It’s been quite the thrill for me to watch the activities of Hoffman’s Asia Pacific operation over the years. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a long string of dynamic players — from Lou himself, to Ray Shuster, Michelle Herman, Maureen Tseng, Lydia Lau, Jenny Chan, Shingo Nomura, Kaori Saito, Sue Kim and many more. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed meeting Cass Cheong, Shawn Balakrishnan and Masaya Takahama when they visited San Jose in November.
I realize it seems like I’m quite the name dropper, but these folks have really opened up the Asia Pacific world for me. At times, I feel like I’m The Hoffman Agency’s version of Emily Dickinson (although I’m a lousy poet!). Since the day Ray moved to Singapore to open our AP operations 20 years ago, I’ve remained in San Jose contributing what I can from afar.
And what a vicarious adventure it’s been for me, seeing Ray prepare for his year-long stint with all the excitement of planning and anticipation of the adventures awaiting him.
My world of the late 1990s was an entirely different place. I had a vague idea where Singapore was, but knew nothing of its history or its business position in Asia. I quickly began reading (my usual modus operandi) and did the best I could to prepare supporting Ray while he was there. A couple years later, I did the same thing for Michelle, although by that time I had a better feel for approaching new grounds in Asia.
I kept in touch with Michelle regularly while she was our Asia Pacific MD based in Hong Kong. She always had a new story to share … whether it was about a client success or a personal faux pas. One time when I happened to call her, she was shopping in the open air market and sorting through vegetables. She nearly shrieked hearing a voice from home. And I felt that I was right there helping her select that night’s dinner.
Heather Hoffman, storyteller extraordinaire, has done a wonderful job of bringing her many Asia Pacific experiences home to me. She has shared her adventures attending Natalie Kessler’s wedding in Malaysia and the PR Week Awards dinner in Hong Kong … I know what everybody wore and what they ate. And I almost know how hot it was driving through the Malaysian countryside on the way to that wedding.
Our Building Bridges program is another way that Hoffman has brought me closer to Asia Pacific. Several Hoffman U.S. employees have made the trek to Asia to serve short-term assignments — learning about Asian business culture and sharing some of their own U.S. experiences with their AP counterparts. While I have never ventured to the continent, I learned so much from our Bridgers — Molly Taylor, Paul Barbieri, Brian Schwartz, Gabe Boeckman and Emily Hemmelgarn. Linda Wilson, our IT director in the early years, also shared her many experiences working with the various Hoffman AP offices. (Oh, dear, there I go name dropping again!)
The AP folks who have ventured here have opened my eyes as well. I’m always looking forward to regular visits from Lydia, Shingo and Jenny. Just seeing them warms my heart and brings our worlds together.
This 20-year vicarious excursion to Asia Pacific has taken me to places I never could have imagined. Thank you, Lou, for getting me out of my San Jose office … at least in spirit.