Women in Leadership Q&A with Mai Ton
CEO & Owner
EMP HR Consulting
We are excited to announce EA Creative’s Women’s History Month conversation series with Chief member, Sandhya Jain-Patel, has been extended through the rest of this year. New artwork for this extended series will be crafted by Eunjoo Byeon, an NYC-based graphic designer and frequent collaborator. Through interviews and artwork we are committed to showcasing women in leadership positions who are making history today. Please send us a message on Linkedin, e-mail us, and share with your friends to nominate someone in your network.
Sandhya Jain-Patel: Where do you work and what is your current role there?
Mai Ton: I’m the CEO & Owner of EMP HR Consulting.
Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?
Mai: Last summer, I looked up amidst our beautifully decorated office space and asked myself, “Is this really going to be what I do for the rest of my life?” That was a moment of clarity and made me realize that my last job as the VP of HR for a company was not bringing me any joy. It was having an opposite effect of burning me out.
Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?
Mai: I was at an executive meeting with all 10 of the senior leaders at the company. The VP of Sales told an insensitive joke that was borderline racist and sexist. I lost it and told him and the other 9 men in the room that the joke wasn’t funny. He told me to get a better sense of humor… I can’t make this stuff up!
Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?
Mai: I’ve had the fortune and privilege to work alongside some awesome leaders who mentored me and took a chance on a liberal arts major. They have propelled me at various points in my career. One particular person deserves my shout out - Rajkumari Neogy, my executive coach. She helped me realize my full potential and I’m now leading the life that I’ve always wanted because of her tutelage and inspiration. Rajkumari spent an hour of time each week with me for one full year and led me through a series of exercises to discover my true dreams and realize them. I now try to help others by talking about what Rajkumari did for me. Because of my deep sense of gratitude to all my mentors and sponsors, I pay it forward to as many people as I can.
Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?
Mai: I think about all the women in my life who have taught me to be fearless. My most inspiring moments happen usually with the women closest to me; my own mother, my sisters, my nieces and my daughter.
Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?
Mai: Pave your own road. Working in HR, I see a lot of different ways to reinvent yourself in order to fulfill a dream. The most interesting and awesome roads are never straight.
Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should and what would your answer be?
Mai: I recently had a Tarot card reading and I pulled an alchemy card. Christine Lee, who was my college roommate, a renowned bio-archaeologist also reads Tarot cards, and she told me that I should spend more time mixing my own potion. In this year where I’ve launched my own consulting business, I’m still trying to figure out whether I have more dreams to fulfill.
Sandhya Patel: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine?
Mai: The days and nights run together. It’s easy to mis-manage my day because I think I have a 2pm meeting, when it’s a 2:30pm meeting. I’m not as productive as I want to be and honestly can’t relax. There is so much news around COVID-19 that I’ve stopped reading it since the numbers keep climbing. The unpredictable nature and uncertainty distract me daily and I try to spend my time thinking about what I want to do once COVID-19 is all over.
Sandhya Patel: As difficult as it is, has the isolation and social distancing had any unexpected benefits?
Mai: A lot of home cooking with nutritious meals and so much more family time together. I am cherishing all the family time we have on days when we would normally be apart during the working hours. It feels like such a luxury and I don’t know what life will return to when we finally flatten the COVID-19 curve!
Sandhya Patel: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?
Mai: I’ve stopped watching or consuming so much news about the pandemic. I think about the first restaurant we will visit when we’re allowed to eat out again, and I think about going to the beach for some wind in my soul.
To learn more about Mai and keep up with EMP HR Consulting, follow the links below.