Wander is a senior executive with 25+ years management experience in businesses and NGOs in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. He started his career in the Netherlands, and moved after 6 years to Asia, where he worked for TNS, a global research firm, as Managing Director for Hong Kong, China, the Philippines and Singapore, and then was four years CEO for Latin America.
From 2015 to 2021, Wander was Director Asia Pacific for GlobeScan, a global environmental consultancy.
Since November 2021, Wander leads Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden as Executive Director, where he and his team of 250 staff work on biodiversity, wildlife rehabilitation, organic farming, reforestation, sustainable living and holistic education with the vision to harmonize our (human) relationship with nature.
Furthermore, Wander is business advisor of and impact investor in social enterprises in Africa, Asia and the Netherlands.
Wander has a master’s degree Development Geography and Economics with as main subject: ‘Why are some countries rich and others poor?’ and what can we do about it! Specifically, how can we change our current economic model and human behavior to better live within the ecological boundaries of the earth.
people, hong kong, important, CEO, question, bit, life, staff, farm, enjoy, general, career, years, learn, botanic garden, botanic gardens, job, generalist, organisation, sector
Wander, Chan Cyron
Chan Cyron 00:08
Okay, friends, everyone, and welcome again to the CEO class session. And I'm Cyron, founder of the CEO class. And now I'm based in Hong Kong, and a little bit background of CEO class as young, you guys may know, because of COVID, we believe that there is a lot of challenge, but also we can see a lot of opportunities. So, for the CEO class session, we invite different CEOs worldwide and share their stories for the CEO class session. And we focus on personal goals and growth and hope that this content and this session will bring you some inspiration on your career or in some inspiration of your personal goals. So it is significant that today we have to Wander to join us as our guests. So hi, Wanda, can you introduce yourself and what you do?
Thank you for and Hello, everyone. I guess Good evening for most of you, but for those based in all the time zones, a good afternoon, or even a good morning. My name is Wander Meijer, originally from the Netherlands, but I've been in Hong Kong since 98. So there's quite a long time. However, since November, I did go back and forward a few times. I'm executive director, which is an old fashioned term for CEO of Kadoorie. Farm and Botanic Garden. And Kadoorie Farm Botanic Garden is the most significant environmental NGO of. We Kong employs about 250 people with a history of about 75 years. Now the Kadoorie brothers in the 1950s established it as a farm for immigrants from mainland China.
Chan Cyron 01:56
So as you mentioned, you come to Hong Kong from Netherland like you. So actually, what brings you to Hong Kong?
I guess more the question. What brings me to Asia? I started back earlier. Ah, when, I think like most of you are studying, I backpacked to Asia. And then in 95, I was working, I took a sabbatical. I travelled for the whole year in Asia, and somewhere in May, I arrived in g. I love the city, the mix between East and West, the food's dynamic place, and I returned in 98 for a real job. So I think the dynamic of Hong Kong is what I always liked most about the city.
Chan Cyron 02:37
That's great. Can you share a bit of your role as the executive director in the COVID situations? I believe it brings challenges for your organisation. Can you share more about how you deal with it?
Yes, it brings a lot of challenges, I guess, for many people. But of course, we are EMI public institution have we have more than 150,000 visitors a year. So people come to the farm to walk to see the animal displays. And basically, what we do is show alternative lifestyles to have a low carbon living. So we have a lot of sustainable agriculture. We have horticulture and Botanic Gardens. We have a rescue centre for wild animals. And all these things exist actually to demonstrate to the general public how you can live more closely and more in harmony with nature. But at the moment, we cannot invite any people we are close to, like most public places in Hong Kong. And the reason why we exist is complicated now because we closed the farm two weeks ago. And of course, our people, our staff are still working with the animals with the plants. But we can't have any programmes that we cannot invite our guests to, which is a big challenge,
Chan Cyron 04:04
huh? Yeah. Yeah, that d. So actually, your work is more on the endowment and sustainability, such as can you share more like is it like after you graduate you you automatically think that you need to go in this sector? Or actually, you have some changes in your career.
Okay, so I can talk a know long time here. So let me know if it takes too long, but I think it makes good sense to go on this journey and for the audience who likes to learn more. I mean, how you become a CEO. Let me first talk about my work no. If then about the journey, if that's yeah, the green farm is an Asty large institution. As I said, we have 250 people, and with several locations, it's 150 hectares of space, we have a lot of slopes, and we have a lot of places you maintain. So about, first of all, itWeement function.
