Evelyn Teng, Executive Director and Deputy Head of Legal for North Asia at Julius Baer, who shares with WiFA the inspiration for her career, the person she admires most, and what gives her hope every day.
2022 WiFA Spotlight Series: Today we would like to introduce Evelyn Teng, Executive Director and Deputy Head of Legal for North Asia at Julius Baer, who shares with WiFA the inspiration for her career, the person she admires most, and what gives her hope every day.
Who or what inspired you to choose your career path?
My father. My dad is the most learned, academic person I know. He is fluent in languages (including Latin and English and now in his 80s, he is self-learning Hebrew), and reads EVERYTHING. He takes along a notebook with him everywhere he goes, jotting down a new word, a new saying, a new thought.
Yet, he never went to university. His early years were humble – my grandparents were uneducated immigrants from China who could barely afford his school fees. Twice my dad had to give up school, both times due to financial circumstances. The second time, he gave up law studies at night school when an unexpected third child (yes, me) came along. He never spoke about it but since he didn’t become a lawyer because of me, I decided to become his “law degree”.
Getting into law school wasn’t easy – in Singapore there was only one law school at that time and places were limited – but I tried anyway even though I was far from a perfect student. If my dad didn’t let his lack of formal education stop him from his quest for knowledge, I sure wasn’t going to be deterred from getting into law school. One thing led to another and the rest is history.
Please tell us how you or someone in your life that you admire provided hope or healing to the family or community
My mother. My mom was a working mom – a nurse working shifts, juggling a couple of free-lance side jobs for extra income and managing a household of 6 at the same time. Never graduated from high school, no domestic helper, only two hands and rudimentary home equipment, yet we were always fed and always had our clothes washed and ironed. She would wake up before dawn, cook and label everything (with words or drawings, depending on who it was for) and get home before dinner, groceries in hand, ready to cook. After dinner, she would bake for a client or re-trying for the umpteenth time a recipe that she couldn’t get right.
Failures and flops (or caved-in chiffon cakes) never deterred her and eventually, many cakes and calories later, her baking issues were ironed out, all cake drama resolved.
My mom is the epitome of a “can-do” spirit. No money? Do an extra job. No time? Wake up earlier. Can’t read? Then she’ll draw. Collapsed cake? Wash up and repeat. Nothing stopped her, not lack of finances nor circumstances, her determination triumphed over all.
Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. If you have/had a mentor, what is the one take away message or inspiration that he/she passed on to you?
Hard to beat my mom in terms of inspiration.
What gets you out of bed every day, either professionally or personally? What gives you hope?
My kids. Physically, by force. They wake me up even when I don’t want to! Whether it’s to help them get over a nightmare, pray with them, unlock their iPad, fix an issue during Zoom class, settle a fight, etc . So I really don’t have a choice, and I have absolutely no need for an alarm clock. But I do look forward to waking up, in part because I have seen my own parents overcome their particular circumstances and a large part because of my religion which gives me a better perspective of my purpose in life.
What gives me hope? I KNOW my best days are ahead and not behind.