Round Trip Ticket: Making First Class POWER Moves in Business and in Life
Our mothers rarely lead us astray. They have been blessed with an infinite amount of wisdom we cannot begin to imagine that we would ever have. When given the chance to talk with them, we must soak up all that they have to give us. If you ask Betty Ng, she would tell you something very similar about her mother. Betty is the founder/CEO of Inspiring Diversity, LLC (“iD”) (www.Inspiringdiversity.com), which provides a practical solution to building inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing organizations and communities. Together with her mother, Po-Ling Ng, Betty co-authored PO-LING POWER: Propelling Yourself and Others to Success. Her travels around the world have given Betty a perspective on life and in her career that she never imaged she would have. When she travelled abroad for the first time as a young adult, Betty took the life lessons her mother gave her, and set foot on international ground where she was able to see the world in a whole new light. That light led the way for her to start iD and be an inspiration to others. iD recently competed as a finalist in the Ascend Innovation Challenge. Betty holds degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Prior to founding iD, Betty was a Senior Vice President of Corporate Development with over twenty years of corporate and financial services experience with responsibilities around the globe. Betty has been able to follow her own path, a level of creative autonomy that she credits to her mother. So with her ticket in hand and the wisdom of her mother by her side, Betty is cleared for take-off!
Rachel: Describe what it is that you do professionally.
Betty: As part of driving all aspects of the iD business, I am a tech entrepreneur, media and content creator, author, trainer, public speaker and consultant. iD works with organizations to drive profitability and sustainability by increasing employee inclusion, collaboration, and performance. We are also a collaborative community of people of all backgrounds who inspire, empower, and elevate each other to achieve goals that matter.
Rachel: How does your knowledge of global issues influence the work that you do?
Betty: My knowledge of global issues has given me a heightened sense of a need for us all to take time to better understand each other — our respective backgrounds, perspectives, and contributions — and how we can benefit more from collaborating than from being at odds with one another. My desire to address the need for creating more open and inclusive dialogue as well as collaboration among people of different backgrounds has inspired me to me to develop a practical solution for building inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing communities. In PO-LING POWER, the book I co-authored with my mother (Po-Ling), we not only share our life journeys, but we also detail a framework for how we can be our authentic selves while propelling ourselves and others to success. iD has also built a corresponding PO-LING POWER app, which enables users to build their own PO-LING POWER while collaborating with allies to achieve goals that are aligned with their authentic selves and also propel others to success.
Rachel: How have your travel experiences influenced how you interact with others?
Betty: Growing up poor in New York City’s Chinatown, I never had the opportunity to travel overseas until college, when I went on an exchange program to South Korea, sponsored by the US and South Korean governments. That first international exposure to a different culture, lifestyle, and country gave me my first taste of how much I truly had to learn about people and places different from those I had been exposed to growing up. That experience motivated me to pursue a very internationally focused career for two decades, which included traveling to, as well as working in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, and South America. After living and working in
China for three years, my continued thirst for new experiences and cultures led to me to take six months off to travel to remote places including Tibet, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, before heading to Spain where I studied Spanish and traveled for two months. To this day, I continue to travel with my family when possible. (In fact, I am writing this on my flight back from the Bahamas!) My travel experiences have enabled me to be a global citizen. So, when I interact with others, I feel I do so with great sense of empathy, curiosity, and self-confidence. I am very inquisitive as I love learning more about others. My travel experiences have also made me even more confident about the valuable perspectives I bring to the table.
Rachel: What have you seen in your travels that has caused you to question who you are as an individual and what your purpose is?
Betty: Living and working in China have made me deeply reflect on who I am. Am I American? Am I Chinese? After working in Beijing for three years, it became clear to me that I am truly split down the middle as a Chinese-American. It made me reflect on how the benefits and challenges of my different cultural traits depending on the environment in which I am working. This has enabled me to leverage my background where possible to be successful and to try to work on resisting certain cultural tendencies — such as always deferring to my elders in meetings, which could be mistakenly perceived as not having valuable perspectives to contribute.
In my travels, I have also experienced racism — to the point where I have even felt my life being at risk. It always hits me hard — like a major blow to the stomach — whenever I hear people obnoxiously pretending to be speaking Chinese or clearly making fun of my background. I know such prejudice and bias is the result of true ignorance, which I am committed to addressing as part of my “purpose” in life. In fact, addressing conscious and unconscious bias is one of the reasons why iD (inspiringdiversity.com) has a hub of over 400 proprietary videos of successful people of many backgrounds who share their stories.
Rachel: Where have you travelled that has been the most intriguing? Why?
