Talking to Melanie recently I was reminded of Susan Cain’s enormously popular TED talk ‘The Power of Introverts’ and, in particular, her reflections on why introverts often make good leaders - despite the fact that our society generally tends to favour extroverts. Melanie has been a quiet achiever from her earliest schooldays and it has served her well: she has ended up working in a field she enjoys and a role that is right for her.
She grew up in very modest circumstances in Shanghai, which has proved to be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. She is an only child and very early on could see that if she wanted to achieve anything in life she would have to work hard – she wouldn’t be able to rely on family resources. Like many traditional Chinese parents, her parents would have done anything for her, even at the expense of their own comfort, but she didn’t want that. She wanted to be economically independent as soon as she could – and she wanted her parents to have a good life.
She worked hard at school and was always a top student so her path to one of China’s best universities was pretty much assured. She was accepted into the Shanghai International Studies University, which is among the top 5% of universities and colleges in Mainland China. Interestingly, her first thought was to study French there, even though at school she had studied English, not French. She regarded English as a tool, not an end in itself, whereas there was something about French that fascinated her. She soon realised, however, that applying to study French was not a good plan: university entrance was very competitive and she would be competing against students who had already been studying French for at least six years. At that point, one of her teachers at school suggested she might consider Law, saying that it was a very popular course with good career prospects, particularly for someone with good language skills. So, on the basis of that, she decided to apply for Law instead.
Once she got to University, a dorm mate told her about the possibility of a job tutoring English to children at weekends. It was the perfect means of fulfilling her desire to be economically independent and she jumped at the opportunity. For the whole of her university course she would study from Monday to Friday and spend her weekends tutoring English. There wasn’t time for much else, Even her summer vacations were spent gaining practical experience, first in a Court and then an internship with a local law firm, which is when, quite by chance, she was introduced to IP: the paralegal to whom she had been assigned just happened to be working on an IP case. Melanie knew immediately it was an area she wanted to work in and when she graduated she got a position with an IP firm. She remained there until joining Rouse in 2009.
While she was working in her first job she met Allen who is now her husband. He had studied Industrial Engineering and is now a video game QA tester (quality assurance tester), a job that requires him to play all levels of a game through the development process to identify any bugs or flaws. For gamers, it might seem the ideal job; in fact, it’s very demanding, requiring considerable technical skill and an in-depth knowledge of the industry.
Melanie and Allen have a son, Kingsley, who is now 11 years old and, as they both have demanding careers, they are very grateful to have Allen’s parents living with them. It means they do not have any domestic burdens, and that Kingsley has the advantage of close contact with his grandparents. Melanie says she just wants him to be healthy, and happy, and to focus on something he is interested in, which, at the moment, seems to be anything mechanical - his current ambition is to be a pilot.
Recently, life has completely changed because of Covid. Before the lockdown Melanie particularly enjoyed travelling and did a lot of it, for both work and pleasure. A lot of her work at Rouse is for European clients and she has had the opportunity to visit them in various European countries including Germany, Austria, Denmark and Sweden. She has also attended INTA meetings in the USA and Canada and MARQUES Annual Conferences in a number of European countries. She is now a member of the MARQUES China Team, which provides assistance to brand owners doing business in China, and to Chinese brand owners doing business in Europe. She previously enjoyed travelling with her family in both Europe and Asia and is looking forward to being able to do that again.
Psychologists, particularly in America, have recently been writing a lot about the problems that growing up in an affluent environment can create for children. Melanie provides a perfect example of the advantages that a modest environment can provide. Her success is well deserved.