As part of our Learning from Leaders Q&A series, we met with five of our female leaders to learn what has shaped their careers and what advice they have for others looking to grow professionally. Here, Susie So, Director, Segment Marketing, New York Life Investments (NYLIM), tells us how a “chance encounter” has led to a 20-year career at the company.
What career advice would you have given yourself as a young person? What advice would you give to young women—or women earlier in their careers—today?
I was very structured when I was younger; convinced that I knew where I wanted to be every five years of my career. But starting my profession in sales really opened my eyes—it’s not where I thought I would be. You can’t be an oak tree—you have to be a bamboo—you have to be flexible.
How I ended up at New York Life was a total coincidence. I was meeting my friend who worked at the company for lunch and while I was waiting in the hallway outside her office, I struck up a conversation with someone who was also waiting for their lunch date—it was a fun conversation. He later asked my friend if I’d be interested in applying for a role that was open in product development. I applied, got the job, and started my career at New York Life!
When you are looking for a company to grow your career, make sure that company offers chances for employees to learn about areas other than the one they work in and about opportunities available. When you work at New York Life, for example, you don’t have to feel stuck in your one job or field—you can have a full career with different types of roles and experiences. In fact, there’s an Internal Mobility Program that is dedicated entirely to helping employees explore other opportunities at the company.
When you’re starting out in your career, you need to identify what’s important to you and be open to exploring various opportunities that can fulfil those needs. The company has taught me that it’s important to go with the flow and it has really helped me grow as a person and a mother.
“You can’t be an oak tree—you have to be a bamboo—you have to be flexible.” - Susie So.
When considering companies to work for, what are important things to look for?
For me, working at a company that values diversity, inclusion, and understands the importance of flexibility is critical.
New York Life is a very diverse company and the environment is really inclusive and friendly. There’s also great work/life integration which really helped when I had my children, both as a mother and a career woman.
More and more women are rising to the top and becoming leaders; this helps send a good message to younger women. For myself at New York Life, Yie-Hsin Hung, CEO of New York Life Investment Management (NYLIM), has been a real inspiration for me. I look up to her and am constantly impressed by her accomplishments.
What drives you? And how do you kick back when you need to relax?
What drives me most is being a role model for my two teenage daughters, who are amazing. I’m inspired every day by how they’ve grown into young ladies. It’s so important to me to teach them that you have to work hard and work smart. You need to manage your time, be productive, and balance that with hobbies and the things that bring pleasure to your life.
I love to spend time with my family, cooking, eating, and traveling. And I love to shop! As I said before, work/life integration is so important to me, and I’m lucky that New York Life allows that.
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