“I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. I’d set my heart on being a dancer but my mother worried that wouldn’t be a good career so encouraged me to give up ideas of dance school and get a universtity education instead. Even then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, so I read for a degree in English Literature.”
So says the cheerful Andrea Jiang, the 34-year-old star of VFS China, a woman who has so supercharged her career that she’s gone from customer services officer to management team member in a little under a decade.
‘Managers had faith in me’
The loss to the world of dance has been to the advantage of the world of finance. Having joined VFS China just three years after it was established, Andrea grew with the company, which now employs some 70 people, and has enthusiastically embraced every opportunity that’s come her way.
Starting as a customer service officer, Andrea found she had a talent for detail and grasping complicated processes. She soon joined asset management and was rapidly made team leader – her first experience of guiding people. “Even though I was the youngest person in the department my manager had faith in me – and over time I gained faith in myself,” Andrea says.
Since then the job titles have zoomed past. Her latest role, which she took over just two months ago, is to lead Business Development and Marketing. “I have no experience in these fields, so I have to start learning all over again,” Andrea says. “I’m out of my comfort zone but I’m always curious and I’m really motivated to learn and change.”
An only child whose father died when she was relatively young, Andrea remains close to her mother, who is obviously not only her inspiration but also her best friend. “My mother was supportive all the way,” she says. “She raised me on her own – and still managed to be a sales manager of a manufacturing plant. “She sacrificed a lot and devoted all her energies onto me. When my job moved to Beijing – so did my mother!”
At school Andrea may have been the quiet child in the corner who liked watching movies, but that didn’t disguise her immense drive to succeed, and be the best she can be. As if she wasn’t busy enough, Andrea is studying for an MBA degree at the prestigious Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. (Which gets 12,000 applicants for only 300 places.) “It’s been crazy busy – I go to school two nights a week and all weekends, plus homework from school and overtime at work – it’s a challenge to balance work and studies – but I love it!”
So not much free time now, but when she does have time Andrea loves to paint and – at the other extreme – go mountain climbing. Last year she went rock climbing in Israel.
“Now I find myself in a leadership role I’m really enjoying encouraging the people I’m responsible for to do their best. Helping them expand their career expectations and watch them grow is rewarding – for them and for me,” Andrea says.
“VFS is a supportive environment for a woman,” she continues. “Finance may be seen as a man’s world, but not at VFS, where everyone is respected, and women can thrive. It’s both people focused and results driven. Gender doesn’t come into it. I think VFS understands more than most the benefits of greater diversity and the value female leaders bring to the business. I wouldn’t have had half the opportunities I’ve had if it weren’t for the amazing support and encouragement that I’ve had from everyone at VFS.
“I’m proud to be a Woman of VFS.”