Going Far, Without Regrets

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I WAS born and raised in Singapore. When I was 12, I told my mother, "I'm going to work in the Big Apple one day." She said she wasn't surprised, because as a young child I had held my chopsticks far away from my food. In the Chinese culture that means you're going to live far from home.

My parents always told me I could do whatever I wanted. My mother managed an I.T. department in an oil company. At 16, I worked at her company as a receptionist during school vacations and discovered the value of social skills. If someone became impatient waiting in the reception area, I found ways to divert their attention to calm them down. My mom had lunch with me every day, which made me feel grown up.

I wanted to attend college in another country, so I made a deal with my mother: if she let me study overseas, I'd return to Singapore after college. I chose the Australian National University in Canberra, partly because Australia had a British school system like Singapore's. I received a scholarship to spend a year at U.C.L.A. as an exchange student, and I graduated from A.N.U. in 1987 with a degree in political science.

When I returned to Singapore, I thought I'd work for the diplomatic corps and travel, but a friend in government advised me that I would have to be a graduate of a local university even to get an interview. When I couldn't get into government, I got a job at Cargill in commodity trading and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong and Geneva for the next seven years. I met my husband, Robert Fidler, while working there.

The company fast-tracked me; when I left I was managing global teams of traders and a trading portfolio of $2.5 billion. While there, I applied to the London School of Economics and was accepted, but I deferred attending for a year, then chose a different path.

In 1994, I left Cargill and worked in Thailand and China for a sugar company to help with a joint venture. Then PepsiCo International recruited me to help with foreign-exchange currency swap programs. I then ran my own business strategy consulting company for three years before the Dial Corporation recruited me.

In 2002, I entered the skin care industry, which was exploding. For the next seven years, I worked for three skin care companies, including ZO Skin Health, created by Dr. Zein Obagi, in New York.

In 2009, I moved to Atlanta after being recruited as C.E.O. of another skin care company, Astral Health and Beauty. Three weeks after I started, my husband died of a heart attack.

Going to work every day helped me cope with his death. He had supported me in the move, and I didn't want his death to be in vain. I also decided to become involved with the American Heart Association. I believed that my personal situation might be a benefit in raising awareness for the cause. Although I was new to Atlanta, I raised $350,000 with many of my contacts outside the city.

This summer, I joined the StriVectin Operating Company, which makes and sells anti-aging skin care products, as C.E.O. The challenge of this industry is to be believable, and to do that, companies have to be truthful about what products can do. Women in their 40s are smarter than to think a product can make them look like a 20-year-old, but they still want to look their best.

My husband and I coordinated our career moves according to each other's jobs. I have always worked. He helped my career immensely. Our son and daughter are in their 20s now. To me, regrets are not about failures; they're about things you wanted to try and didn't. Because I never felt guilty about my choices and my husband was behind me, I was able to do my best.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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