My Australia Story: Dr. Sandy Chong

Career Journeys of First Generation Australians

For many university students and young professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds, the challenges of building a successful career in Australia can seem daunting, and perhaps insurmountable. 

 Is “working hard and being passionate” good enough to help you find a dream job in a new country? New life, new path, new beginning… how can you achieve success in your career?

The first in a series of My Australia Story conversations, meet Dr. Sandy Chong (BCom Management and Marketing, 1996, PhD Information Systems, 2003).

Born in Singapore and migrated to Australia in 1995, Sandy is a businessperson, philanthropist, mentor, educator and global citizen having lived in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, and the US. Known as a changemaker amongst those she connects with, Sandy has helped individuals, firms and communities transform, grow and elevate. She is passionate about making a difference, believes that human talent is expansive and is driven by making meaningful impact and through lifelong learning.

She is the winner of the Asia’s Top Sustainability Woman of the Year Award, Executive of the Year for US Stevie International Business Award, and Singapore Management Consultant of the Year. Dr. Chong is also a Harvard Alumna and an Adjunct Professor in International Communications. She has shared her thought leadership at Fortune 500, Harvard Business School, United Nations, and Special Olympics events.

For her contribution to businesses and communities locally and abroad, she was awarded by the Governor of Western Australia the Winner of the Australia Community Citizen of the Year in 2020.


My Australia Story is a face-to-face conversation series that provides a platform for remarkable people who have immigrated to Australia as first-generation to share their life and work experience with the public. Affiliated with the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia, WA Museum Boola Bardip proudly introduces this opportunity to share more extraordinary stories.

This is an image of the University of WA log. It has blue writing and th Universities crest displayed.
Audio file
Friday 19 May 2023
  • Episode transcript

    Intro: 

    Welcome to the Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip talks archive. The WA Museum Boola Bardip hosts a series of thought provoking talks and conversations, tackling  big issues, questions and ideas and is delighted to be able to share this with you through the talks archive. The talks archive is recorded on Whadjuk Nyoongar Boodjar. The Western Australian Museum acknowledges and respects the traditional owners of their ancestral lands, waters and skies.   

    Dr Maggie Jiang: 

    Good evening, colleagues, friends, guests. My name is Maggie Jiang. I'm from the UWA School of Social Sciences. We're very pleased you could join us this evening for our brand new program, “My Australia Story”, public talk series, which is a joint effort between my School of Social Sciences and the WA Museum. So some base housekeeping before we formally start. First, your bathrooms are just outside the room, which you just walked past and for any emergency issues, Haley is our warden for this evening. You probably met her at the reception. And this session is professionally, recorded by Red Empire. So we'll appreciate if you could turn off your, or put your mobile phone on silence. Can I begin by acknowledging the owners of the land on which we met today and pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging. My special thanks to the WA museum for the wonderful support and warm welcome to everyone who could join us this evening. The aim of My Australian Story is to tell stories of individuals who have immigrated to this country and build successful careers. In large, the speakers will come from a wide range of fields and professions. Each session will feature one speaker to share stories about the career and insights of what it takes to become successful in career journey and to enable audiences to develop a better understanding about the challenges faced by people of multicultural background in Australia and more importantly, how these might be overcome. We hope this program could inspire Australians of all cultural backgrounds to strive to reach their full potential and to showcase resilience, achievements and contributions of first-generation Australians from diverse cultural backgrounds. This program could not happen without my head of school support, and I’m very delighted to let you know my head of school, Professor Amanda Davies, here this evening. And please welcome Professor Davies to the stage to introduce our inaugural speaker for the session today. Please welcome Professor Davies. 

    Professor Amanda Davies: 

    Thank you. Thank you Maggie. Thank you everyone for coming up today, from Albany I understand. Thank you. That's extra special. Before I introduce Sandy, I just want to acknowledge the work of Maggie and Fiona in putting together this really important series. The series is being recorded, so we'll go to a very large audience, and it is important that we capture and tell these stories. In the university system, we are educating. We're educating for our tomorrow's leaders, and this forms part of that, enabling younger leaders to come through, learning about the trailblazing that's gone before them so they can understand and move through into those leadership roles, hopefully easier than those that have carved out the pathways before. So I do appreciate everyone being part of this. And thank you again, Maggie, for putting it together. Okay. So our speaker, I am going to introduce, but I don't really believe she needs much of an introduction. Dr. Sandy Chong is a trailblazer and I think we all know that. She was born in Singapore and migrated to Australia in 1995 and Sandy is a business person, a philanthropist, a mentor, most definitely an educator and certainly a global citizen. Having lived in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and the US and of course Australia. She is known as a changemaker amongst those that she connects with, and this includes a broad audience of people online through her online platforms, including myself. So she does have quite the following. Sandy has helped individuals, firms and communities to transform, grow and elevate, and this is certainly not something that can be underestimated. The long lasting legacy that this sort of work has. She is passionate about making a difference. I think we see that through her work and believes human talent is expansive and driven by making meaningful impacts and also lifelong learning. She is, of course, the winner of Asia's Top Sustainability Woman of the Year award. Bear with me. There's a few here. 

