Meet our Women of Influence Co-Chairs, Anne LeBourgeois, and Mary McHale

Mary McHale, Director Business Development, Financial Services APAC @ Equinix
Anne LeBourgeois, Managing Director @ Hamilton Advisors

You both play senior roles at your company, what motivates and inspires you at the workplace?

Mary: 100% it is the people that I work with, and the scale at which we operate.  Equinix has more than 200 data centers around the world, that support 90% of internet data traffic. How cool is that? We have a people first culture where the unique experience and perspectives of teammates are not only valued but encouraged; something we call the ‘Magic of Equinix’.  I am motivated by the solutions that we are able to offer to our customers and inspired by the intelligence and dedication of our team to deliver. An added bonus is Equinix’s commitment to advancing women in leadership.  We have an internal network (EWLN) of 2,000 women all of whom rely on each other to develop both personally and professionally. As the Asia co chapter lead for our network, I am very proud of the fact that we were named best company for women at the AmCham WOI awards last year.

Anne: What drives me is the ability to shape and inspire the young professionals that come through my business. I am motivated by being able to mentor and nurture young team members, but equally, or more importantly, they mentor me! At Hamilton Advisors (HA) we bring in interns and fresh grads who garner a wealth of experience from the varied, often tough, assignments we challenge them with. At the same time, it’s so enriching for me to listen to fresh perspectives, learn how this generation thinks and what drives them. One of our stars, Haley Meng, went to PwC after three years with HA and was the 2017 WOI Young Achiever awardee. She is an incredible young woman who continues to remind me to this day of the power of risk-taking, curiosity and perseverance when combined with self-discipline.

What is the importance of a diverse team and how do you normally tackle a challenge?

Mary: Think how boring life would be if everyone looked the same, talked the same, thought the same and acted the same. The fast pace and dynamic changes that tech brings with it amplifies the importance of a diverse and agile workforce. When I face a challenge, the first thing I do is to ask for help, seeking advice and inputs from others how to see the problem, and potential solution, from a different perspective. Seeing a story from ALL sides can only be done when you have access to a variety of personalities, experiences and skillsets. Diversity allows the power of collective thinking and collaboration to deliver a whole new set of possible outcomes.

Anne: Diversity has played a major part in my professional and personal life. Living and working overseas and with a big emphasis in Asia has helped me understand, welcome and value different perspectives. I find supporting diversity both natural and hugely enriching, personally and professionally — it’s just how I operate! As Hong Kong faces its many challenges this year, we are blessed to live in a city with a melting pot of people, and we now have the opportunity to leverage our relationships, different cultures and unique upbringings during difficult times.

Any pro tips for young working women striving to make it to the top?

Mary: One of my most prized assets is my professional network, I value everyone in it and I call on them regularly to help make an introduction, learn something about their business, the industry or a competitor, speak on a panel, or even to help me get out of my own way to solve a problem or take on a new opportunity. A well-developed network requires commitment and personal investment for it to continue to grow.  As the title of this series “perspectives” goes, broadening those horizons will always put you at an advantage, not only for work, but in life. I highly encourage stepping out of your comfort zone to join organizations like The Women’s Foundation and FTAHK, and if you’re looking to shape the business agenda at AmCham for women and our future then come and join the next WOI committee meeting!

Anne: Here here, Mary!  One of my biggest joys with AmCham is the WOI committee and the fabulous women I’ve gotten to know over the years. Each and every one brings smarts, energy, talent, ideas and a can-do attitude – we like to get things done! We all come from unique places bringing different perspectives, but we share a common purpose. My advice to young women is to find your own place or group with shared values and to push forward together to have greater impact, create stronger solutions, and influence what you can for a better future.

Is there a specific experience that has helped to shape you?

Anne:  Wow, yes! I was thrown into the deep end just five years into my former banking career when I was selected from a contingent of Mandarin speakers to be the bank’s representative in Beijing. The job included managing the office with its colorful and conflicting personalities, dealing with high priority clients, carrying out quasi-diplomatic responsibilities, and explaining (then) arcane topics such as interest rate swaps, all within a vastly different culture and while being a newlywed to boot. It was a daunting learning pace that pushed me to the limit.  But as tough as it was at the time, the experience falls into the category of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Much stronger! 

Mary: I moved to Hong Kong in September of 2009, from New York City. I’ll never forget that initial blast of hot humid air when I stepped out of the airport into a sweltering 36 degrees at 4pm on a FALL afternoon. I had always considered myself to have a pretty open mind and prematurely prided myself on being culturally aware. I look back across my journey since then with a big “Aiyah” as nothing had really prepared me for a long road of learning ahead. With no Cantonese up my sleeve, it truly came down to getting to know people that I was working with (their families, hobbies, likes, dislikes) and building a trusting relationship with my teams before any real work was able to get done. On top of the move, I also decided to change careers from being a lifelong banker to working in tech. Changing career paths is possible for anyone and being brave enough to ask for help because you don’t have all of the answers was probably the biggest personal obstacle I needed to overcome as a professional. My lesson that I would like to share from my transition is to encourage everyone to believe in themselves a little bit more, and trust in yourself to realize that we are stronger and much more capable than we think we are. I have a favorite saying that I have adapted from someone much more famous, but that I think works for today’s SHEroes: “Together, we can create the change that we want to see”. 

Can you tell us a little about this year’s Women of Influence awards? Why is the WOI committee unique to AmCham?

Mary and Anne:What makes our WOI committee special is that our members come from all different professional and entrepreneurial backgrounds. The current steering committee is made up of 11 members who all share a passion for and insight into how to drive positive change for women across Hong Kong. We are proud to be a unique AmCham committee, having hosted our own Women of Influence (WOI) conference and awards for the past 16 years! 

We are both thrilled to be announcing our 2020 WOI Conference with this year’s theme: “Global Issues, Local [S]Heroes; Women taking the Lead”. The conference will feature amazing women in Hong Kong who are pioneering change in globally significant fields – think climate change, public health/epidemics, human trafficking, cybersecurity, education, biodiversity, media, diplomacy, and the list goes on. Indeed, Hong Kong women join the rest of the women around the world who are increasingly focused on leading change to create a better world for future generations.

If you’ve attended our WOI Conference in the past, you will be excited to know that we are making a few changes this year to our Awards ceremony and conference format. We look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of nominees and all of our own individual achievements on this very special day for the women of Hong Kong. Stay tuned for more details!

If you are interested in joining our fabulous committee and being a part of real change, or just seek to be a part of our incredible network, please reach out to us today!

Interview by Carolyn DeRobertis