Project: Young Women’s Stories–Fostering Leadership

Confidence, not Limelight, is the Source of True Leadership

Minglee Hoe, London, United Kingdom

Growing up in London, I received a good education and studied science at university, but I was lost about what I wanted for my career. After graduating in 2010 without a job lined up, I felt a bit hopeless. Thankfully, through my personal network, I quickly found a job in the organization I now work for. Since then, I have learned that we have to start small, even if it doesn’t match our expectations at first. After all, becoming a CEO doesn’t happen overnight; it takes hard work. I know now that as long as I am doing my best in my current role, it will lead to the next step, but that is a lesson I had to learn through experience.

Throughout my career, my greatest personal struggle has always been not seeing the value of my work. Near the end of 2015, I landed a great job working as part of a team of just two people on a multi-million dollar project in the field of climate change in the maritime sector—a field that I was (and still am) passionate about. I had no experience working on climate change, the maritime sector, or in project management, so it felt like I had jumped into the deep end.

Adding to my worries about my lack of relevant experience, I felt removed from the “action” because my job was mainly administrative in nature. For that reason, I struggled to feel as if my efforts had any real impact on the wider world. I knew I wanted to somehow create value in my work, but I lacked self-confidence and recognition for how my contribution could make an impact. I struggled with the feeling that I was just “paper pushing.” But at the same time, I really wanted the project to be a success, so I worked hard to become an indispensable part of the team.

Being part of such a small team—a team made up of two young women, which is rather uncommon in the maritime sector—meant that we had to take a very hands-on approach to complete our extremely ambitious project, including many deliverables, within a short space of time. As the project progressed and we started implementing and delivering more activities across the world, I realized that my work as the administrator was crucial to the success of each activity and the project as a whole. This depended on me being the best I could be in my role, not someone else. It finally struck me then that I didn’t have to necessarily be on the “front lines” to make a difference.SGI Office for UN Affairs Young Women’s Stories–Fostering Leadership project, Minglee Hoe at work in the maritime sectorBolstering my realization, the feedback we received on the project has been incredible. Several countries at an international forum highlighted it as a “model project” to follow. It has even won several awards for its “outstanding contribution” toward energy efficiency, and my personal contribution was highlighted when several clients described me as a “hero behind the scenes!”

Because of my achievements, I was given the opportunity to facilitate and deliver a technical workshop in Asia. It was a great opportunity for me, as I not only was able to branch out of my comfort zone and explore the more technical side of the project, but I was also able to see firsthand the impact of what I was organizing. Instead of questioning my strengths, I confidently brought my organizational skills, my previous experience, and my attitude to keep striving for improvement to the role.

Although what my colleagues and I are working toward—stopping climate change—will not happen overnight, the little steps that we take make a difference. They can start conversations and plant seeds that, over time, will gather momentum and sprout. This profoundly altered perspective has only become possible for me through my experience. I have gained more confidence in my ability to make a difference, and I honestly believe my colleagues and I have achieved everything we have because we are united as a team and we have each taken leadership in our respective roles. Most of all, I’ve realized that I am important and that I have something of value to contribute. We don’t always have to be in the limelight to make a difference, because I truly believe that when we realize that small changes can make a big impact, we can all be leaders in our own right.

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