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Don’t forget number 1

by Jared Seah on February 21, 2013

I had a Taiwanese colleague who is the “unofficial” leader in the office in Taiwan. We call her “Da Jie” (Big Sister).

At that time, all the official heads of our offices in Asia Pacific were either a Swede or a Dane. You know how it is when we worked in a European MNC. (It has since changed with more diversity. And don’t you believe this “tapping the local talent” crap… It’s all about dollars and cents.)

This Taiwanese colleague got posted to Shanghai 9 months before me. She was I guess 5-8 years older than me (never ask a lady her age)? And I believe she had been in the company 10 years longer.

Long story short. She was fired during my 2nd year in Shanghai. One reason I like working for this company is that we have many cases of someone getting fired in one division or office, and weeks or months later the same fired person will be reemployed elsewhere in another organisation in the same company!? I don’t think it can happen in an Asian or American company.

Suffice to say she was offered a job at the Head Office by her previous Swedish boss who has returned backed to Sweden. She turned down the offer and returned to Taiwan instead. So it’s more a matter of “differences in opinions” between her and her present Shanghai boss. 

I met this Taiwanese colleague in Taiwan during one of my business trips and over dinner, she shared with me her regrets and offered this advice to me – Don’t forget number 1. 

Assumptions and plans

She had planned to work until retirement with our present company. She loved the job, worked hard with the late nights and weekends burnt. In reciprocate, the company encouraged and motivated her efforts with promotions and overseas posting.

She had prioritised her career over love. She is single. She thought work can replace her emotional needs. She bought into the men’s war cry: “Work is my life!” 

She assumed doing a job she loves will take care of her forever.

It’s all a lie. An illusion. A mirage. 

Regrets

Not getting a property when prices were low. She mistakenly thought since company is paying for accommodation and/or since living with parents, no need to get tied down to a place. She got a rude shock upon returning to Taiwan. 

Her contemporaries who were below her in the career ladder were much better off financially in net asset terms just by owning their own homes – especially if they had bought during the 97 Asian financial crisis or during the aftermath of the dot.com bubble bust in 2002 to 2003.   

She also regretted not getting herself financially literate all these years. She has some money stashed away and is not exactly what you call poor. 

She has no problem making decisions using other people’s money when working for someone. Where to source a product – from which country and supplier – is not exactly involving peanuts. 

But now using her own money, she shared it’s difficult to squeeze the trigger on her own investments. Something she has only recently got acquainted with…  (I used the word acquainted to differentiate people who out of the blue declare they want to invest/trade for a living after losing their job from those who are passionately investing/trading on the side with a day job and naturally transitioned to fulltime when “it’s time”. Same same but different!)   

Her biggest regret is not thinking what she really wanted all these years. She had been too busy “working”.  

(I’ll leave out the emotional regret parts out. It’s a bit personal. Just a hint that’s the biggest regret above.)  

Interesting new developments in Taiwan

Pension reform in Taiwan 

Although it does not affect my ex-Taiwan colleague directly, I think it’s relevant to this post.

Don’t forget number 1

Although I’ve not said a single word on what’s “Don’t forget number 1”, I believe when you are receptive to hear your own inner voice, you know what it is.


Singapore Man of Leisure (welcome to my blog; just google it!)


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