Malika Beri, a banking professional at CitiBank, shares with WiFA her inspiration for joining her career path, who she admires, and her contribution to promoting gender diversity and equality

Tell us about your background and the journey to your current position and organization. 

I am a banking professional with over 23 years’ experience largely in Transaction Banking, the last 15 years in client facing roles/ leadership positions across multiple international banks and locations (Singapore; China; India & Hong Kong)

Who or what inspired you to choose your career path?

My parents. They moved to Singapore from India before I was born and built a life for our family from scratch. Myself and my brother spent our formative years in international schools in Singapore and were educated in universities in the UK and US respectively; my parents put our education and exposure to many extracurricular activities above anything else. They raised us both with equal opportunities; equal expectations, and a clear guidance of the need to build a career path that allows you to be financially independent. At that time the popular professions that were perceived to allow you to do that were Banker, Lawyer, & Doctor. So Banking it was!

Please tell us how you or someone in your life that you admire provided hope or healing to the family or community.

It goes without saying that health care workers who are relentlessly fighting the pandemic are people I have the utmost respect and admiration for, in terms of providing hope and healing. And to the many people who have to be out and about vs the shelter of their homes to keep our basic necessities, logistics, and industries going.  My thoughts go out to the people who have lost loved ones and continue to live life with hope and optimism after such tragedy; patients who are building strength post recovery…..communities who are rallying to support people through challenges of loss, medical shortages, lockdowns, home schooling, job shortages… Facebook groups run by volunteers in HK to guide people through Covid guidelines, travel guidance, quarantine deliveries, mental health issues; everyone who is having to battle this 5th wave in Hong Kong with their own struggles, people who have braved the unknown and gotten vaccinated to do their bit.. friends and colleagues who made sure I never felt alone given I was away from family. Forever grateful!  The list is genuinely endless when it comes to admiration for the resilience of the human spirit and examples of how people will rally in a time of need.

Prior to the pandemic, I always admired people who chose professions that are entirely centred on giving back vs financial gain as this is such a core motivation for me personally.  But lately I notice people I admire every day as examples to be more thoughtful and deliberate in what I say, do and how I treat people: the people that wish you a joyful Good Morning when you enter a building, the people at your favourite Starbucks who greet you with such excitement, colleagues who are supporting each other through a tough day. In addition, managers who make that extra effort to coach your development opportunities vs labelling your skill sets in a finite way, the people who ask you “ How Are You” with intention; people who are calming influences who put you at ease in your daily engagements, the awesome people who I have met in the D&I movement in Hong Kong who all have purpose to promote awareness on important topics despite their conflicting priorities, the younger generations who are consistent in promoting agendas like sustainability, climate change, unconscious bias to name a few….. I see hope everywhere. Small or Big, there are behaviours and learnings that I am trying to notice every day, with gratitude.

How do you promote diversity and gender equality in your own life and workplace?

Diversity of culture, generation and gender will bring diversity of thought on how to succeed and accelerate the ability to do so. It sounds simple but having worked in many environments where there is a dominant majority or under representation in some way; it is clear there is a lot of work to do in this area. It is a long journey where all of us can play our part to do better. I started by getting a better understanding of my values & beliefs, personality traits & upbringing to understand my own motivations, situations where I thrive; derailers and thereby what my unconscious biases are; so that I could see why I would click with some individuals and why it was harder in other cases. I forced myself to put judgement aside and try to understand others’ intrinsic motivations, listen and try to see things from different perspectives. This learning has only come by meeting people from diverse backgrounds vs staying in the comfort zone of people you identify with. And encouraging people to openly communicate with you so that you grow, learn and improve.