    Executive of the year for the US Stevie International Business Award and Singapore Management Consultant of the Year. She is also a Harvard alumna and an adjunct professor in international communications. She shared her thought leadership at Fortune 500, Harvard Business School, the United Nations, the Special Olympics and us for her contribution to business and communities locally and abroad. She is awarded by the Governor of Western Australia to a very large applause and nobody was surprised, The Australia Community Citizen of the Year award in 2020.  So thank you Sandy for joining us and welcome Sandy to the stage.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you, Thank you, Amanda, for the gracious introduction. Thank you, Maggie, for organizing this. I'd like to say thanks to the organizers University of Western Australia and, of course, WA Museum. But before I start, I would like to pay my respect to the traditional owners of land here, the Whadjuk Noongar people for their contribution and for their protection of our land and our nature. Without them, we wouldn't be sitting here. So I'd like to pay my respect to the elders and the community past, present and emerging. Thank you. I also like to give big thanks to all my friends and the family I adopted here in this room. Without you, I wouldn't be the person I am. I truly appreciate it. And for those whom I haven't met. I look forward to be acquainted with you after this. I guess a little bit of my background. I was born in Singapore in 1973. I've given my age away. I was growing up in a military family. My father travel around the world and we lived in many different countries when I was growing up. The great thing about that is it makes me a lot more sensitive with cultures and we're very agile because we need to make friends, we need to survive. But the challenges have always been keeping friends, so it was really hard when I was growing up as a child. But I believe in what my father did, and I believe in the profession so much that since I was a child, I've always wanted to be a military officer. I just wanted to serve the country. I want to serve the community. Obviously, I didn't become a military officer. I become something else. But I believe all the way up to 18, I was learning how to recite the pledge and all that, getting myself ready. I was in a uniform student group. I learned how to shoot. I learned how to be a parade commander. I learn everything I can because I was preparing myself to be in the military.  

    Obviously, all that changed when I watched the movie when I was little. I think around 17 or 18, it was about a Vietnam War. It was a movie by Oliver Stone, and it taught me the horrors of war. And I remember crying to my father and I ask him, I didn't realize, you know, being a military could be such a horrific thing. 

    And I remember even when I was a child, when I said I wanted to be a military officer, my father never said yes and he never said no. He just wanted me to figure it out myself. And essentially he said, well, you know, war is bad. There is no such thing as a win win. So hopefully when you grow up, we could, you know, you could contribute to the community and you could make the right decision to help the people around you to choose the right government so that we can avert all these. So with that, my parents also went through a pretty difficult time. So before I came here, my parents got separated and got divorced and my father as a military officer had a joint exercises with the Australian government and that's how I ended up here in Perth. When I came to Perth, I didn't have much friend, many friends. I wasn't part of a religious group, I didn't have any relatives. 

    So the first couple of years it was pretty tough. It felt almost like my father just dropped me off in Perth and said, “Go survive”, essentially. So that was quite an interesting experience. I have to learn how to understand Australian English. At that time I would have already learned English for 24 years or 23 years, but I could not understand a single word of English here. I have difficulty, understand the accent, and very much like most migrants, when you first arrive, you don't understand the language, you don't understand the humour or the culture. Many times you've been treated like a child. People who teach you how to pronounce the right word. People will correct you all the time. So after a while, you know, you lose your sense of self-worth or you decline into this question of like, do I belong here? Can I make it? What do I need to do to improve myself? So I started watching Martin and Malloy listening to them, to their comedy show. And I love Roy and HG. They are funny as hell. And that's where I learned my Aussie humour and understand the culture. And of course, it wasn't very easy as well, because I have to also learn very quickly how to study and how to excel. 

