I secured an internship with Amoco after my freshman year in college. Following that first summer, I was signed on as an employee with an extended absence for three years while I finished school. I interned every summer and got a big boost in professional experience this way. I met my husband, Joel, in college, and we were married a year after I graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in marketing and business administration.
At the time, I knew Amoco was a great company, but I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to play such a significant international role for it in my parents’ homeland. I am Chinese American and grew up speaking Mandarin. I had always considered myself lucky to be bilingual and hoped to be able to work in China one day.
I began my career as a territory manager in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which at the time seemed halfway to the North Pole. I was blessed early on in my career with a series of rapid promotions and broad experience in sales, marketing, and customer service across the midwestern part of the United States.
One of the secrets to my success is my husband, Joel. He supported me 100 percent through my career choices. We have always approached decisions as choices that were best for us, the family—not just one of us. We had our first child nine and a half years after we were married— always waiting for the “right time” to have a baby, hoping our jobs would slow down, but it never happened! I was pregnant with our second child when the opportunity to go to China arose. I was thirty-five years old and director of products research and development, with about a hundred people reporting to me. I was ready for the challenge.