Author and CEO Betty Ng started her career as an auditor and tax consultant, then graduated from Harvard Business School into a successful career in financial services. However, she had always had dreams of becoming a "successful social entrepreneur." Her company inspiring Diversity, a collaborative community with members of all backgrounds who inspire, empower, and elevate each other to achieve career goals, made that dream a reality. In April, Ng took her mission of empowering diverse leaders even further. She penned her memoir PO-LING POWER with her mother, Po-Ling Ng, to share the pair's stories of resilience and strong leadership. The PO-LING principles have since been adapted into an app, and will soon be a children's book (written by Ng's children).
Ng spoke with Fairygodboss about how she overcame personal challenges to become a leader in the male-dominated financial services industry, and how she stayed on task to create a successful social enterprise. Then, she shared the career advice that inspired PO-LING POWER.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Betty Ng
CEO, inspiring Diversity (iD)
New York, NY
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
As a graduate of Stanford University (BA in Economics), I started my career as an auditor and tax consultant at Arthur Andersen in San Francisco. After three years, I continued my journey west to Beijing, China where I found my roots, helped Arthur Andersen’s joint venture build a great business, and had the opportunity to travel extensively to appreciate many different cultures and perspectives. Knowing that I did not want to be pigeon-holed as an accountant, I decided to pursue my MBA.
After graduating Harvard Business School, I wrote a vision letter to my older self about becoming a “successful social entrepreneur”. I wound up putting my vision aside for about 15 years, pursuing an intellectually stimulating and exciting business career in financial services at American Express, Citigroup, and Moody’s – primarily focused on strategy and executing M&A deals around the world. Having risen up the ranks to become a senior vice president of corporate development, as someone of a diverse background who has experienced professional challenges and successes, I am well-positioned to lead my company, Inspiring Diversity - and to realize my personal vision developed so many years earlier!
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
I am proud of developing a practical solution for building inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing organizations and communities. In doing so, I have been able to pay tribute to and deepen my relationship with my mom, Po-Ling Ng, an internationally recognized leader and single mom who raised four of us on a social worker’s salary. We have co-authored a leadership memoir, PO-LING POWER, which shares our life journeys and a powerful evaluation and measurement tool for how well you are propelling yourself and others to success while managing what matters while managing what matters. In conjunction with that, as the CEO of iD, I have spearheaded the development of a corresponding PO-LING POWER app, which allows users to build their own PO-LING POWER and collaborate with allies to achieve goals that matter. Supported with our training and consulting, this practical multi-media solution helps organizations drive profitability and sustainability by increasing employee inclusion, engagement, and performance. It’s truly exciting to work with my mom while helping organizations and individuals reach their potential!
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
As a Chinese American businesswoman, I have oftentimes experienced both the benefits as well as challenges of being “split down the middle” in terms of being both Chinese and American. While I have been able to leverage my background and experience tied to China to differentiate myself professionally, I’ve also been challenged as a result. The traditional Chinese values and expectations of deferring to your elders had for many years translated to deferring to my superiors in meetings. As a result, I would oftentimes not be very vocal in meetings, particularly where I was not the assigned leader. I have found though that to be successful in Corporate America, it is important to be vocal as a way to demonstrate your value and what you bring to the table. I have tackled this challenge with a mindset of genuine confidence in the valuable perspectives I offer. This is particularly critical now as I lead Inspiring Diversity and must be very vocal in all aspects of the work we do.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
In addition to my mom, Po-Ling, I have many mentors and role models I truly adore. Yai Vargas, founder and CEO of The Latinista, is an authentic soul who inspires me with her passion and drive to make a difference. Recently, Yai bravely left her career in financial services to lead The Latinista full-time. She truly exemplifies PO-LING POWER in all that she does, particularly to propel other women to success. Yai is phenomenal at building relationships and creating real win-win business opportunities.
What do you do when you're not working?
When I’m not working, I enjoy my family, friends, and self-care. In particular, I love traveling around the world with my two young children and husband. We often invite friends and family to stay with us so that we can enjoy quality time together. I know though that if I am to be a good mother and to remain energized, I must also take care of myself. So, I do my best to exercise most mornings. In the evenings, I love just cuddling with my kids and reading a good book with them! Now, I’m also helping them write their own children’s book based on the PO-LING principles!
If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
The Joy Luck Club.
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
PO-LING POWER! It reinforces the fundamental belief that “anything is possible, regardless of your background, as long as we help each other to succeed.” It gives me confidence that “I can” whenever any doubt that “I can’t” creeps in.
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
My current shopping vice is striking professional dresses. But if I won the lottery, I’d accelerate my investments in Inspiring Diversity, hiring more employees and building out functionality we’ve already mapped out to propel organizations and individuals to achieve more than they ever thought was possible. I’d also accelerate our philanthropic plans to empower underprivileged youth and adults with resources they need to achieve their goals. If there’s money left over, I’d buy a bigger apartment in Manhattan with striking views (although my husband would prefer a yacht, which we would use to sail around the world).
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
My favorite tip is “Don’t build a bridge the day you need it.” To be successful, you should establish and nurture relationships – helping each other along the way. As another mentor has reinforced, “Your network is your net worth.” Admittedly, I didn’t fully appreciate this when I was younger. Now, I attribute much of my success to my network, which I have built over the years often helping others without any expectation of reciprocity. As a result of building these bridges over time, I now have an incredible network which has supported me and opened doors for me in ways I could never have imagined. That’s why “Others” and “Network” are the “O” and “N” in “PO-LING POWER”! It’s also why we created the PO-LING POWER app to help users to collaborate to help each other achieve goals that matter.
Why do you love where you work?
I love working at Inspiring Diversity because I am able to be and to leverage my authentic self to drive impact for organizations and people of all backgrounds. As the founder and CEO, I fully practice what I preach with respect to PO-LING POWER – propelling myself and others to success. Namely, I persevere for my (P)riorities, passions, and authentic self while helping (O)thers to succeed. I do this by (L)eading, (I)nspiring, (N)etworking, and (G)rowing, ensuring that I remain aligned with my (P)riorities, (O)bligations, (W)orthwhile Activities, (E)nergy, and (R)esources. At Inspiring Diversity, I have reinvented myself from being a large company corporate executive focused on mergers & acquisitions to being a tech & media entrepreneur, author, public speaker, trainer, and consultant. I also get to work with and meet incredible people every day (many of whom are featured on inspiringdiversity.com)!
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.