    In Asia, the way we, we learn is we learn by textbook, we learn by memory and we we are very much submissive or we're very much, you know, we respect teachers and we never question teachers. But the education culture here is very different. It teaches you to have critical thinking. It forces you to ask questions all the time. And so you have to literally shift the way you think, the way you learn and the way you absorb information. So that was quite a challenge, and I wasn't able to do that, if not for the fact that I had a really great mentor and teacher who's actually in the crowd today, Mr Cal Jacob. And so he has kindly given me his time when no one else would, and he has kindly given me a lot of direction. And so if I were to say the first twenty-five years of my life, my character is very much framed by my father. The next twenty-five years, my work ethic, my attitude, my OCD attitudes towards doing anything to perfection. I have to say it was embodied by Mr. Cal Jacob, and with that I would like to say thanks to you. Cal.   

    Audience: 

    *applause* 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    So given that sort of learning experience very on a, on a really steep learning curve, having a fantastic mentor, I was able to learn really fast. I finished my degree in two years, overloaded the unit's, didn’t party, which I really regretted. It because I'll explain to you why, it is so essential for you to have a good time when you're in uni. So, you know, I was almost really proud. The fact that every weekend I was at home studying, finishing my assignment, I was also on a clock. I wanted to finish on time. I wanted to get a scholarship because my parents would not be able to fund me. So after I finished my two year degree, I then went on to do my Honor’s with a scholarship, and after my first class Honor’s, I wanted to continue. At that time I wasn't a resident or a citizen, so school fees were really expensive for international students. So my father made it very clear to me. He said, “either you get a scholarship to fund your Ph.D. or you come back to Singapore.  

    And so, umm, I would like to remind everyone, Singapore back in the seventies, eighties, pretty much still was considered a developing country. Singapore now is obviously very different from Singapore forty years ago. So forty years ago the opportunities just weren't there. I saw a lot of my high school friends after they finished a high school degree, they go out there, they started working, they got married, have kids, and a lot of them didn't have the opportunity. I have. I know for a fact one of my best friend, she graduated with very good O-levels, but she only has, you know, the family only has a limited amount of resources. And her father got into an accident in construction one day. And so they had to break the news to her and said, Look, that can only be one child that we can support to go to university and it's going to be your brother. And this is considered very normal for Asia. All the best opportunities go to the boys. I grew up with a younger brother. I love my younger brother, but he was also a real pain. So I have to clean up after him. When he wakes up, I have to make his bed. If he gets in trouble in school, I get punished. And that's just the kind of cultural umm, uhhh, problem that we have in Asia. And so when I look at people like my friend who was extremely smart but did not have the opportunity just because she was a girl is set me on a path that I wanted to make sure that this gap has been levelled and how can I do that? 

    So I finish my Ph.D. in three years before I hit 30 and I became an academic. I never thought I would become an academic, but I guess having a really good teacher as my mentor inspired me to, to some degree. I had to also very quickly make some living because I have to support my family back in Singapore. So there were choices in life that you make because of the circumstances, and those were just the kind of circumstances that I was facing. And I really enjoy being an educator. I love the environment, I love the students, I love, you know, being in an environment where you are exchanging ideas, you're absorbing ideas, and you're always imparting something good for the future generation. But that came to a halt when when I could not handle certain sort of politics in the university. I think in every every workplace and every aspect of life, that always be politics. But at that time, I wasn't equipped with the right skill, the right mental skills, the resilience. So I left. I remember I left the university in 2009 at the height of the global economic crisis. My father was, has always been very supportive of me, but that was the only time he actually questioned. He said, “Are you sure you want to leave the university? You have a tenure. It’s so hard to get a tenure position. Are you sure you're making the right choice?”. And I essentially said, “Yes, I want to leave” because it got so bad that one day when I was heading to school for work, I was at a traffic light and the traffic light was red and I found myself in tears because I just could not bring myself to go to work. And when the lights turned green, I didn't move. I couldn't move until the cars behind me were horning me. And so I decided I would rather leave, even though it's very unstable, the future was uncertain. I'd rather leave than to stay and be subjected to that environment. But that's a lesson, a little bit of lesson there as well. What you don't learn always come back and haunt you.  

    So I went back to Singapore because my father at that time had a stroke as well. I wanted to be close to him. I started my business. I didn't know how. I didn't grow up in a business family. My father had never owned any business before I went to Australia. So it was quite nerve wracking. I gave myself nine months and in three months I cracked it. So I work with the Singapore government to help businesses to grow internationally. The timing was just right, mainly because every companies were trying to cut down costs. Companies were being very afraid of taking any kind of big risk and they needed to arm themselves with knowledges and with skills to help their businesses to grow. It's also a very, really interesting and unique situation because Singapore does not have a lot of resources. So the government at that time were trying to encourage Singapore companies to grow internationally. And so it just fits me really well. I was… I love teaching and so I transformed that into a training consultancy. And then obviously after that you went into advisory and coaching and so on. So that was quite interesting. And I remember the joy I face, I had, when I hold my business card in March when the whole world was going through a crazy time. But I knew that there was no turning back. And I know that it will be a different form of stress, but it will be a good, constructive kind of stress. 

