That’s what Michelle Herman told me not long after I was hired.
According to Lou: “Lydia is so serious. You think she can fit in to our culture? At least smile for us?”
This was how it began.
Lou and Michelle had the privilege of witnessing me in a light blue dress suit during my first interview at the café at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Central Hong Kong. I had returned from the States having worked for a very conservative CPA firm for two-and-a-half years in Houston and was currently at a PR agency managed by a British MD. Naturally, I was a bit uptight.
My second and third encounters with Michelle changed her perception a bit. She gradually learned that “work hard and play hard” is my motto.
Michelle asked me why I would work for an unknown PR agency in Asia. To me, people are the most important factor in a work experience. I trust my gut. When Lynn Furrow told me that I would be working with some fun people, I trusted her. Yes that was blind faith.
From my first days at Hoffman, Michelle taught me “expectation management” — the best (and right) thing imprinted in my mind since Day 1.
As time went on, we hired new talent and looked for candidates with “can do” and “fearless” attitudes. In my early Hoffman years we had a good group of entrepreneurs; we called them “builders.”
I knew I was one when Michelle handed me a large, awkward box of invoices. We didn’t use any accounting software at the time — we (meaning I) just had to figure it out. Perhaps I had nothing to lose and was born to be a problem-solver. I saw such problems and challenges as fun, and after fixing something would quickly move on to next obstacle.
Again, people are the key reason why I am still here after 16 years.
Watching the team relay tips and recaps during clients’ roadshows from one country to another always made me feel that I was part of the team.
I have worked with the most caring and collaborative colleagues at Hoffman. They know well the domino effect in helping others succeed — and having fun along the way.
In the early days, I met my colleagues Zhong Li, Theresa Shen, and Howard Zhang from China, Kaori Saito from Tokyo, Sue Kim from Seoul, and Maureen Tseng from Singapore via numerous emails. When we held our first AP Summit in San Jose, I finally got to put names to their faces.
As I travelled to other Asian countries and met the teams in various location
s, I learned that they also had that extra spark.
And what surprised me more was that folks on the other side of the ocean were also fun and “serious.”
Hmmm … is this fun element some sort of Hoffman trait?
When I arrived in San Jose, I was surprised by the Building Bridges poster that greeted me in the building elevator. BTW, Hoffman did not own the whole building, and strangers from other offices were also entertained by the poster below!
I realized that I must have landed my dream job.
What more could I ask for?
Before I close, I would like to share one more term I learned: empathy.
We connect. We care.
I did not only start my career at Hoffman, I’ve also made all my friendships through Hoffman.
Stay tuned for more fun journeys with the gang.
I sincerely congratulate all my colleagues and Lou who made this happen.
P.S. I can still help organize a bag of invoices and money …
P.P.S. How would I forget the woman behind the scenes?
Lydia, I can’t believe you outed me with the box of invoices! I was expecting a story about the 1000 boxes of paper clips that I mistakenly ordered, that you claim still remain as office supplies in the Hong Kong office. And yes, I remember well the laughter (dare I say fright?) when I introduced you to my “finances.” I loved your post and I loved the blue suit (I haven’t seen your legs since, btw). Your impact on the development and soul of HA AP can only be surpassed by the impact you’ve made on everyone who has been part of the Hoffman family, across all offices. I put myself at the top of this list. My family is a close second! I feel incredibly lucky that Lynn introduced you to us… and that you took a chance on me. Thank you for all that you taught me. Thank you for just being you.
Michelle, you know we are good partners! Last year, I managed to help you consumed the last clips of the 1000 batch you ordered 16 years ago (you better believe it!)
Anyhow, it’s about the trust and respect that you show us and I bear in mind till now.
I had nothing to lose and looking back, I, in the other way, gained so much from this journey, knowledge, friendships, and the chance of being me (on top of the weight that no one wants to gain!).
Thank you for being there for us in the early stage…the very important stage that shape us who we are!
Great insights Lydia! Always good to hear from someone who has seen Hoffman through the years (:
Thank you Adele!