We have eight depart that ents and each department need to be managed. Liked I always see my talks like a CEO. And for those of you who want to become a CEO, I've done this in many places in many different companies and countries one day. Staff always comes. First, people always say customers come first. But I believe your team comes first. Because if your team is satisfied, and they take care of your guests or your customers, your team comes first. And so for me, my primary role is to make sure that the people we employ are happy p. These people are not satisfied. You can better ask them to seek another opportunity. But in general, that's not a big issue. And you have to make sure you recruit the right people. And when you run a company, you need to have a particular philosophy, specific idea, what is the vision and the values of the business or. Itcorporatihe NGO, it doesn't matter. But a company needs to have a soul need to have a DNA. And I think a CEO, it's most important to make sure you, you formulate or if it's there, you articulate the vision and the strategy, and you also act accordingly. Essential think it's vital that you communicate why you exist, why we live in life, and of course, for KadoorieWet's relatively easy. We try to improve the environment in a ratio, but also for corporations.
Also, for any business, you need to ask yourself, Why do we exist? What are we contributing to society? I think that's important to your customers, your clients, and your staff. So as a CEO, my significant remote role is to make sure that the organisation is well managed, is satisfied and has a view on the future. I think that's the CEO. So that's the vision, the mission and the strategy. And the values, I believe it is important to have values. Now then, about how I got them, I didn't leave school forever going to become a CEO or managing director, director. But I always like to. I will say lead groups. So naturally off that I started working, I was a team lead, and then you become department heads, and then you become a managing director. If you enjoy that, it goes pretty naturally. And that's a bit how it's Wednesday, my life. Now, how I became an executive director on Kadoorie, Farm and Botanic Garden is quite different. This is my first. And I'm 60 plus, now, this is my first nonprofit job. So I worked for two years in the corporate sector. And this is the first time I have worked for a non-corporate, which has different, I would say, different ways of operating. It is generally a bit slower than what I'm used to. But also, it's a bit more relaxed in that sense. It has different, of course, goals. At a company, your first goal or your second goal is to make sufficient money to survive. That's not. That's a bit different, as, of course, in the foundation where we get the money, in this case, from the Kadoorie family, mostly. I think about how to get such a role. You need to have a broad perspective on matters and always learn when you can. And I think I've done many different things in my life and work for other companies. I lived in other countries. I stopped a few times working. I travelled for a few years. And I think a very diverse way of living makes you more suitable as a CEO because it's easier to understand other people. And also not to panic too easily when things go wrong. Like this COVID situation.
Chan Cyron 08:40
Yeah. Yeah. You mentioned, like, you guys, will we quit the white people, right. So I just thinking like in the student perspective, if I turn the other way around, like for the student, how they can find the right company to work, they have any suggestion like when they are there.
job, the right company is perhaps not the right thing, but the right profession first, especially as a shooter, what you would like to do. Now I have this discussion not just with staff, but also I have two sons of 22 and 24, who are studying and are looking what they want to do next in the life of after their studies. And my advice to them is but also to other people of the same age. You first have to always look at a profession that accompanies a sector you enjoy. Because if you don't, you're enjoying it, then you're doing 40 years or whatever, something you don't enjoy, and you should never do that. So you should do something you want if you want I mean fixing tooth in other one's bowels and you should become a dentist. But if you don't enjoy that, I wouldn't have to do it because it's no fun. So first, what do you want in your life? Do you know what's essential for you? In my case, I enjoy being in nature. I grew up on a farm, and it was always important that I mean that's why Join Kadoorie, five minutes, you're very close to nature. So what do you enjoy? In my background, apart from working on a farm, I've done consultancy most of my life and market research in strategy and consultancy. And for that, you need to have curiosity and learn about different companies. So the first thing is, what do you enjoy? Secondly, of course, you need to be good and famous, because if you enjoy it, I enjoy playing football, but everybody is a terrible football player. So I wouldn't want to be a football player, but I don't have the abilities or the capacity. So after you what you enjoy, and if you need to assess for yourself, Am I good at some things, and if you're good at some things, you will, in general, enjoy it. And if you're not going to finish, you will not enjoy it. So enjoyment, followed by capabilities critical. And then the third thing, of course, it's essential to people your work risks. So in some sectors, you work with very aggressive people, you know, and if you've enjoyed that, that's okay. If you go to commercial banking, people are generally very focused on money. And it's a very competitive atmosphere. If you enjoyed that sector, if you don't want it, then you should not do it. If you like stability in life and not so much risk, maybe it's better to join governments. Yeah, and because you will find like-minded people. So the first thing is, think, what kind of people are working there? And will you enjoy working with those people because you will see those people more as your parents and your husband, spouse, or life in the future, probably because you work and spend a lot of time in the organisation? And the last one is, can you make enough money, because in general, if you enjoy some things, you're good at it, and you have good company, you make enough money to live, you will up or have become very rich, but you will be rich enough. And rich enough is enough, you know, regular, most people don't get happier by becoming very rich. If you need to have a good life. That's enough. That's all so that would be my advice to all of you.
