Growing up in Quebec, there were a few successful female role models, Asian role models were simply non-existent.
Especially in the legal field, it is still mainly a white male dominated world: the “old boys club”! While 70% of the law students are women, 50% become lawyers and only 19% of become partners in law firms. As a lawyer of Chinese descent, I am one of the 64 lawyers of Chinese descent out of the 25,000 lawyers in Quebec.
To succeed as a lawyer in Quebec, I have 3 strikes against me: strike 1: I am young, strike 2: I am a woman and strike 3: I am Chinese.
I am here for 3 reasons: 1) I am a young 2) I am a women and 3) I am Chinese.
Interestedly, growing up, I was not aware of these odds against up… My parents convinced me that I was special and that I could become whatever I want in life, as long as I would become a doctor, a dentist or a lawyer.
I was born on August 31st 1983 at 10:40 p.m. at Royal Alexandra hospital in Edmonton. My Dad was pressuring my Mom to give birth to me before midnight or else, I would not be able to enroll in school on time for September 1st! There was no doubt that my Asian dad already had high expectations for me. While other kids were playing with Barbie dolls, every year, I received books and encyclopedias as birthday gifts year after year. My idea of fun was teaching my younger sister multiplication tables!
As far as I can remember, my goal was to study at McGill University. I can’t really tell whether it’s my parents’ dream or my own but I was convinced that without a University degree I would end up on the streets!
Very fast, I learned that good grades weren’t enough to get my dream job.
There are only 50 students out of the 1000 law students that would get an articling position in a big law firm. That is 5%!
To get hire, you obviously need the grades, you need to have extra-curricular activities, preferably, leadership positions. You need to speak at least 3 languages and possibly well traveled a student exchange. It is also good to know a few people in the field.
I absolutely had no clue of any of this!
I got rejected 27 times but I never gave up!
My Dad always told me that there are 3 types of people:
1) At the bottom, there are people who are offered opportunities but let them go
2) Most of the people are to seize the opportunity
3) At the top, the most successful people are those who create opportunities from themselves
A few years ago, I came up with an idea. I envisioned myself as a company. I decided to build my own start-up and become the CEO: Selena inc.
Today, I will tell how I created my own opportunity with Selena inc. I had a business plan, a great team and a killer marketing plan.
First of all, I created a business plan for Selena inc.
The only limited resource that we have is Time! We only have 24 hours per day! Each decision we make, each relationship we nurture, each projet we undertake take investment of time. A plan allowed me to have a clear vision and be efficient with time.
Also, a plan is essential because it helped me stayed focus and identify what I really wanted. I would tell everybody with my plan. It made me committed to my plan and made sure that all my decisions would align with my objectives.
Basically, I did my own SWOT analysis: I identified internal factors that defined me: my strengths and my weaknesses then identified external factors on which I did not have the control: opportunities and threats.
I’ve asked myself how where I wanted to be in 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. I have pinpointed my priorities. I look at my available resources. I have studied the market.
I wanted to become a commercial lawyer but I was practicing litigation and represented insurance companies in construction law files. It was 2 opposite practice.
I knew that I am one of the very few lawyers that knew how to speak Chinese and that I had network in this community. My weaknesses were that I knew nothing about commercial law. I had the opportunity to develop the Chinese market but the economy was bad for a commercial lawyer.
I knew that I needed a team to help me achieve my goal.
In every company, the human resources are key to its success. In Selena inc., there are 3 parts: the board members, the executives and the team!
The board members of company are the foundation of Selena inc. They helped me define who I am. I know that I am able to tackle any crazy challenge. If I failed, they will always be there to help me rebuild Selena inc. In my case, it’s my Dad, my Mom, my sister and my husband.
Friends are family members that we choose. They can also become board members.
Within your human resources, there are 2 positions that are really important to fill to ensure the success of Selena inc.: the mentor and the sponsor. Mentors and sponsors serve different purposes, but their end goal is the same: to support you in achieving your goals.
A lot of you know what is a mentor, it’s a source of guidance and advice. It’s difficult to ask someone to be your mentor if they don’t know who you are, because a mentorship needs to be about connection, chemistry, and trust. You may have more than one mentor in different aspects of your life!
You won’t always know who your sponsors are, but they are people who will advocate for you when you need to be more visible. It’s someone who will get out of their way for you.
They will open doors for you!
For a company to grow and to be successful, you need a team. There is an expression that says that you need a village a raise a baby. The team of Selena inc. is my network! It takes time and effort to build a network but it is the most important resources for your success. The earlier your start, the easier it will be. The fact that you are here on a Sunday afternoon listening to conference speakers on success is already a great step!
How? It’s always important to stick to your business plan and know where you want to be. It does not have to be related to your field of work. It’s important that you are passionate about the projects because it’s often volunteering work when you start.
The best way to build a network is to get involve! Being a member of an association is not enough. You need to accomplish something. One of my mentor told me to never waste my time in an organization where I did not aspire to become the president.
My friends, my colleagues, my business partners are part of my network. They are the human capital of Selena inc.
In 2014, I have decided to ride from Montreal to Quebec on a bike to raise money for Cancer. My network taught me ride a bike, where to find the best deal for my bike and helped me raise 70 000$ in a few months!
Once you have your team, you are ready to go!
Finally, for your company to be successful, you need to promote your company with proper marketing strategy. Hear me out: STOP being humble!!! If you don’t tell people about your accomplishments, nobody will!!! As a woman and an Asian, it’s against my nature to brag but to become a leader in the Western business world, you need to scream out loud your accomplishments.
Chinese have been established in Montreal for over 200 years. Despite being known as over-achievers and successful professionals and entrepreneurs, there are still few Chinese executives or political leaders in Montreal. As President of the Young Professional Association, I wanted to change the statistics by helping our members to rise in influential circles of Quebec.
YCPA is a non-for-profit association that has been founded in 1999 by Mr. Kelvin Mo. Throughout the years, YCPA has set high standards to establish itself as a key institution within the business community and across the three tiers of government. We are helping our members by providing them with a strong network, a leadership and mentorship program. We have a quarterly magazine where we write about success stories of our members. We have a Recognition award for the professional of the year, the student of the year and also the volunteer of the year. All these projects are led by passionate and talented volunteers who believe that we want to build a strong legacy for future generations to come!
I took my Dad advice and I create my own opportunity. I became the President of the Young Chinese Professionals Association. This is how I branded Selena inc.: I am a Young, Women leader for the Chinese communities! Last year, I integrated the commercial team of Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon because I was able to build a commercial portfolio made up of clients from my network and my branding.
I encourage you all to create your own opportunities and become the best version of yourself. Take your weaknesses and turn them into your strengths. I look forward to learn more about your inc.