Ellen Cheng (E.15)
Beijing. We met Ellen in Zhang Xi studio in Beijing’s creative 798 Art District. Following a very rigorous career plan in the communication and PR sector, she graduated with an EMBA from HEC in 2015. However, the outcome of this program was unexpected: instead of stepping up in a big PR corporation as planned, Ellen decided to dedicate her talents to working with the UNICEF. Discover how a career controlled slide can lead you to exciting new roads.
Read full transcript…
HU: Thanks Ellen for setting up this professional studio for our Beijing interviews. We are a little bit intimidated but no doubt the video will look great. So as the tradition goes, we will start with a « Chinese » portrait. If you were… a color?
EC: I will be red, because red means power, passion and luck.
HU: A animal?
EC: Maybe a white swan, because it is always graceful.
HU: A meal?
EC: Chicken soup, it gives you energy!
HU: A song?
EC: Adele, Rolling in the deep, a very powerful song.
HU: A movie?
EC: Sleepless in Seattle, it is a very romantic movie.
HU: A sin?
EC: Maybe lust. Oh no, vanity.
HU: A sport or a game?
EC: I like golfing.
HU: A book?
EC: A book by Kai Fu Lee, the founder of Innovation Works
HU: A hero or a superhero?
EC: Superman, because my son likes Superman
HU: Thank you! Now, could you sum up your professional background in 30 seconds?
EC: I spent 18 years in communication consultancy in leading international agencies such as Ketchum and MSL (part of Publicis Group). So 18 years between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Last year I moved from public relations and communication in the private sector to the UN agency UNICEF, so in the public sector. Now I am the senior corporate partnership consultant for UNICEF China. I help the UNICEF to find and develop corporate partners for our programs in China.
“UNICEF is not a charity organization, we are a UN agency that deals with humanitarian development”
HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?
EC: I think it is the people I work with. Every day, when I look on the internet I see number of stories about my my colleagues around the world. They dedicate their lives, and in some places even risk their lives, to help the most vulnerable children in the world. The cases they are working on are impacted by emergencies, disasters, diseases, conflicts… It inspires and motivates me everyday.
HU: Did you have to cope with a difficult choice in your career? What did you learn?
EC: Yes I did. It was when I graduated from HEC. I could either take a senior position in a big corporation or start my own business or join an NGO. Different paths were open to me. However destiny brought me to UNICEF, to the kids, because I have a 4 years old son and I decided to follow my heart instead of getting back to big corporations, where I could earn a better living, but it makes me happy to work for the UNICEF.
HU: What is the UNICEF’s strategy in China?
EC: I cannot talk about the UNICEF as a whole, but I can talk about my work. The biggest challenge for us is to make corporation’s senior executives understand what the UNICEF is about: our working models, our programs missions. We are not a charity organization, we are a UN agency that deals with humanitarian development.
HU: What is your typical working day?
EC: We have eight hours working days, we usually do not work overtime, which is good. In the morning, I would have morning meeting with the teams, discussing the day’s priorities and divide up the work. I also sometimes sit with the UNICEF program managers to find the best corporate matches for their needs. Meeting with corporates are also a very important part of my work. I do a lot of readings too.
HU: Where do you hang out during your free time?
EC: I now dedicate my free time to my family but I wasn’t used to, mainly because my work was very time consuming. I used to do a lot of golfing in the week end and go clubbing sometimes.
“At HEC we really worked and learned hard but we played hard too. Every month I was responsible for organizing dinners and parties for the class. I believe parties are a great way to bring people together”
HU: Any club you would recommend us in Beijing?
EC: It depends who will go. For you I would say Sanlitun Village, they have many nice and trendy clubs with nice Chinese live bands. I can bring you there if you’d like to.
HU: If you had 24 hours left to live in Beijing, what would you do?
EC: I think I would be with my family. We would cook a nice meal and stay together, watch TV, play Lego with my son. Yes, it would be as simple as that, with my family.
HU: What are your favorite places in Beijing?
EC: Again, I would recommend Sanlitun Village, because it is a fashionable place, fashion stores, nice restaurants and many young people hang around there. I feel the life there. It is very close from my work place and I would go there very often.
HU: What do you like most about people in Beijing?
EC: People in Beijing are very open minded and very inclusive. Because it is so big and it is the capital city, it has a lot of history and it attracts many people.
HU: According to you, what is today’s Beijing biggest challenge?
EC: As a Beijing resident I would say pollution. Beijing has a lot of history, which nobody can copy and great people are living there but the city would definitely reach its full potential if the air were cleaner.
HU: And what would be China’s most important challenge for you?
EC: I think, again, it is the environment. I think the country is improving very fast on the economic and social standpoints. I am confident. But if every actor could be more responsible for the environment I think everybody would be happier to live in China.
HU: What is your best memory from HEC?
EC: I think it is the parties! We really worked and learned hard but we played hard too. Every month I was responsible for organizing dinners and parties for the class. I believe parties are a great way to bring people together.
HU: What advice would you give to a young EMBA participant?
EC: Try to take jobs in different countries. Everybody has to face the challenge of globalization. If you really want to be a global talent, try to take jobs in different countries and if you can different continents. If I were young, I would do this.
HU: Three words to describe your feeling about HEC?
EC: Diversity, romantic, because it is a French school, and genuine. People are very genuine there.
HU: HEC’s motto is “the more you know, the more you dare”. What is your own motto?
EC: My motto would be “stay hungry, stay foolish”.
… or pick a category…
…or an Alumnus
Jean-Paul is currently developing the first drug candidate that could efficiently prevent premature labour, which could imply saving thousands of lives every day. About: Biotechnology - Premature birth - Drug development
Jonathan is doing so good that François Hollande came to New York to visit his company
About: French Tech - Optimism - Super Dad
Florence pretends she was very not funny and un-cool when she was 20. Should we understand she is now? Only you can tell.
About: TV production - Maturity - Yoga or not yoga