Chan Cyron 11:55
Yeah, yeah, that's true. So, like, um, you, you mentioned about like, love previously, you do work on more complex matters. And then now you change on the NGO and MPO things. So how you see the difference, as the work in terms of the working and Foreman's the difference in the role. So how you describe the difference, all of these two sectors.
I have to be careful; this is my first job. I've only done it now for three months, or more than 40 years. So it's a bit difficult to make that assessment. But I've got friends who work for NGOs. My sister works for the United Nations, a very different type of work. But in general, generalising at a corporate got things to go a bit faster because you have more competition if you have a good idea. Still, you don't execute quickly, and somebody else steals your opinion and market share. So in a company, you need to be a bit faster than in an NGO generally, and the reformer Botanic Garden, we don't have competitors, we have, of course, we compete a little bit for fundraising, etc. But there is not much competition. So if we have a specific plan, we must execute the project very carefully because we mean an environment with steep slopes can be dangerous if you make a mistake in your farm itself. And also, we're doing a lot of scientific work. So there's a bit more, I would say, more well thought out. For a startup, in a startup, you need to act quickly. Act fast, sometimes make mistakes, that's not a big thing. So I would say the speed of change and speed. It's a big difference NGOs are generally a bit slower than cooperating. Secondly, my experiences you have in every sector Good, excellent and friendly people. I like it, people, a lot in consultancy, in some sectors, I think are less familiar people. But I never have. I chose not to work there. So I will not work for an industry and a topic I'm not interested in because the people who work there are also people I'm not interested in. So when you work for Kadoorie farm, all my colleagues are interested in nature in animals and plants. In consultancy, most people are interested in improving management if you're a management consultant or how to improve sustainability. So curiosity is an important thing that's both. Guess what makes a difference?
Of course, in the end, it's not the values because I believe corporations have good deals, too. Yeah, but it's more the goal, what you try to achieve. And a corporation is a bit easier. Because one important goal is to make enough money because that's how you survive, right? An NGO is a little bit more complicated because if you ask for the World Wildlife Fund, for example, the most prominent NGO, one of the biggest NGOs in the world, they have many goals. But it's pretty tricky sometimes to see how you make progress on goals, right? Yeah, not a corporation. It's much easier to see how much progress you make if you have a target 100 million plan is profit. At the end of the year, you can say, Okay, we succeeded. If you work for the World Wildlife Fund, you want to reduce the poaching of elephants not to buy ivory. What have you achieved? If there's no-poaching anymore, or the elephants are safe, it's much more challenging to measure success for an NGO? It's much more difficult. If you work for United Nations to you, want to have a tea, when do you Claire success. So I didn't know I would say it's more challenging to put your milestones into track success. And the cooperation, I think it's a bit more, perhaps more accessible, you know, you make enough money, clients identified your staff are satisfied. And you've put in a few more goals, and then you move on.
Chan Cyron 15:56
Yeah, yeah, sure. So, um, you also mentioned about like, for the students, they, if they want to share in the career like some days become an executive director or CEOs, they have to learn always they can. So do you have any suggestions? Or ways like they should? Like, local, sure they know from the online course? Or? Or maybe find a mentor to further that understanding, like perhaps specific for the sectors or the knowledge? So do you have any advice on how they can learn more?
Let me first take a different tack on that. The most important thing is that you don't consider anything in life a waste of time, perhaps except waiting in a queue for the supermarket or stuff like that. But anything you do in life has a particular purpose, and you can learn from it. So if you, for example, see everything as very useful, and want to do things as quickly as efficient as possible, then your life is not always pleasant, and you don't learn enough from it. So nowadays, if I have to wait somewhere, I use the time to look around and absorb things rather than get impatient. Perhaps a supermarket. In general, I try to. I prefer to travel slowly. So when I travel, I like to travel by boat or train rather than by plane. Because that's how you learn more, you learn more when you cross into another country, by train or ship, rather than arriving at an airport.
Not possible anyway, in a COVID situation in Hong Kong. But usually, the slower you go, the more opportunity you have to learn. So take your time to learn things. Don't rush it too much. That would be my first piece of advice. Secondly, I'm not a big believer in certain blocks or books. I don't read much better management books because I think they're boring. I've only ever had two or three management books in all my life. So I don't do that. I listen to philosophers and sometimes read books and more general history books to learn more general listens to it, then learn from that. So Satish Kumar, for example, is an Indian Indian activist and philosopher. And you can learn more about how he sees life than I would say there are typical management gurus because management gurus often are a bit of a, you know, sometimes for this decade, it's all some time you talk all about disruption, you know, that's a fad of the last 510 years. It's all about trouble. Everybody talks about the disorder.