     In 2010, I face quite a big challenge in my life. First, my father passed away and then my mental had.. had a big health issues. So I decided to bring more attention back to Perth and I slowly take on work and also assignments and that brought me back to Perth and I asked myself, how do I want to contribute back to the society? Now that my business is set up in Singapore, I've got good clients who will keep coming back. So I decided to join the United Nation Association and you know, they wanted to pick on someone like me as in pick my brain because they thought I was really good at raising funds. So I said, sure, I've raised funds for the young women. I can do this for the organization. But you would think, this is a really small nonprofit organization. It must be really easy to lead. The fact is it's not. It's an organization with very high, lofty values, very, very good goals and good mission. It is aligned with my passion, which is to have international peace and security and more importantly, the importance that we place on education and economic empowerment is key to peace. When countries trade with one another, there is no need for war, and because of that I join it. But I was shocked to find out. Number one, it wasn't that easy. Number two, it was even more political than the university when I was working for. And number three, it requires a different kind of, umm, positioning for yourself as an individual, right?  So I was spending a lot of my time the first two years just building the foundation, doing all the hard yards. I’m a very typical Asian, you know, the values that we were grow up growing up with, be seen, but never heard, you know, do as much as you can, keep your head down, be really hardworking and you don't need to take credit for anything and so on. 

    And so that went by one year, two years. And people who are doing less kept, kept, elevating. And so I asked myself, “Look, I have a vision for the organization. I want to do something for the organization. I believe that it has huge potential, but how can I do that if I'm always behind the scene?” So what I did was I took a huge leap. 

    I went and take a program at the Harvard Business School, and that particular experience changed my life. It taught me how to articulate my vision. It taught me how to pick a side because it is very normal for most people to want to just sit in the middle and not take a side because it's uncomfortable and you might be attacked. But on this journey to leadership, at some point of time, you have to take a side, you have to articulate your vision, you have to be willing to deal with conflict and you have to deal with people asking you, why are you doing this? Right? So during that experience in Harvard it was, it was life changing, I mean, it's not just for me, but also for my classmates. I have friends who are born Mormon, right? And by the end of the program, they were taking pot, they were doing cigarettes, and so on. And so, you know, I have classmates who leave their spouses. I have friends who were living in Bahamas and decided to leave that and go somewhere else because it didn't just make you question about your decisions as a business leader. It make you think about, it makes you think about why are you making certain decisions in life. So we all thought that we were going to go through this program and come off as a lean, mean business machine. But we didn't. I cannot, I cannot emphasize enough, you know, the experience I went through because every single day we have to fight with one another. So that's very uncomfortable for me. As Asians, we don't like conflict. Number two, people question your position all the time. Yeah, you’re being pushed to the extreme. And plus the fact that you only sleep four hours a day and you’re….. Yeah, you have on top of that, you still have to deal with your business and you're living with people with the most different of values with you. It's kind of a social experiment, a bit cruel, but they wanted you to have this experience, have it, want you to have disagreement and have it want you to learn how to disagree constructively. Right. And more importantly for me, it taught me how to, number one, deal with conflict and how to lead as a leader, but more importantly, how to articulate my vision. In other words, how do you self-promote which is again, extremely uncomfortable, and awkward for Asians, right? So but learning that experience, having that experience was really important.   

    So I came back with all the new found knowledge and I decided to step up after serving the organization for about six years. Well, nobody ever give up their power. And that's another thing I learn, no matter how lofty and how aspirational you think you are, some people could step down graciously and some people don't. And in this case it didn't. And so you have to learn how to lobby. You have to…. In my whole life, I was never in any student committee group. My whole life. I've never chaired any business council or any association. So I had, I was on a steep learning curve. I have to learn about politics. I have to learn how to deal with people. I have to be a team player. I have to lead with values. And so that was the biggest thing that I have to learn. And I would definitely encourage any migrants to put yourself in that position and learn it as early as possible.  

    I think there's another thing about being a leader is that you're not always going to be liked by people. That is a fact, right? And so are you going to go out there and try and please everyone? Right. Again, Asian culture is all about trying to please our guests, please people, have a very harmonious working environment and so on. Sometimes in a different culture that doesn't work, right. And on top of that, you have this barrier that we are women, we're Asian women. Again, that's another unconscious bias, again. We are being treated differently. Very, in the very beginning, when I was trying to test my networking skills, I would go to events and I would patiently listen to people and say, so what do you do? And what, what drives you? thinking that people would ask the same to me. And then so I would just listen and listen before I know someone else interrupt it, and then I just fade into the background. It was a horrible feeling. So nowadays when I go to a networking event, I'm very shrewd with my time. I'll go in, I'll listen. But at the same time I also talk about my position. So learning how to self-promote is truly important. Otherwise you are not able to build that tribe. You are not able to build that group.  