Betty: As I’ve described in my book, I have traveled to many amazing and intriguing places. So, picking just one has not been easy. If I had to pick only one place though, it would be Bali, Indonesia — where I have traveled for about a month. I say this not just because of the amazing food, incredible nearby snorkeling, and beautifully varied landscape. I believe Bali to be extremely intriguing from a cultural perspective. Unlike most of Indonesia which is Muslim, Bali is primarily Hindu. I traveled there on my own, not knowing anyone else. I made sure that I stayed on top of the cultural events calendar and was pleasantly surprised to find myself experiencing something new almost every day. In fact, I even attended a mass cremation, which I admittedly had expected to be a somber event. Instead, it was an extremely lively celebration of life, which was also a more cost effective way for people to respectfully cremate their loved ones who had recently passed. That experience gave me a further appreciation of the importance of being open-minded to new experiences. Nusa Lembongan, right off the coast of Bali, was also where I had my first real snorkeling experience being surrounded by incredibly colorful and vibrant sea life. It gave me my first taste of the beauty of the undersea world.
Rachel: Where is one place you have not been that you would like to visit, domestically or internationally? Why?
Betty: I’ve never been to Africa and have always wanted to go because I know that I will grow as a person from my experiences there, which I believe will expand my horizons and deepen my appreciation and understanding of life in Africa. As I also very much love the outdoors, I’d love to go to Kenya for a safari and then trekking Mount Kilimanjaro in nearby Tanzania.
Rachel: If you could sit next to a person in first class on a 3 hour flight, who would be it (famous or non-famous)? What would you want to say to that person?
Betty: I would sit next to my Yen Yen (“paternal grandmother” in Chinese), who was instrumental in taking care of me after my father died and while my mom worked tirelessly to raise four young children on a social worker’s salary. I would tell my Yen Yen how much I love and miss her… how her death impacted me deeply and catalyzed my sense of purpose at a young age. I would thank her for all that she has done for our family as we would not have survived, much less achieved all that we have if it had not been for her. Our accomplishments are truly hers. As a woman from a peasant background, she certainly would have enjoyed flying first class!
Rachel: What are you currently reading that my readers might consider reading the next time they take a flight?
Betty: I have been reading the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua. It’s been an engrossing book and incredible reminder to me about how lucky I have been to have a mother (Po-Ling Ng) who let me find my own path in life. Despite our limited means, my mother has given me the important gifts of opportunity, empowerment, and inspiration. She was never a “Tiger Mom”. Instead, she loosened the reins enough to allow me to build my self-confidence and to experience all that I have living and traveling around the world. She also taught me the importance of leading by example. In fact, she is the inspiration for our own book (which we co-authored), PO-LING POWER: Propelling Yourself and Others to Success.
Rachel: Tell my readers about a funny or interesting travel experience.
Betty: As mentioned above, I took six months off to travel the world. Doing so was fully aligned with my POWER (i.e. Priorities, Obligations, Worthwhile Activities, Energy, and Resources). While certain parts of my trip were more planned than others, I remember booking a one-way flight from Beijing to Madrid, without a solid plan for where I would be staying or what I would be doing. I only had a high-level plan to brush up on my Spanish language skills and then to travel with my family for a few weeks. On my flight to Madrid, I flipped through my Lonely Planet Guide to Spain and decided that I would make my way directly to Salamanca to enroll in a Spanish language program. When I landed in Madrid, using my rusty Spanish language skills, I figured out how to get to Salamanca by bus. I didn’t have a hotel booked and just figured it out when I arrived in Salamanca. The next day, I checked out the different language programs being offered nearby and enrolled in an Advanced Spanish Program at La Universidad de la Pontificia and started looking at the bulletin boards there to see if I could find a place to live for about a month or so. I wound up finding an apartment-mate from Sweden — someone I had never met before and it was great! That experience was an important lesson in life… that while you should have an overall objective/vision in mind, you should not feel as though you need to always have every step meticulously planned. Have confidence in your ability to figure things out and enjoy the incredible experiences and personal growth that may come your way from going with the flow as well as taking risks. Many years later, I now realize that my Spanish adventure was another sign that I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit — even though it’s only been two years ago since I founded iD.
Rachel: What are 2–3 items that you pack when you travel that others might find interesting?
Betty: Before I became a mother of two children, I would often travel to the far reaches of the earth — always packing a headlamp and pants you could unzip to convert into shorts. Admittedly, I no longer rough it as much now and can’t say that I pack anything very interesting. I do continue to pack things within plastic bags within my luggage though — as you never know when you’ll need those plastic bags!
Rachel: What are 3 lessons or advice from your travel experiences that you can share with my readers?
1. Try traveling on your own — going to a place where you don’t know anyone. While it’s often nice to travel with others, I’ve found that I more fully immerse myself in the experience and interact more with locals and others when I am on my own.
2. Do not over-plan. Have your overall objectives in mind, but enjoy what comes with spontaneity
3. Try to remain open. It is important to be respectful and open-minded about the different cultures you may come across during your travels. The “American way” is not always the best or right way. It is by embracing different perspectives and backgrounds that we can all flourish.