I want to disrupt this sector. I want to disturb this economy. I think disruption is not always a good thing. Disruption is causing a lot of social anxiety and a lot of pain. Currently, Hong Kong is disrupted by COVID-19, which is not a good thing. So I think you sometimes learn by just management groups, which is a fad, fashion, rather than you know something fundamental. And you learn more fundamental things from philosophers and more basic stuff from history or general books. So I think that's more how I see it, how I understand things, of course, yes, I do.
I don't have mentors, but I have a lot of friends in your friends and ex-colleagues and colleagues who are more like a boss. Some people like to develop their ideas first and then present them to their boss. I want to bounce off ideas to friends into to be people of my best guy work in the past, whether on the company, or ever, ever a vital role, or even with my sons or with my spouse just to ask how they feel about things and how they think I should do something. So a lot of things as a CEO or Executive Director, you just have more the question you also panelling and live how I shall tell this? How should I do this? So I don't think you learn too much. If you ebook from Elon Musk, you know, it's interesting. But for yourself or your life, I don't think you can read a book from Elon Musk or any buddy of that calibre or Jack Mao just mean all these high flying captains of industry. I read those books. I've read the book about Jack Ma Elon Musk because it's interesting. But what I learned from it was not much. I mostly Thaman than anything else. Yeah.
Chan Cyron 20:26
Yeah, yeah, that's, that's interesting. Yes,
I think I mean. When I say all these, I don't say, read those books. You should not listen to blogs. I just don't do it. That's it. Yeah, I'm more I'm watching. I'm reading a lot of newspapers, magazines, and books to have a general knowledge rather than anything else. Because as a CEO, you know, a lot of you know, so a bit of a lot of things. You know, that's the most important thing, when you're especially if you know a lot about a few things. So as a CEO, you need to have a comprehensive perspective. Because now I speak to this class, I need to get some answers. Last week, I was interviewed by radio in Hong Kong about animal rescue. And then next time I speak to the board about how to manage your organisation. So as a CEO, the most important thing is that you have a lot of knowledge, but not very deep, rather broad and deep, right.
Chan Cyron 21:21
Yeah, for sure. And yeah, maybe we'll take some questions from the audience. So I see like, one question: we from karma, as what do you do when you quickly get bought into one thing.
I don't get quickly bored doing one thing because I tried to avoid that. So I Yes, I can be bought quite easily. So that's why I like to be having an extensive role like a CEO. Because there are so many different things you have to take care of, you're not easily bought. In general, it is rather too much than too little. So, if you are a chartered accountant, you always have to work on numbers, you know, accountants, right, so or, if you liked it, that's okay. But if you don't like it, then you are bored. I mentioned the example of the dentist before because I have an excellent appreciation for dentists, but I cannot imagine you would enjoy it. That's my perspective because it's a very repetitive thing to do. And so, as a CEO, to give you an example, we have eight different apartments, one of the animal rescue centres, which is very specific to all wild animals. One is agricultural living. We have a few restaurants with sustainable food. We have a bit low carbon food. We have education departments where we give education to a school class and visually impaired children to older adults. And then, of course, I need to check out the numbers. I need to make sure that our accounts are sitting. So it's so diverse that as a CEO, you think you've never bought, you can always do things better. So I think it's maybe it also is essential. I used to have arms, or when it perhaps was a monitor, only boring people are bored. Well, it's more of an attitude. Do you? Yeah,
Chan Cyron 23:09
yeah. But they how you strip the bottom line, maybe in your own, perhaps it's something you like to do, or something you hit this not your favourites, or it's like some boring mean or content work. So how to deal with
it. So first of all, of course, how do you make your priorities very important. Because there's always a lot of things as a CEO, what you have to do. So generally, I'd like to make a difference between urgent and essential. And most people continually work on urgent things, but the essential items they don't do, and I do the same thing. So you'll first make a matrix. When you see an important day, you have a quadrant with four quadrants in anything urgent. Of course, you do first, but you have to make sure you also spend time on important things. Most of the time, in the morning, I do my urgent things, clear my email box, and address what needs to be addressed immediately. And then I block a few hours to work on important things. Because sometimes, I stop a whole day, and I'm not available most of the time via email to work on a strategy page. So when I'm working on a budget, you mustn't only work on all the things that everybody's asking you to do, but you work on important things, mostly strategy and budget. And, and stuff. So when you have an assessment interview with a staff, you should never say, I don't have to. I know, come back tomorrow. I always put that first. Because when you say I don't have time for you now, it gives people the impression you're not important enough, right? So I never and I hate the Chinese term small potatoes because I think it doesn't, it should not exist, you know, so you should always spend time on your staff and essential things. Now, how you assess all these things in how you would say the question was crucial and urgent. What was your question before? So how do you determine how not to get bored? Or? Your inquiry was what's important? What's urgent? I asked that question. Yeah. What are you asked before the?