    And I would also like everyone who is in this room who is willing to learn or who is on this path of journey, this leadership journey, that there are a number of things that you can learn from my experience, learning from your own experience is overrated, learn from others. And for me, there are three things that I think is really essential for a leader in your community, in your organization, as an entrepreneur, or even as a leader of a corporation. Number one, take risks, right? If you think you deserve that position, ask for it. If you think that this relationship is not going well anymore, take the risk and move on. And if you think that this is a good venture, take a leap of faith and be driven by your values. Number two, collaborate form alliances, right? You are only so small with your voice If only you yourself is in that sound chamber. Friends and families are important, but that doesn't count because as you as we all know, once we step out of that social circle, there are so many elements that are beyond our control. And so it is extremely important to form that alliances. It's like playing a sports or football. It's like what my mentor said, you know, you never get from one goal to the next by just shooting straight. You have to be willing to pass the ball. You have to be willing to build your tribe. People who can validate your values, people who can rally up and understand your vision. And number three, stand behind your values, right. It's like a shield that protects your identity. It doesn't matter where you come from, what colour you have, how tall, how short, what accent you speak. If you can stand behind your values, people cannot attack you, right? It makes it really hard. And some people say, that's so cliche. But seriously, think about it. There are people who would die for those values. Yeah. And so if you have those three key things guiding you in your leadership journey, in your entrepreneurship journey, even in your career, you will find lots of doors will open, you'll find a lot of people come forward and say, “you know what, I really buy in to that, how can I support you?”  

    And so this brings me back to how is this relevant to migrants? As you can hear from my story, it's tough. Any new migrants that come into this country is going to go through all these challenges. But we're resilient. We're hardworking. Yeah, we're willing to learn and…. Think about it, right? What would be the world be? I mean, how would the world look like if there are no migrants in this country? Take America, for example. There wouldn't be Apple, right? There wouldn't be Google, eBay, Yahoo! I mean, none of these companies would have existed, mainly because they were driven and they were founded by migrants. Did you know that 33% of businesses here in Australia, small businesses are actually owned by migrants? Yeah, we've contributed hugely to the GDP currently about $418 billion to the economy, and it was projected that by 2050 as migrants we're contributing about, we will be contributing about $1.6 trillion. And so never underestimate the power and the contribution we make to this country and finally, I would like to say that, you know, we give much more than we take. We are all migrants. We are all humans. But above all, we are Australians. Thank you. 

    Audience: 

    *applause* 

    Dr Maggie Jiang: 

    Well, thank you so much Sandy for such amazing work and thank you for sharing with us your insights and the strategies. Well, we have about 10 minutes for Q and A, so if any question can you indicate to us and we'll pass you the microphone. Okay, Sandy, would you like to come back to the stage? 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Yeah sure, ok, this is the fun bit *laughs* 

    Yes, Luisa? 

     Luisa: 

    Hi, Sandi. Thank you for sharing us, uh, with, with us all your amazing stories. And it's it's great to see, you know, the pathway that you've, you've, you've gone through in terms of, you know, your, how successful you are. We all know, I've had the pleasure of working so closely with you and your just absolutely amazing. But you're involved with, you know, the United Nations, the ASEAN Business Council. You get involved with a lot of the ASEAN, the individual ASEAN Business Councils itself, and so many as well. What is next for for Dr. Sally Chong next?  

    Dr Sally Chong: 

    Okay. Number one, I'm not interested in politics, okay? So don't come and ask me to be a politician. I see myself as an educator and obviously I would like to do more. Currently, I'm on the working group for the Special Olympics, World Games bit. We're trying to galvanize the community to support this game because I think that it will be a game changer in terms of inclusion, not just for people of colour, not just for our first nations, but also people with disability. Currently, we're putting forward a bid and hopefully will win it, and if so, you'll be the first Special Olympics to be hosted in the Southern hemisphere. And it will also be one of the largest games to be watched worldwide. So that's, that's the next thing. So next month, I'm actually heading off to Berlin to observe the Special Olympics game. Hopefully I can learn more and meet more people and hopefully bring it back to Perth.   

