keep challenging myself and jump out of my comfort zone. Technology is the way of the future, and I have to make sure that I understand where everything is going.
Q: What’s your favourite indulgence back home?
Before the quarantine, I used to go to the gym regularly. Since the pandemic, all the gyms were closed, so I tried using online apps to see how I could move my exercise from the gym back to my home. The most surprising element was to have my daughter exercise along with me.
Q: Once the travel bans are lifted, where’s your first destination?
Before COVID-19, I was in Western Australia. That was a very nice place. I do miss the air in Australia and New Zealand.