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?