    I stepped down as the president for the United Nations about six months ago. I've had a very good successor, so we are currently in in this succession planning mode and it's a very interesting transition with time as a leader, you know, I I've gone through a lot watching how leaders who can't step down graciously. Right. And I've learned a lot from Asian leaders, I've learned a lot from indigenous leaders, like I was on the WA Indigenous Tourism Council as the first asian to be on that council, it is a huge honour, but more importantly, it gives me an insight into how proud and strong indigenous people are. They never want to be seen as taking a handout. They are very rigorous in their, in the way they make that decision, in the way they serve their community. So I learned a lot from them. And when it comes to my turn to stepping down, I tell myself I need to be gracious. I was given another two more years if I want to, but I said no, mainly because if you don't step down, then new energy can't come in right. Chinese, we have a saying “Chángjiāng hòulàng tuī qiánlàng”, means the waves on the back push the waves in the front. Right. You need to make way and you need to make space for the younger generation to take the organization to the next level. And also, there's always this temptation, like power corrupts, when you stay in the position for too long, if you give yourself three years, then you do everything you can in that three years. And this is what I would like to demonstrate, that leadership comes in many different forms, right? And this is why it makes Australia so great, because we are made out of so many different cultures and people from so many different backgrounds. So, you know, yes, we've experienced certain kind of leadership and management style, which we learned in university that were written by American scholars and European scholars and all that. That's great. But I think the time is also ready now to experience different kinds of leadership. And it's incumbent on all of us here to demonstrate that to the wider public. So then they will have confidence to vote for the next hopefully the next Asian prime minister, hopefully in my lifetime or a female prime minister. Yes. Does that answer the question? Yes, but, but essentially, yeah, I take where I'm… in this case, I'm a bit like a… more Zen like, more Asian. So I take where the opportunities bring me and I'm not fussed about it really. I'm quite okay. People say, sorry, sorry, Sandy we don't need you anymore. Get out here. That's okay. All right. Next question? 

    Audience member 1: 

    Yeah, thanks Sandy for your great talk. I'm curious how you learned from other leaders. Did you read the biographies? or are you, just trying and get close to other leaders, see them up close and personal and how they operate?  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    So, yes, I, I, I like to listen to their interviews, like the biographies are great, and I used to read a lot of that. One of my favourite biographies that I read when I was in the university was Einstein's. But I also realized that there are so many inspiring leaders around us, so many inspiring leaders around us, and they don't always look one type. I learned constantly also from younger people, younger, younger leaders. I also learned from female leaders, and I loved to watch them in interviews. And nowadays with YouTube, it's really accessible because they are being put on the spot and you see how quick their mind think and they have to speak from their values, from, from their core. It's not something that they curate, and they get a ghostwriter to read and so on. So that's what I like. Yeah. 

    Audience member 1: 

    Do, you have a favourite interviewer or series?  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Ummmmm, To be honest, I see a lot of these leaders in the beginning, like ten years ago on TED Talk, but nowadays I would say I love I love it when Michelle Obama speak. You know, she's so inspiring. I also love it when this guy, Yuval, Noah, Noah Yuval, he's a philosopher, he's an Israeli philosopher. But he's also a real thinker, a real visionary. So I would also encourage you to read his book. He talks about the human history from the past and then where we're heading in the future. Really thought provoking. Yeah.  

    Audience member 1: 

    Thanks,  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Yes? 

    Audience member 2: 

    Thanks Sandy, for the talk. Very inspiring. 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    I can't hear you.  

    Audience member 2: 

    Okay. Can you hear me now?  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Yes.  

    Audience member 2: 

    Thank you for the talk. I just wanted to ask, I appreciate you sharing a lot about your background and what resonated with me is this aspect of your own values. But at the same time is recognizing the need that you need, the sort of aspects that you need to change. And so how do you, how do you balance that? Like this part of me, I need this part of me to change about this part of me is my true value,  I, I keep that. I don't know my question makes sense but…  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Okay, no no. I, I understand. As migrants, we have to be very agile and adaptable. So that's the part where you need to change. And then there are certain things that you don't change. You always stick the same. So I don't…. I don't think I've changed in terms of my values over the last ten, twenty years because I've always grown up with those values, which my father is imparted to me, and then my mentor. Ummm, you know, my mentors always me to do the right way, to do it the hard way to… The right way is always the hard way. So I think that that requires a bit of discipline, but essentially it's self reflection, right? The world is moving at a really accelerated rate. It causes a lot of people to split in terms of who they are, what they want to be, and they are questioning their self-identity all the time, right. So when you reflect on that, for me it's meditation. So for any of my friends who have heard me talk about meditation, I just discovered it two years ago, I couldn't believe I didn't start earlier. So I do meditation every day for twenty minutes and once a week for an hour, and it does amazing things to your body and your brain. You see things differently. You have a different kind of perspective, of life, of people, and it gives you this grit at the same time that…. It's very Zen like, It's like, you know, you move with time, you don't get yourself stagnant, but at the end, everything doesn't matter, right? Everything goes, everything fades. And so when you look at things in that perspective, you learn to live and let live. Yeah, I think it comes of age as well. When I was young, I was like, “Why isn't.. why isn’t people.. Why aren’t everyone moving the same pace as I am? I totally could see this. Why can't people buy into this?” You see, the thing is, I didn't realize that the world doesn't rotate around me. Yeah?  

