Name: SiSi Chen
Birthplace: Wuhan, China
Joined Meltwater: 2009, Sales Consultant, Meltwater News, Sydney, Australia
Current Role: Business Analyst, Meltwater New Ventures, San Francisco, US
Who inspires you: David Hickey, Area Director for Meltwater News, Australia and New Zealand
My three words to describe Meltwater: Daring, Inspirational, Perseverance
“Who was to know that a volcano would get in our way!” SiSi laughs as she explains. “We left Australia around the same time that the Icelandic volcanic eruptions disrupted air travel for the entire European region. We landed in Hong Kong without the ability to continue our journey on to London. We were literally stranded. It was a bit crazy, but it turned into the most amazing experience ever.”
Hosted by the Meltwater Hong Kong team the Australian contingent spent a non-stop day and night exploring Hong Kong before returning back to Sydney.
“Hong Kong is an amazing city,” SiSi says. “But for me the sights, tastes and sounds of this hub to Asia weren’t the best part of this trip … the real highlight was meeting the guys from the Hong Kong office. It was like meeting old friends – best friends, for the very first time. It’s always stayed in my mind as one of those times when an unexpected event has turned into the most fortunate mishap ever.”
Twist in the tale
And it seems that unexpected events are all a great part of SiSi’s story. With a career already being written in the finance sector SiSi had a sudden change of heart in 2008, which coincided with a longing to travel.
“It’s true. My role prior to joining Meltwater was not uninteresting; it was just uninspiring,” SiSi says. “I was working for an assets management firm, as a project manager, when I decided that I wanted to experience working and travelling abroad. When I saw the Meltwater recruitment advert it piqued my curiosity. Four weeks later I left San Francisco and landed in Sydney.”
In Sydney SiSi concentrated on settling into the Australian way-of-life and learning as much as she could about the media monitoring industry, building client relationships and further developing her strong communications skills. Within 12 months her hard work had paid off and she was promoted to Sales Manager. But before 2010 was through she had been promoted again, this time to Managing Director of the Sydney office; a role which would ultimately offer SiSi an unexpected lesson.
“I think many Meltwater Managing Directors would agree, that the shift from Sales Manager to Managing Director presents you with a pretty big jump in terms of learning,” SiSi explains. “And that leap becomes even more difficult if, for whatever reason, you wonder if you are actually ready for the role.”
“In the first couple of weeks as the Managing Director, my greatest challenge didn’t come from dealing with transitioning from peer to manager, or learning how to recruit successfully, or even from working out how to leave my own personal footprint on the Sydney office – no, the greatest challenge I faced in this time was an internal one,” SiSi says candidly. “Self-doubt that I was, at that time, prepared for the role led to a loss of confidence that no amount of support externally, from my amazing managers and co-workers, was able to shake. Because even though I knew that I had been recommended for the role, that people had placed their faith in me, I’m not sure that I had initially placed any faith in myself.”
Writing her own story
“I have to admit now, that when I look back at those first few weeks, I think much of my lack of confidence was compounded by a case of big shoes to fill syndrome,” SiSi says with a knowing smile. “Sydney had been the number one office, worldwide for around 14 months and I genuinely admired the previous leaders of the team, who were, and still are, ‘living legends’ in my mind and a constant source of inspiration. So I guess it’s no real surprise that faced with that history, a history I now had to continue writing myself, I froze and wondered if I’d simply ever be good enough.”
But good enough she was. SiSi worked hard reflecting on the role, and her management skills, before eventually coming to an important conclusion.
“This was a really valuable lesson for me,” SiSi says. “It is important to feel supported by your colleagues, which is very uplifting and encouraging, but just as important is your ability to back yourself. Hindsight is a wondrous thing,” SiSi continues, “once I had taken a step back and had seen that one of my biggest concerns was really of my own doing the barriers suddenly seemed less like obstacles and much more like surmountable challenges.”
SiSi goes on to talk about the importance of trusting in your own abilities and managing expectations.
“Before beginning my subsequent role as the Managing Director of the Meltwater Philadelphia office, I returned home for a visit with my family in California,” SiSi says. “I’d been away for less than two years, yet so many family and friends, whom I caught up with, commented on how much I had changed and ‘matured’; each and every one of them attributing this transformation to travelling and my time away. But I see it a little differently,” SiSi continues; “although I am sure the independence that traveling affords you has contributed to my growth it wasn’t, in my mind, the key factor. To me it was Meltwater.
This is a company that offers you real challenges both professionally and personally. Challenges that force you to look at yourself, from all different angles. Challenges which encourage you to question your perspective and allow you to become your very own benchmark. When you begin to understand how that enables you to develop professionally you really begin to understand how a company that has a culture of caring for you personally is a company that will help you unlock your potential. Both the potential you think you have, and the strengths you never knew you had.”
The next chapter
So what’s on the agenda next for SiSi? She is now a Business Analyst in Meltwater’s New Ventures, the team responsible for corporate development strategy and execution.
“I think the Meltwater kick-off, the best mishap ever, taught me that it’s okay to have plans, to have goals and to have ambitions, but it’s also important to allow yourself to be prepared to go with the flow, look out for opportunities and see where they may take you. So, when I think of my future my experiences are a great fit for my new team – in New Ventures we are constantly on the look out for new market opportunities. I am the only person on the team that brings direct Meltwater sales experience to the group; I’m the only one who has been on the front lines. This bridges the gap between the majority of the company — our sales people — and the corporate development team.”