Joëlle Dang is a proactive and hands on Chief Operating Officer with a breadth of business experience and cross functional expertise in structured finance, risk management, corporate governance, and a strong understanding of the evolving regulatory landscape and investment banking operating model, as well as a Finance, Governance, and Policies volunteer at Uplifters. In her 2021 Spotlight Series interview, she discusses her motivations, advice to her younger self, 2021 mantra, her passions, and much more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Joelle Dang. I have lived in Hong Kong for the last 20 years and have spent all my career in the private sector and the finance industry in Asia. Recently I decided to take a sabbatical to invest more time and further support a community of women I have strongly benefited myself from, as a full-time working mother in Hong Kong over the past 20 years.

Leveraging on my discipline specific skills, I decided to join Uplifters as their Finance, Governance and Policies volunteer. Uplifters is a non-profit organisation registered in Hong Kong, and their mission is to empower underprivileged communities with online education and peer support.

What drew you to a career in finance? What has motivated you to stay? 

Coming from a migrant family who left Vietnam for better opportunities overseas, my parents instilled in me from an early age the importance of working hard and a good education as the cornerstones of their vision to improving our living conditions.

The drive to become financially literate and self-sufficient has therefore guided my choices of studies at university and beyond. Choosing a job in the finance and banking sector came as a natural choice to me.

Tell us about a proud moment for you in your career?

This moment happened when I decided to let my brain follow my inner self and heart’s aspirations. During my last years in the banking industry, I felt an increasing need for more alignment and synchronicity between the professional, the individual, and the mother that I am every hour of the day.

In practice, this personal need has translated with a return to the benches of university. During 6 months of night classes, I updated my knowledge about the concept of Corporate and Social Responsibility, and typical issues faced by corporates when applying CSR concepts in their organisation. I am proud to have extended my banking-specific skills to embed effectively economic, social and environmental challenges to achieve positive change and new business opportunities in the community I am evolving in.

Think back to when you were starting out your career. What advice would you give your younger self?

Be bolder and self-possessed, assured in your potential. There is no magic here. To stay on top of your professional game, you need to remain curious, abreast, and open to changes in your industry and working environment. Maintain your skills and knowledge, keep learning, and be realistic about your flaws as they are key to staying relevant and purposeful.

This year has brought tremendous upheaval and disruption to all aspects of our lives. How are you and your company continuing to promote diversity and gender equality despite these massive changes?  

During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, both references to mental health and mindfulness have never been used as much in my 20 years of career in banking. As organizations have understood they could not be sustainable without caring about these two concepts, the latter were embedded as an essential delivery objective in each and every initiative taken to maintain the best possible business continuity environment for both staff and clients. 

In the context where the majority of staff were asked to work from home with obviously very different personal situations, the one size fits all cost efficient approach was no longer a relevant strategy. These exceptional circumstances brought by the pandemic have put more light on the diversity of our population and personal contexts. To these exceptional circumstances, employers have to respond in a more flexible and responsible way by authorizing unconventional solutions, as a necessity to care for the majority.

I am optimistic and like to believe these challenging times are here for a reason and will pave the way for long-term positive and sustainable changes and improvements in the life of many.

What has kept you motivated to succeed this past year?

My family: my children and husband.

I want my children to grow while understanding that every individual bears a responsibility for himself, for others and for the environment. I would like them to grow life skills and be aware that these life skills also evolve over time and may differ between regions and situations. Developing their capacity to adapt to evolving contexts and to take informed decisions is essential while communicating and interacting effectively with others.

Therefore, my husband and I have to be good role models and lead them by example.

What will be your 2021 mantra to keep you motivated, either professional or personally?

“Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated” from Robert S. McNamara

Aside from work, what are your other passions?

Reading, organizing, and administering things to support my community, spending time with my family and friends.