    So, so, yeah, so back to that question. Yes. You need to change. You adapt. So the way I put it to some my clients is you have personality and you have character. Characters are things that you don't change, just internal. Personalities are things that are is is a shoe or is an identity that you change according to whoever you meet. Obviously, you're not going to be the same person among your friends horsing around versus when you are with your boss, Right? So that's not being two-faced. That's just wearing different mask for different situation. So if, if, if, if, I'm not sure if you, if you understand where I'm coming from, but we have to change that because that's how people perceive us and accordingly we need to survive. But internally, as long as we don't change, as long as our values are just, are right, then you'll be fine. Yeah. Which is like what I said before, people can attack you for your skin colour, your accent or the way you dress, but people can't really attack your values.  

    Audience member 2: 

    Thank you.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Yes?  

    Audience member 3: 

    Thank you so much for the inspiring speech. Can you hear me?  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Yes.   

    Audience member 3 

    Umm, So, other than the regret for not party hard at uni….   

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    *laughs* 

    Audience member 3 

    …part. Is there any other regret that you have? If you can do the immigration thing… 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    The whole process? All over again?  

    Audience member 3: 

    …all over again, is there any regret and you want to do differently?  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thanks for reminding me about the party part.  

    Audience: 

    *laughs* 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    So back to that story right when I said forming alliances. So I reflected upon my career in my early thirties and I realized that I was a loner. Yes, I was getting a lot teaching awards. Yes, I was, you know, very well published, you know, I keep getting promoted. But the problem is I didn't form alliances within my workplace. Right. It's very easy for people to think, you know, you're a straight-A student. You all you've always done this really well. And then you get to the next stage to honours and then a Ph.D. Surely you've done that all by yourself, and therefore you can excel, you know, all by yourself. That's a fallacy, right? Because it's a little bit more complex when you are in a workplace or when you're even in a family there are politics around. So you need to learn how to navigate around people. I mean, I know I don't look that way, but I'm seriously shy and I'm actually an introvert. I don't like going out there. I don't like wheeling and dealing. I don't like to play that game. But I realize that sometimes if you do it right, it's not a game. It's actually quite fun. You end up inheriting a whole host of family like the ones in this room that you never thought you would have met in your life and it makes you a life a lot richer. So I have to say the biggest regret I have was when I was younger in the university. I really should have gone out and have parties. I really should have made more friends, you know, because all these people whom I would connect with in university, they may become the CEO of a firm or they may, they may become another entrepreneur whom I can collaborate with. But I didn't get that chance. I didn't, and that was I had to learn that at the age of forty-five at Harvard, it was the same thing when I first came into the class in my living group, there are seven of us living in the, in, in the same vicinity. Theres a kitchen. You have a concierge service, but essentially you live with one another. You live and breathe from 7 am to 7 pm, you have two hours of dinner and then you continue with the case studies. So we literally clash. We fought with one another, but we ended up loving each other so much. And we have this strong comradeship that no one can ever take away from us. But if I remember the first time I walked into the room, I was a little bit, you know, I was very shy. I went straight to my room, I dragged my luggage, I went straight to my room. You know, I was just painfully shy. I just didn't know how to connect with people, didn't know how to talk to people. So that has changed my life and so I would think, an advice to everyone, you know, just don't be shy, go out, have a good time. You know, don't go out with an agenda. Just, just have a good time, get to know people.  

    Other regrets I have in life. Hmm, I wish I spent more time with my father. Yeah. You know, people that matter to you, people who love you. Yes. You want to do more things in life and life keeps throwing you things. But at the end of the day, yeah, you need to weigh it out. You really need to weigh out because parents only get older as you grow older. Yeah. And I think at this age where I'm starting to see my godparents in Japan getting really old and frail, it makes me question about you know, why do I do the things I do? Yes, I want to make an impact in this society, but I also just wanted to go to my godparent’s house, wash the dishes, you know, help him with the walking and literally just sit by him when he's watching TV. That’s it, simple things. Yeah. Any other questions?  Yes?  

