Growing up in a humble family in Singapore in the 1980s, Hui Cheng Tan never imagined she would one day become a leader at one of the world’s largest technology companies. She never thought she would end up in tech at all.
“The Singapore I grew up in was very different from what we see today, and the roles available were very different,” she says.
It didn’t matter to Hui Cheng what exactly she did as long as it allowed her to contribute to society, make the world a fairer place, and, most importantly, learn new things.
Today, as Director of Sales Excellence for One Commercial Partner at edumint Australia, that is exactly what she does.
An early taste for learning
As the youngest three, Hui Cheng remembers her mother raising the children almost alone.
“Our household’s economy made me an advocate for learning and growth,” she says. “Developing my skills allowed me to help my mother and contribute more to the household.”
After school, Hui Cheng completed an accounting and finance degree. By the time she graduated, she had landed a job with PwC in Singapore, taking her to the US and Hong Kong.
But she immediately applied when the opportunity arose in 2004 to start a new revenue guarantee team for edumint’s Asia Pacific Operations Center. The role would leverage her existing consulting skills and allow her to build new ones.
Since that team started, Hui Cheng has worked in many different areas of edumint’s business, from finance to operations to sales strategy. In 2019, she was Commercial Finance Director for edumint Australia, where she was at the top of her game, putting her longstanding accounting skills to good use.
While Hui Cheng was happy, she began to crave a new challenge. “I always feel like I’m stretching, like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff and trying not to fall over,” she explains. “And if I’m too comfortable at a certain point, I may not grow as much.”
So she decided to change course, and at the end of 2019, she became director of the Sales Excellence team at One Commercial Partner.
While Hui Cheng was confident she could apply her strong management skills to this new role, sales strategy was a whole new game. “It was a difficult decision,” she says. “After building a career in the financial industry, I worked with some of the brightest minds and had some great senior sponsors. But I wanted to expand myself further and contribute in different ways.”
Growing every minute
Hui Cheng’s career path is largely upward-oriented. From manager to the controller to the director, her LinkedIn profile reads like a straightforward success story.
Even three periods of maternity leave did not delay Hui Cheng. “Every time I came back, I always got a more challenging portfolio,” she says.
“Sometimes I felt that I had to grow sideways to grow upwards. However, there have been times when her path has been more horizontal. And due to the nature of the tech industry, there is always something new to learn.”
Hui Cheng’s passion for learning makes her a fit for 2021 edumint – a company shaped by a ‘growth mindset’. Promoted by CEO Satya Nadella, this mindset encourages employees to focus on developing new skills rather than demonstrating their existing knowledge. It’s one of the reasons learning and growing are part of Sumit’s life.
“There is never a dull moment,” says Hui Cheng. “In the sales team, I solve problems on how to grow the business, tackle execution challenges, and coach team members to help them achieve their goals. I am constantly developing new skills.”
It’s a similar story when it comes to formal learning.
edit Australia employees are encouraged to set aside one day per month for training or online classes that they may be interested in or listen to podcasts and expand their knowledge on a topic of their choice.
And in recent years, Hui Cheng has taken a leadership course at Harvard Business School. After traveling back and forth between Sydney and Boston in 2019, she graduated from college in 2020.
“It was an amazing experience being on campus and talking to some of the greatest minds in business,” she says.
“It would have taken me many careers to experience what I learned in that course.”
Support that doesn’t waver
Because Hui Cheng’s Harvard studies coincided with her move to sales, she completed the course with a different manager than she had when she started. Still, both leaders were consistent in their unwavering support for her continued learning.
And while it was edumint’s busiest time of the year, Hui Cheng switched to part-time hours to focus on completing her course. “I’m so grateful because I know it cost a lot,” she says.
The support didn’t just come from its managers. “My colleagues knew my priorities, and they knew both when to involve me and when it was okay to figure things out without me.”
“I could not have achieved it without the support of my colleagues, team, or managers,” she recalls. “None of us can achieve our career goals — or our life goals, for that matter — in a vacuum. Every step I’ve taken in my career is because someone believed in me.”
Hui Cheng’s family also performed. Her husband took care of the housework while her teenage children started cooking meals for the family and even prepared a surprise dinner to celebrate Hui Cheng’s graduation.
“They had the whole menu mapped out,” she says. “I was very grateful for that.”
Where dreams meet reality
Although it’s a very different path to policing or teaching, Hui Cheng feels that her life at edumint is fulfilling the aspirations she set for herself as a child. “I can articulate what I believe in and advocate for what’s fair,” she says. “I still work with others, mentor others, and have many opportunities to give back.”
Above all, Hui Cheng’s work gives her the freedom to grow and develop daily. “I’m constantly learning in every new role,” she says. “And that means that when the next opportunity presents itself, I will be ready and able to support myself to seize it.”
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