Chan Cyron 25:18
I mean, like, you may need to do something, something you're not, like, do something on your phones, or
as most people do is go procrastinating. You postpone it. And I had a, once an English colleague who gave lessons about procrastinating. So in English culture, it is called eating a frog because you don't eat frogs. Now, that's different in French or Chinese culture because we eat frogs in France and China. But the point is that you start with something you don't like. Because if you don't do that, you're half tired. And then you start on something which you don't like, but you don't have the energy anymore now, but I usually do. I first began urging things. And then I tried to do something, which I don't enjoy, but get rid of them before the end of the day. So I already farm I have to sign a lot of checks and a lot of admin, in general, I do it before lunchtime. So you still have good enough good energy. And then you're, you're done with it. So you have to plan it, you have to because otherwise, you're not doing it, it comes back the next day. So I put it in my Outlook that I have specific tasks to do, which I don't enjoy. And I've got a perfect personal assistant who will make sure I'll do these things as well. So that helps. When you have a senior role. In general, you'll make sure that you have a personal assistant who is a bit aggressive or assertive. And they help you to make sure you do your plan. So she tells me nearly wonder, you spend too much time on things you should not spend your time on. So make sure you get this done. And that really is helpful. So that's, of course, it's a bit of a luxury position. But it helps to have somebody who forces you to do things like your parents did when you were young to do something you don't like. So I always postpone making presentations, because I'm not I'd like to give a presentation. We're not making them and forces them to have them ready on time. That stuff.
Chan Cyron 27:15
Yeah. Yeah, that's good advice.
Really? The answer is a planet. Yeah. And it makes you it's in your plan, and otherwise, you're not doing it. Yeah.
Chan Cyron 27:25
So yeah, and other questions from the audience is also about the US kind of self-assessment things. So how do you use self assess what you like to do? And do you repeat this assessment, like, every few years, every month or every day? Did you try to do some self-assessment?
The question coming from Marcy, I took an excellent question. But honestly, that's relatively easy. I mean, it's just how you feel if you do something, you don't enjoy it. And you know, I'm not enjoying this. So a couple of years ago, I worked many years in market research, which he always wanted. And in Hong Kong, the company is DNS contents, the most prominent company, a research company. And I enjoyed it for many years, but then it was being bought by a giant corporation, WPP, from the UK, and it became very, very financially driven. And the only thing I had to do as a manager or managing director was to make sure to squeeze money out of the organisation to make sure the profit was going up all the time. And I started not enjoying it; I started hating it. So then you get the feeling, go to work, and don't want it anymore. You don't go down with enthusiasm. You don't feel it's calling your values anymore. So that's about you do something which you don't enjoy your field up. Afterwards, I had another job, which was also really well paid, but I didn't enjoy it. It didn't give satisfaction. So it's pretty easy if you don't get a good feeling about what you do if you don't go to work, and Tuesday mystically. And if you say it's Monday, I have to start working again. Thank God, it's Friday. I think then it's not the right job for you. And generally, work over weekends if I'm busy, but I never, hardly ever, I'd mind because I like what to do. Yeah. And if you want what you do, you don't follow working a bit more hours. But if you hate what you do any hours too much. So it's more than feeling if you don't, I think you when you feel when you enjoy something or not. Yeah, that's a bit easy. I mean, I like that one. Can I ask if I can answer the question you have when I saw one coming by for different cultures, which I liked a lot because there's always one of my things? You scroll up? I think it came from I don't know where if you go up a bit with the questions.
Chan Cyron 29:43
Is it like how do you manage people from diverse cultures?
Yes, I don't see it anymore. Maybe it's a question. Yeah. Yeah. It's
Chan Cyron 29:51
a question from Twitter.
