A dream job that never stops giving
If we don’t understand Asia today, we are doomed to fail.”
Alice Mong, executive director of Asia Society Hong Kong Center, joined the team here in Hong Kong in November 2011.
The center at the time was poised to open at its new home at the Old Victoria Barracks, where it moved the following February, and Mong joined as a consultant.
Taiwan-born Mong grew up in the US, where her family immigrated in the early 1970s. As a student at the Ohio State University in the ’80s, she chose International Relations as her major as she wanted to be a diplomat. Later she joined the state government of Ohio.
“When I worked for the state of Ohio, my job was to promote trade. Ohio was doing a lot of business with China, Hubei province in particular, so I moved to Hong Kong in 1992, to work for the Ohio trade office in Hong Kong. I stayed here for 11 years,” Mong recalled.
Then she moved back to the US and worked in New York for nine years for two non-profit organizations, one of which was the Museum of Chinese in America.
“I joined the museum as director in 2009, when it was moving from a smaller space to a bigger space. During my two years as director of the museum, it grew from a local New York institution to more of a national mission.”
From March to August of 2011, Mong was the interim executive of Asia Society Hong Kong Center.
“Then I decided that I could do more, and I fell in love with the mission, so I decided to accept a position as fulltime executive director.”
Mong said that working for Asia Society Hong Kong Center is a dream job for her, as she believes they are contributing something positive to Hong Kong and to the region, and they are trying to build understanding among people.
“The job is fascinating. I never do the same thing twice, every day we have new speakers, new and interesting content, and diverse members. For me personally it’s fun and fulfilling.”
Mong’s business philosophy is based on respect and listening. “What fascinates me is people, everybody has their own story, and listening to them. My staff, my board and my members, everybody is very important, as we are building something unique here. We are all in this journey together, we need to work together to move forward.”
Also, in terms of running the center, Mong said that she may have the knowledge about certain things, like how to run a nonprofit organization for example, but when it comes to the local audience, she believes her staff may understand it better than she does, so she tries to listen.
Mong said her suggestion to local youngsters is that they should never stop learning and never stop being curious even if they have graduated from university.
“In my senior year of college, I didn’t know what to do, as it was the middle of the ’80s, the US had had a major recession. So I stayed one extra year at college to get a business minor, and an internship for the state government which led me to my full-time job and my mentor,” Mong said.
She stressed that graduating and getting a degree is not the end of learning, it is the beginning. Youngsters should continue to learn and be curious. “There are so many problems out there, and you youngsters can be the solution.”
Alice Mong finds her job as executive director fascinating as she never has to do the same thing twice, and there are always new challenges and faces, which all go toward making what she calls “a fun and fulfilling” way of life.