From the C-Suite to the Driver’s Seat – with Maggie Chan Jones

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Today’s show is all about taking a giant leap of faith to pursue dreams and make things happen! My guest today left Hong Kong as a young teenager, not knowing what would happen as she journeyed to the US to pursue an education. She encountered many struggles along the way, especially a language barrier; but you won’t believe the amazing things she has accomplished.

Maggie Chan Jones is the first female Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, the world’s largest enterprise application software provider. Forbes named Maggie the 15th Most Influential CMO in the world in 2017. Later that year, Maggie left SAP to pursue her passion, which is helping the next generation of female executives ascend to the C-suite. Today, she’s the founder and CEO of Tenshey, a start-up dedicated to advancing gender diversity through executive coaching. In this episode, Maggie shares the incredible story of how she moved to NYC from Hong Kong to pursue her dream, her stellar advice for disrupting imposter syndrome and why she decided to take the big leap to launch Tenshey.

Coming to America

The super-competitive college admissions process in Hong Kong left Maggie with few opportunities to get the education she wanted. She realized she didn’t have the “book smarts” to do what she wanted to do unless she made big changes. She convinced her mother to allow her 14-year-old only child to head to the US to have better opportunities and to pursue a quality education. Maggie was comfortable taking the big leap, but when her luggage didn’t arrive in NYC when she did, she got her first taste of life in a new culture where she couldn’t even communicate well in English.

Female Role Models

Maggie was raised by a single mom, her grandmother, and multiple aunts. Her father wasn’t a regular part of her life, so it was the female role models that set the pace for Maggie. One particular aunt was an entrepreneur who started a successful beauty company. Seeing that she always found ways to solve problems taught Maggie that a woman could be strong and successful in both the business world and in her family.

100+ Job Applications

Maggie’s career journey began after college when she applied for over 100 jobs without one single YES. A small tech company finally reached out and hired her as a junior buyer at age 21. Her background was in business management, but she always had a love for marketing. A valuable lesson learned was that it’s OK to not start out with your “dream job” as long as you keep the dream in sight while you work to get there.

The Post-It Note Promise

After 18 months as a junior buyer, Maggie Chan Jones went to the VP of her company and asked what it would take to get a marketing job in the company. His reply was for her to “go get comfortable with technology,” so she signed up for classes and started learning how to set up routers. A few months later, she was invited to interview for an Associate Product Manager job but was heartbroken to be passed over for the position. The CEO wrote a promise on a post-it note saying he would give her the next marketing job that came open within the company – and he kept that promise. Maggie learned that there is always a positive and a negative to every situation, and she still has that post-it note.

Living “Ego-less”

Maggie Chan Jones learned to live in an “ego-less” way, always aligning her priorities, energy, and goals with those of her boss, which took hard work, extra hours, and learning new responsibilities. Her advice for others: know what YOU bring to the table, and don’t be afraid to “level up” your skills to advance in your field.

Fighting Against Imposter Syndrome

If you think you battle against imposter syndrome, then try being an immigrant woman with English as a second language in the tech industry! Those are all difficult obstacles to overcome! Maggie is many times the “only woman” in the meeting, and often the youngest woman in the room. She says you must use every opportunity to build new muscles when it comes to the things at which you aren’t “that great, and always use each weakness to build a new strength.

Breaking the “Bamboo Ceiling”

Maggie’s mission at Tenshey is to help women ascend to the C-suite. There is still much discrimination against Asian women, who aren’t equally represented, even though they have some of the highest credentials. Only 21% of C-suite executives are women, and only 3% are women of African-American or Asian-American backgrounds. Maggie wants to spot their talent and help them grow, which will motivate them to overcome their tendency to only seek jobs for which they feel 100% qualified.

From Microsoft to SAP to Tenshey:

Maggie competed against others, took a leap of faith, and hustled into her new role at Microsoft.  Next, her dream came true when she was offered the chance to run a marketing organization at SAP. Her philosophy is to always think two steps ahead to the “next-next role.” She shared the vision of SAP’s CEO, who wanted to make his company the most innovative cloud company in the industry. By starting Tenshey, Maggie is able to help women get to the C-suite and has the opportunity to teach them leadership skills. Her passions for coaching, sponsoring and mentoring all tie together in her company. She tells us about her goals, her timing, and measuring internal happiness—all while taking the stand for gender equality.

Episode Highlights:

  • 4:57 – The entrepreneurial aunt who was a role model
  • 6:17 – The career journey begins—with 100 job applications
  • 13:09 – Make your boss your champion and sponsor
  • 14:18 – Align your energy with your boss
  • 15:53 – Fighting imposter syndrome
  • 18:57 – Dealing with discrimination in the C-suite
  • 31:03 – The move to SAP and Maggie’s dream coming true
  • 31:11 – Leaving SAP to launch her own business and focus on gender diversity through executive coaching

Resources mentioned:

Fem Five:

1. Favorite book for women?

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • 8 hours of sleep

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “Just be happy and be yourself.” –from my grandmother

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your 5 years younger self?

  • “Even though the path ahead might be foggy sometimes, keep changing. You’ll see clarity.”

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

Building Your Dream Network – with Kelly Hoey 

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