Yes, it was the surname convicted because let me just check where Victor is from. I can see you. Which emo might look like the name from Nigeria, but it could also be England anyway. But it's, it seems like a different culture. That's what I was looking at. But it always has been for me a fundamental question because, in the Netherlands, you'll have to be a different manager than in Hong Kong. I've also been a manager or CEO in Latin America for a couple of years, with a totally different culture. So if you manage people from diverse cultures in my company in Hong Kong before, and we once counted, we had 19 Different cultures, so of different countries that are a different culture, people from 90 Different countries from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, China, Indonesia, and then go further by Germany, Canada a lot, because of a lot of Chinese Canadians, America, etc. And then we always had a question: how can we address all these different cultures and styles to make sure that you can see everybody still, communicate well, and appreciate? Now you have to understand in general in East Asia, and I mean, it's a generalisation, you have to be very careful. But people don't speak up as quickly as they do in the Western world. So if you have, if you go in the Netherlands, my native country, and if you are a CEO or managing director, and people don't have respect for you, because you're a managing director, they only have respect for you as a person, but not because of your title. So they asked you the same question in VR. If you are the same level, there is not a lot of higher hierarchy there. There's more hierarchy in East Asia. So you have to understand that and understand when you are in a group of people, and you ask as a CEO, junior person opinions that most people won't say a lot, because it's not part of the culture. So you have to understand that to address that. And you can still ask a question when they know you and trust you. Then they will give you an answer. I had Hong Kong Chinese staff actually, what a bit, sometimes a bit differently, are very vocal in difficult questions, but it's not the norm here. Yeah, I try to hire people who are a bit more vocal and outspoken because, as a consultant, that's important. And it's easy for me to work with. But the most important thing to work with diverse cultures is that you understand the other culture and respect the culture. So I have a significant increase. I'm not sure about understanding, but at least a great appreciation of the culture in Asia, let's say this occasion in China, and Hong Kong and China, because I've been here for so many years. I appreciate your complex working ethics, honesty, and arranger straightforwardness of people here. In Latin America, people have different attitudes and differences. They're also good people, but differently. So in America, you need to be another manager then here. And first of all, it came from Hong Kong to win as Iris. I failed because I was managing them in an Asian way. And they did not like it. So I left America, you first need to spend more social time. Here, it's pretty normal to go into a meeting and say hello. Let's get started. In Holland, you need to speak for 10 minutes with a cup of coffee. But here, you start almost straight away. That's quite normal. Yeah, you need at least to speak for half an hour about anything. And then you begin about business. So you need to give it more time. And if you start too quickly, they don't like you. And if you don't like you, they don't want to work with you. So it took me a few years to become, let's say, more of a Latino. But I still returned to Hong Kong because I prefer working style.
Chan Cyron 33:36
Yeah, but in your experience, you face any massive conflict in your team and how you solve it. Like because of the different cultures. And
Of course, you have to make sure that when you were a very diverse culture is like I said ahead in Hong Kong. Yeah, just make sure that everybody respects each other, that you give every culture a sufficient amount of freedom and respect. And also to understand that some things are different. So our Japanese team are very different people generally than, let's say, our Indian team, you know, they're just other people. And in those days, we all day, we used to have a huge call centre to do interviews. And we had a lot of middle-aged Japanese housewives. So actually, you were pretty influenced, but I wanted to do something else. So we gave them different treatments, I would say to young people who want to make money by doing interviews. When people say you have to treat all your staff the same, I disagree. You have to treat your team as what's good for them. And if you treat everybody the same, then some people like it, and some don't. So I would say you have to consider that your staff is different and you have to treat them differently. You have to treat them fairly. That's an extra fan. But you don't have to treat people in the same way. You have to treat people honestly and consistently, but not similarly. Yeah, one learning I had. And that's always difficult. When you do a team effort or a company building in Asia, it's always tricky to do something everybody likes. So most of the time again, it's a generalisation. But it's a bit true that Asian people like to eat and Western people want to drink. Right, that's a bit different for the nominator, so you have to go out on Friday. My Chinese colleagues like to go kind of yoga and want to have good foods, and the rest of the people like to drink a lot of beer.
Another generalised thing, and of course, some local people like to go with beer, and some Western people like to eat a little bit every bit generally happening. And when you start drinking a lot with Asian staff, they don't mean it always like it, but also cannot always handle it because English people generally drink a lot more than people. So it doesn't work, right. But what we found out eventually is that everybody loves Bowling, bowling, you can go to Japan, bowling. You can go bowling in Argentina. You can vote in America. Everybody loves bowling. So then we hired two buses, and we went bowling with only 50 people. And everybody loved it. So if you ever become a CEO of a very diverse company, I would say go bowling. Bowling Thursdays Yeah.
Chan Cyron 36:12
Yeah, good to use. And another question from karma. So what course do you have on, like, if someone started his career with journalists like maybe they don't have a particular domain or things they can apply to? So they start their career as a generous? First. So what is the stuff on? On? Do you have any thoughts on it?
You know, it's always a considerable debate whether it's better to be a generalist or a specialist. It's a question I've often been asking myself. I studied geography, which is quite a generalist study. And it does not apply to a lot of things. I mean, if you study geography, it's an exciting study. But if you have a job, what do you use in your career? It was statistics. And because I'm a social scientist, geography statistics are mainly used to support specialists. So I would say, if you start a generalist, you have to choose a job that requires a generalist approach like a journalist, or as a researcher, or I don't know. Still, within a generalist, you'll have to. It's better to specialise in something at least.
