Christine Ng

Talent Acquisition Partner, Financial Times

1. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

This is a great question since I tend to adopt a “go with the flow” approach so everything seems quite inconsequential… until I reflect on it! After I graduated with my first degree in Psychology back in 2009 (yes… job searching after the financial crisis was no fun!) I took on a few roles as an executive assistant for financial firms in Hong Kong, which is when at some point I realised (apart from missing London) that I really wanted to further my education into Business / Organisational Psychology.

After months of applications and being accepted into a few programmes, I was offered a 3 month maternity leave cover at a reputable firm. They were an awesome company and I had learnt alot from the team, so when they offered to extend my contract, which meant that I had to defer my Masters for another year, it was a no brainer and I said yes. Little did I know about the red tape and policies of a corporate business, as it transpired that there wasn’t a headcount budget from HQ so after starting as my “first day” as a perm…I had to say goodbye to the team. It was quite gutting for me at the time, but a few weeks later I had packed up my bags back to London to study Masters, applying for my Entrepreneur Visa, whilst working in my first agency role … and the rest is history!

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

My god – do we ever? I definitely suffer from the Peter Pan syndrome! I would say buying my first flat, navigating the complexities of all the admin that comes with it! But honestly, I would say the past year was a testing one – since I spent the last decade trying to prove something to myself professionally and personally, this year has been a challenging one which has led me to pause and reflect on a lot of things. I think knowing when I was being an adult was when I made smarter decisions such as choosing self-care over pleasing others, and saving/investing rather than impulsive spending.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

A belief I have acquired recently is at the back of reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (she also has an awesome podcast) is having the courage to be vulnerable. I went through a period of time of just meeting and speaking to so many people all day every day, many of which when you reflect on the conversations are all extremely superficial. Vulnerability for me unlocks your relationships on a deeper level and honestly, sugar coating stuff takes much more effort anyway.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Give and Take, by Adam Grant

A very good friend loaned me this book and I was hooked by the first chapter. By nature I am a “giver”, and over the course of the last few years I have struggled with balancing how much to give vs my own time. Awesome book with concrete examples of Silicon Valley’s best networker, all the way to its application in sport and inner-city schools. Highly recommended especially if you are in a people role – understanding how this works is fundamental to our success.

Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

On average, we all make about 35,000 decisions every day and hope that we are guided to be able to make solid decisions (where Kahneman thinks we are all irrational human beings). The general idea of the book is that we have 2 systems in our brain – one is unconscious and automatic, the other is deliberate and conscious. This is extremely important especially in this day in age where we are constantly being challenged about our biases, and especially if you are in our world of hiring.

The Art of Happiness, by Dalai Lama.

I picked up this book accidentally when going through a tough phase a couple of years back and it was a great start to my journey to looking inwards. A psychologist interviewed the Dalai Lama about the purpose and meaning of life and it made me realise a) things are never static and b) there will always be someone who is in a better position than you are. The moment I realised this, it relieved me from all this unnecessary pressure and focus on compassion, and generally trying not to let things get to me!

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

We did this exercise with the L&D team at the FT a couple of months ago and we had such a blast learning about how to communicate with each other and how we operate as a team. I am very much a yellow (which means I’m an extroverted-feeler). So here are some strategies to communicate with me:

– Be prepared to discuss a wide range of topics.

– Appeal to her need to be of service.

– Allow time for fun and socialising.

– Leave time to ensure she is comfortable on personal issues.

– Talk about her and areas she finds stimulating.

– Provide information that stimulates conversation.

– Maintain a consistent, personal relationship with her

– Listen for the essence of what is being said

6. If I were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

I definitely have a bias for action which can backfire on me at times, so recently I’ve tried to take a step back and reflect on what needs to be done and how it aligns to the goals before taking action. I live by Eckhart Tolle quote “Any action is better than no action”

7. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

Cancel culture. I am all for drawing attention to issues which clearly need addressing, but there have been some recent events where there has been no consideration of those at the receiving end, where the consequences can be dire. It stifles free speech, open debate, the whole idea of democracy and most importantly, I am all for adopting influencing approaches if anything requires behaviour or policy change rather than the very childlike and unempathetic “cancelled”.

8. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

My background in Hong Kong, and all the complex China/UK/Hong Kong politics that come with it. In light of BLM I’ve been obsessed with history as of recent and it’s mind boggling how Hong Kong has come about, and what we’ve been through in the past few decades.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

I am loving the Earth Hero app – I’m definitely not a full on eco warrior as such but I am really trying to take baby steps and it’s great to keep me accountable. It’s a great app which starts by calculating your current emissions profile, and gives you a list of actions from simple ones such as reducing food waste or watching top climate documentaries, all the way to giving a public climate talk – the whole premise of the app is based on behaviour change by rewarding positive behaviour.

10. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

I have terrible posture and I’ve only recently just got my WFH kit sorted so for the longest time I had a sore neck after a day of work – am obsessed with this heated neck massager I bought from Amazon.

11. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Walt Disney

I was fully immersed with Disney+ during lockdown and especially enjoyed the show about the Imagineers and how they got about to character building. Walt himself believed in Disneyland and got investors to invest in something that was pretty much non-existent at the time, and purely the legacy they’ve left behind.

Dave Grohl

I love rock music (secretly also a Metal head in a former life), how Dave had managed to transition from a drummer in Nirvana to lead singer / guitarist of Foo Fighters. He was also portrayed as a perfectionist and very cut throat in the whole songwriting journey (he had cut out a bassist’s recording cause he thought it wasn’t up to scratch) but it would be fascinating to see how his mind works!

Michelle Obama

My god this lady is a pure content creator, from her book, podcasts and her social pages – she is a force to be reckoned with. I am in awe of how she managed her career, whilst being first lady, and also her family life throughout her time in the office. She has just such a solid head on her shoulders and it would be awesome to pick her brain on how she is so… level headed!

12. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

Now that you know I’m a yellow in the insights personality test – to be specific I am the “Inspiring Helper”. I’ll like to roll my sleeves up and likely be out there picking up the pieces, burning fire and trying to find food – whilst staying optimistic and trying to rally those around me to stay optimistic. Ideally with some rock music. Haha.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Gravitas is a quality that we can develop – speaking less and being more succinct.

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Conscientiousness. I will keep my head down and get things done when the going gets tough.

15. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

The learner and absorber. I always think it’s easy to go in and change things up and mention how things should and could be done, but it’s important to take a step back, listen, and make a change by influencing.

16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Definitely there are bad months especially in agency days when I’m not making any hires at all for whatever reason – you have to be resilient and keep hoping for the best.. (or get out of the environment!)

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

Without a doubt – the first thing that comes to a halt when it comes to budget freezes and cuts is of course, headcount. As the name infers, our jobs in Talent Acquisition naturally become extremely volatile and that’s what scares me the most. What I’ve learnt is that we have to make ourselves resourceful in other areas, and I was very grateful to have the opportunity to venture into the L&D space such as designing and implementing training programs and also exploring an entire different business area – I hope other companies are able to take a holistic view and recognise how to deploy a Talent specialist’s skillsets across the business.

18. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

Meditation has helped a lot…

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

If you had a magic wand that could change anything in the world, what would it be?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Kat Bowles 🙂

Thank you to Christine Ng for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune.

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