Global Mobility- Q&A with Gladys Ho

We chat with Gladys Ho, Strategy Consultant from Interband's Singapore office who transferred to Interbrand Shanghai.

1. How did you learn about the mobility program, and who did you speak to about it?

I first learned about Interbrand’s mobility program through another Senior Consultant on my team. Excited about the possibilities, I began conversations with my mentor/department head and then spoke with our HR representative regarding my desire for an office transfer.

Informally, I also spoke to colleagues who were part of the mobility program, including other Consultants whom I work with on a day-to-day basis. Overall, the support from the Singapore office was tremendous and I’m very thankful for all the guidance and patience!

2. What initially led you to want to transfer? What were you hoping to learn/take away from the experience?

Interbrand’s vibrant global culture and OneFirm spirit has always resonated with me. Having interacted with fellow Interbrand colleagues who had transferred to Singapore and worked on some inter-office collaborations, I got a taste of that global culture and became more curious about what it would be like to work in another Interbrand office. I knew the work methodology would be consistent across the organization and that my skill set would be applicable and relevant wherever I might choose to transfer, so that made the idea of going to a new office in a totally new location less daunting.

Having been with Interbrand Singapore for more than three years, I was keen to learn more about the branding context in another fast-developing Asian country like China (e.g., the similarities, differences, and unique challenges). I also hoped to bring relevant insights and knowledge from the Southeast Asia region to a new office—and gain the opportunity to help new clients in a different region.

3. What are three differences between your home office and your transfer office?

1) A much bigger team, with 20+ more people, housed within a commercial building rather than a shophouse.

2) New Business and Client Service are handled by separate teams. I was involved in both of these disciplines in Singapore, and it has been helpful to have such dedicated resources in Shanghai. Having said that, I do miss the challenge of developing a great pitch and more regular interaction with my clients!

3) The choice of “poison”—from wine or champagne in Singapore to hard liquor in Shanghai. No matter the choice of fluids, a celebration is always good!

4. What types of projects have you been able to work on in Shanghai?

I used to work on more projects with a slant towards analytics, but am now resourced to other disciplines such as Verbal Identity (e.g., naming, tagline development, communications plans, etc.). The exposure is helping me gain a more holistic view of brand development and management.

5. Has anything been surprising to you about Shanghai that you didn’t expect?

The advancement of e-commerce and apps, for one thing. USD9.3 billion worth of orders were placed during Alibaba’s 24-hour “Singles Day” online shopping promotion!

6. What advice would you give to others who are interested in a mobility opportunity?

Do it! Start discussions early as it can take time to get things rolling and work out all the details. Anticipate changes, but be open to the process and wherever the journey takes you.

7. What have you been up to in Shanghai outside of the office?

Assembling my winter gear (I have lived in the tropics all my life!).

Brushing up on my Mandarin and learning the local lingo.

Cooking my own meals.

Doing all things touristy.

8. How difficult was it to acclimate to the new culture and language?

It wasn’t that difficult as I am able to comprehend the Chinese language. I am thankful to the Shanghai team for all the good tips and recommendations so far (often shared over good food)!

9. What is the most valuable or world changing idea you have discovered thus far?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the secret of survival, especially in Asian markets. In China, the marketplace is ever-changing—and at a faster pace than ever before. The future trends we often refer to may not be projected that far out, so brand strategies are valid for shorter periods of time. What’s a brand to do? Well, as Charles Darwin famously suggested, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Based on what I’ve observed so far, the importance of flexibility and adaptability in fast-developing markets cannot be emphasized enough. While brand owners have access to more tools and opportunities in these markets, adapting quickly to changes and working to stay relevant remain key imperatives.