Because especially if your junior people hire you for a specific role. They don't hire you as a generalist. The more senior you get, the more critical you're a generalist. But if you're more junior, it's better to have at least some specialisation to start so. Yeah. So in any job you start, I mean, you need to have a particular skill, because that's why you're hired when you Junior. Yeah. But you learn at university. Unless I would say, Yeah, the consultant needs to be more of a generalist. But I only believe you can be a good consultant if you have quite a few year's experiences. I don't think so in consultants who come straight from universities. I mean, that's for me, not, because the consultant has to advise senior people who have no experience themself, in my view, cannot be a consultant, you firstly need to have quite a lot of experience with that. Yeah. If I look back on what I learned at University and did afterwards, I would have preferred actually to be a bit more of a specialist at the beginning because it would have accelerated my career.
Chan Cyron 38:38
Yeah. So other questions from Lynn. So it is for about manage the staff. So do you have any experience and tips on keeping your team happy and motivated, because then fun, super excited? Still, I am easily distracted and fast to look for a new job, if not, is by in the current positions? So how you maintain the yarn stuff, especially,
If you're not inspired in a current position, that's the employer's fault, not the employee's. So I would say that if you make sure that you start with an exciting place and find a job fascinating, they will not quickly go. So when it came to Hong Kong, when they told me to stop in Hong Kong, leaving very quickly, but I learned a lot of employers don't pay a lot of attention to their staff. They also treat them as disposables. And they always say Hong Kong people only work for money, which is my, in my experience, is not valid. Money may be more critical here than in my native Netherlands, but also in Hong Kong, or generally in a world looking for a purpose in life. They're looking for something they feel is valuable and it's essential. So it's your task to make sure that you offer something relevant, exciting, and inspiring for your staff. And if you start with lever after half a year, well, you have to look at yourself. Because apparently, you're not offering something inspiring enough. Indeed, people are perhaps a bit more easily leaving. But you know, the reality, you cannot blame your staff for that. It's not how the world looks like. So you have to make sure the employee that your job and your organisation is interesting enough that people stay for a reasonably long time. And if they're leaving very quickly, well, you have to look in the mirror.
Chan Cyron 40:32
Yeah. So. So I think another question is, like, in this corporate situation, I think there's a lot of challenges and change of the market for the young people. So any advice you can share is how they can better prepare themselves. Because I think, except for university students, like when they are stuck in this area, maybe up to one or two years, the market can be changed. So how they can better prepare themselves?
Yeah, I find it difficult to prepare yourself for the COVID-19 situation because this is the first time it needs to be, at least in my life. Did anything happen like that? And I'm struggling with it, too. You know, everybody is. There's no, there's no, there are no significant upsides for COVID situation apart from a bit of bit less pollution, perhaps. So I would say more generally, how do you prepare yourself for a fast-changing world? Because that's probably the overarching question. I've been very broad by learning different things, even though it may not be immediately applicable. And there's one thing I like to share.
Of course, everybody likes to have at least one tip. It's a speech from Steve Jobs at Stanford. Five, it's a very famous speech. You can find it on YouTube. It's called connecting the dots from Steve Jobs, the founder and the former CEO of Apple. It's called connecting the dots. And he did an awful lot of things in his life, which didn't make sense, actually, from a career perspective. One example is Chinese calligraphy. You know, he studied how to make Chinese drawings and Chinese letters. And, of course, that's not easy. I mean, when people say, Why would you do that?
What's the benefit from it. But later, he used that in the design of his Apple devices. So Apple, Apple devices are always better designed and more elegantly designed than most other competitors. So he only looked fine. That was not his idea when he started studying calligraphy. But he did. That's how he got that notice. Now, that's the same thing. And of course, so you always have to do something which you think is interesting. And later, you will see how it falls into place later. You may know how you can use it in your career. So I would say, keep your interest as broad as possible.
Don't focus too much on one thing, and don't overthink about straight about your career. If you learn many things, and you're always encouraging yourself to be curious, and you have curiosity, I think then something will happen. Once you've done university, you know you have enough baggage enough background to be successful. Of course, it takes more than that. But in general, you have enough knowledge, enough education to be successful. Once you've done University, I would not be too concerned about it. But that's not the thing. Maybe talk about young people nowadays. And I don't like it to say how the old days were, and the young guys were on the field. But sometimes people are a bit too focused on the immediate future about worrying about how well I'd be in five years if you go to the employer, appropriate prospective employer. And they ask you what's your career path, but do you think it will be in five or ten years? To be honest, I've always said I have no idea.