    Unknown: 

    Last question thank you. 

    Audience member 4: 

    Thank you for sharing. Can you hear me? 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    I see you bring your son  

    Audience member 4: 

    Yeah. As we can see, you are so young. But you did a so many things.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    I'm not young.  

    Audience: 

    *laughs* 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    I'm a museum. Next, next month I'm fifty.  

    Audience member 4: 

    So I want to know, how do you manage your time?  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Okay, ahh *laughs* Anyone who knows me, are probably rolling the eyes. So I don't sleep much.  

    Unknown: 

    [inaudible 48:06] ..4am in the morning.. 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    *laughs* I don't….. Okay, disclaimer here, disclaimer here, right. If I send you a text or if you receive a text from me at 3am in the…. 4pm in the morning, I'm not expecting you to read it. I'm not expecting you to reply. Right. It's just that time of the night, my brain is most active and I, you know, daytime, I do my, my work and then nighttime is the only time I can finish out with all my nonprofit stuff. So, I mean, I don't advocate this, but I don't sleep a lot. I sleep about on average about 4 to 5 hours a day. That's why I said the meditation is a very good mechanism to help you and when you meditate, you don't really need that much sleep. And, and also, to be honest, I think I mentioned this in a previous talk, I spend twenty of my…… twenty percent of my time generating income, the other eighty percent is all volunteer work. And a lot of people say, how do you do that? You know, number one, it's about being super organized with the time, right? You know, some people will say, wow, you're very, very organized. But some people look at my laptop and you think, you know, you're an OCD. So it's like everything has to be in the right place and so on. So for me, I feel that, you know, I don't have a lot of time. So I make sure that, you know, I'm very efficient and everything is very organized. I think when I lived in Japan, when I was in my mid-twenties, I was an exchange student in Japan. I learned a lot from the Japanese. And then when I finished my postdoc, I was stationed in Germany. I learned a lot from the Germans and I think if you are very efficient your life, then you know, you just spend less of time trying to remember where you put things. But I think my, my godfather told me three things before I left Japan when I was there the first year. He said, There are three things in life that you have to remember. It's very easy to understand, but very hard to do. Number one, be on time, *laughs* still trying. Okay, Number two, respect the elders, respect the old. And number three, respect your environment. Keep your environment clean. If you can keep it clean, your mind is clean. So those are those are the kind of ethos and motto I have in life. And, you know, I don't advocate people having not enough sleep, but I do think that I love the work that I do. I love the connection I make in a community. It gives me a lot of drive. I wish I get turned on by money, but I'm unfortunately I'm not one of those people. And if you are, it's absolutely fine. Absolutely okay. So for me, if I want to spend all this time doing the work that I do in a community, then I need to be extremely efficient with my business and my income generating source of work. So I think the community work drives me to be effective, to be efficient, to be productive. Yeah, everything else, I just credit to meditation. Yeah.  

    Dr Maggie Jiang: 

    Thanks so much for your [inaudible 47:11] response and for answering questions from the audience 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

    Dr Maggie Jiang: 

    We’ll leave about 10 minutes for networking. Please give a round of applause.  

    Audience: 

    *Applause* [this rendered what maggie said next inaudible]  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  

    Dr Maggie Jiang: 

    We’ll have about ten is networking so you're welcome to carry on the conversation with Sandy if you would like to but before that can I have Professor Amanda Davies to the stage and, to present a small gift to Sandy…. 

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Oh, thank you 

    Dr Maggie Jiang: 

    as small token…  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you. I didn't expect that. Oh Wow 

    Professor Amanda Davies: 

    Sandy, you're so generous with your knowledge. You've got a lot of experience.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you.  

    Professor Amanda Davies: 

    I need to write some notes.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    *laughs* 

    Professor Davies: 

    My take away was that I'm going to meditate this weekend. I'm going to party this weekend and I'm going to give my Dad a ring.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    *laughs* aww 

    Professor Amanda Davies: 

    But, thanks so much.  

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you. Thank you so much.  

    Professor Amanda Davies: 

    Thank you Sandy.  

    Audience: 

    *applause*

    Dr Sandy Chong: 

    Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Thank you so much. 

    Outro: 

    Thanks for listening to the talks archive brought to you by the Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip. To listen to other episodes, got to https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/episodes/conversation where you can hear a range of talks and conversations. The talks archive is recorded on Whadjuk Nyoongar Boodjar. The WA museum acknowledges and respects the traditional owners of the ancestral lands, waters and skies.  

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