I have no idea you give them an answer. Because, you know, I don't know. But to be honest, I don't think five years I simply don't. I think one or two, three years ahead, and now we'll see how it goes. I'm no executive director of Kadoorie Farm. Last year, in March, I returned from Hong Kong to the Netherlands. I had no idea I would have this job one year later. I was back in the Netherlands, doing something else, and then a headhunter contacted me, and I returned to Hong Kong. That is not expected.
The thing was that I had an extensive background. So I grew up on a farm. I know something about I love Botanic Gardens, I visit botanic gardens all my life, anywhere in the world. So that's a good example. I have already finished my first botanic garden. There was 19 in Berlin. I remember and went on all my travels. I always go to Botanic Gardens. Now that was never because of my career. I never thought maybe I would become the director of a botanic garden one day, but of course, in my interviews last year when they were 18 people looking for this job, I could sell it. I've been in Botanic Gardens in South America, in the Indian Ocean, ethnic Berlin. And in Switzerland, so at least it helped in the interview. It was not planned like that. So I think to elaborate your point a bit, but there were many things you can embody. And it will go okay, then eventually.
Chan Cyron 45:18
Yeah, yeah, that's important. And you never know what's next. What are the following opportunities? And Charles, you can make use of it? So. Okay, I do. Last questions from last year? So do you sometimes struggle with keeping mental balance? And how do you help yourself with that?
Yes, I do struggle. The most important thing, if you have something on your mind? I mean, I'm not sure it will balance, but I don't sleep very well when I have a big problem. It's not because it keeps me awake in terms of concern, but it's more I think about it too much. You know, so you have something, which is a big issue. At the moment, it's the whole COVID situation. How can you keep my staff certified or happy? How can we keep them motivated? You know, because they'll come to the farm, and there are no visitors, they have worked, but it's why do we do this and, and this is not if it's worked for a few months, it's okay, but it's already happening for two years. And we even don't know what the end will occur in the next couple of months with the whole commerce situation. So that's it's difficult sometimes to, to stay happy and mentally happy on that unhealthy. So how I deal with that, I do yoga, which helps. I mean, I have yoga lessons twice a week. I hike an awful lot in Hong Kong every Sunday. I'm out the whole day used to walk three, four hours, our hike six, seven hours, just to keep mentally, okay. So if I have something on my mind, I hike almost the whole day, or at least a long, long half-day with friends or sometimes on my own. And that it clears your mind. So being out in nature and hiking on the trails in Hong Kong is perfect for that. And I walk all over Hong Kong.
I think that helps. In general, watching more YouTube videos or watching Netflix is not making you happier. So I try to avoid that. So I try to be physically active. And, and occasionally, Friday nights in the good old days before COVID, you go out, party a bit, and drink too much. And then the next day, you don't feel great, but mentally you feel better. So I would also say sometimes you have to relax on wines, go to the nightlife of Hong Kong, and make sure that you also have some pleasure in life not just thinking about work only.
Chan Cyron 47:44
Yeah, it just reissues. How are they nowadays? What are the most important things, no matter mentally? And tonight, we've read the Gruppo discussion with Wanda. Do you have the last slide for the audience?
Yeah, I said a few times. But I think I maybe I just reiterate a few times. But first of all, use broadly of your life don't see a career that is only a narrow path, I think some people think you should separate your private life from your professional life. I don't believe in that. I mean, in me, it's intertwined. Nowadays, with working, you have to make sure it's on time if you relax, of course. But I could not do something professionally which would not align with my values. So I think it's essential that your private and person overlap. In Alliance, because when you do something meaningful, if you just do it for something, to make money, and you spend that money, and you make money, but you don't enjoy it, and you have a lot of money, but you do with something pleasant, then most of your life is still not satisfying. So my point is that it's essential to make sure to understand for yourself, what your values are, what makes you happy, and then choose a job. Keep it broad, I said earlier, and don't overthink about your career. For me, I have to be very honest. A career is essential for me. I mean, I enjoy being an executive director. I enjoy feeling. I would say appreciated or valuable. But I didn't plan a career exactly that says this year. God is this year you got it just happens along the way. So I think that's perhaps I wouldn't be too concerned if you feel one year is not being successful. I mean, each of you was in your 20s. You will live the next 80 years until you're 100, More or less statistically. Most people in Japan and Hong Kong I'll be 85 Plus, statistically, so you'll become 90 years you still had 70 years ago. So I would say I don't hurry you have enough time.
Chan Cyron 49:52
Yeah, that's great. And fans wanted tonight, and we are pro show And, and I believe everyone tonight has great inspirations on their ports on their Korea and their lives. So thanks, everyone, and that's all for today's sessions. Good night, everyone. Yeah,
buy your finger, everyone. I hope you enjoyed it with a little bit of inspiration. So, look for the job you want for the rest of your life or at least a few parts. Take care.
Chan Cyron 50:28
Okay, thank you