Pearl Hu is a Blue Yonder boomerang. The Associate Success coordinator started her career at the company, left, learned and returned! She now considers it her biggest risk and proudest achievement. We talked to her about that, the differences between living in China and living in the United States, and how she’s applied that knowledge – culture, differences, communication skills – to her role at Blue Yonder.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up in China in a small town, near Shanghai. For my senior year of high school, I participated in an exchange program to come to the United States. I lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., and then applied to attend college in the U.S. as well. I was accepted by Western Michigan University and Arizona State University but chose to stay in Michigan in part because my house parents said, “Arizona is too hot and far from Michigan!” They wanted to take care of me.
I majored in Human Resources and then got my master’s degree, spending a total of six years in Michigan, before returning to China.
Can you tell us about your family?
My family includes my parents, younger sister and grandmother. My family owns a small clothing factory making down jackets for export overseas. I now live in Shanghai, about 45 minutes from the company, but it’s still considered close by Shanghai standards! Anywhere within one hour is close here!
Why did you want to be in an exchange program?
I wanted to learn better English and practice in a native English-speaking country. I also wanted to experience the culture by living with a native family, going to school with residents, and embracing local cuisine, architecture, and familial traditions.
My parents were very worried about me going that far away, but they were very supportive and happy for me to be able to make friends from all over the world, overcome difficulties by myself, and become independent and confident.
When I first went to school in the U.S. I felt homesick and a bit alienated because everything was new and different for me. But it also pushed me to take the initiative to go out and participate in all kinds of school clubs, like skiing clubs, drama clubs, fashion design etc. My host parents also encouraged me to make one new friend every day at school and hang out with them over weekends.
I personally learned countless life lessons, gained greater understanding of foreign cultures and diplomacy. I returned to China with newfound strength, confidence, and self-understanding.
What tips can you share to welcome others from another culture to your community?
Read about other people’s culture’s and histories and really educate yourself. And willingly put yourself in situations where you will meet people of other cultures.
Make a conscious decision to welcome and establish friendships with people from other cultures.
Listen to them tell their stories and ask questions about their cultures, customs, and views.
One example was that my host parent learned that Chinese eat rice every day, so they bought microwavable rice, but worried that I was not used to eating this kind, so they also prepared the rice which needs a rice cooker to cook with. I felt I was warmly welcomed and respected when I first time joined the new family!
What was it like to live so far away from your family for 6 years? Did you get to see them?
I went back to see my family for two months every summer when I studied abroad. I really enjoyed my experience and living in the U.S. I learned the culture and learned English really well.
Did you travel away from Michigan while you were in the U.S.?
Yes, I went to Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Florida, California, Hawaii, and to Puerto Rico and Mexico. My favorite was Puerto Rico as it felt like vacation!
This is your second time working at Blue Yonder – can you tell us about your career journey?
Yes, it is! I graduated college in 2015 and returned to China. My first job was at Blue Yonder as a contractor. My work was split in half between administration and HR assistant. After three years, I took a job at Coca-Cola China for a year. It was an opportunity for me to do more and learn more, at the time. I supported the marketing department and worked on a diversity program there, which was fun for me.
Sophia Zhong (from Blue Yonder) reached out to me and asked if I would come back and look after the Greater China region. It was an opportunity to take on more responsibilities, focusing on associates in China and Taiwan, learning some HR business partner (HRBP) responsibilities and projects for APAC like Associate Business Consultant (ABC) recruitment. So, I came back to Blue Yonder!
What’s one piece of advice you would have given your younger self, looking back now?
The advice I would give myself is to speak up and ask questions. Personally, I was very introverted at first in my career. I am not shy, but just don’t talk that much. I have learned that if I am new to something and don’t know how to do something, there is no shame in asking questions! Then you get clear direction and guidance and do it right the first time. I’ve also learned that if I accomplish something, not to hesitate sharing that with my team, posting in on Yammer and recognizing the achievement. I feel empowered and recognized.
Working in China for a company headquartered in the U.S. must come with challenges and perhaps opportunities. What have you noticed?
There are so many cultural differences between APAC and the U.S. and of course, the time zone challenge itself. Perception-wise, it sometimes feels like we do not participate as much as other regions, but that is not true. We collaborate heavily here, and with the Centers of Excellence in India. And we get around the time zone challenge by working on things over email, doing calls when needed and staying involved.
I love the small size of our team in China – we are 53 associates and I cover the HR functions for all of them. From recruiting, to HRBP to projects, I have a lot of opportunity to grow. I like that I know everyone in my office.
Can you share a time where you recognized how important empathy is regarding others’ perspectives?
Yes, especially during COVID-19, when we are all working from home. We need to take into account each other’s home lives and situations. For example, we have a team member who is a mom and she has to juggle her family all at home, with working, and has adjusted her working hours around that. We all understand that and know that she may respond to something later in the night versus during working hours, and that’s okay. We’re all still adjusting and collaborating as much as we can. I try to think of our team and everyone’s situations being different. And try to put myself in their shoes.
Have you ever realized you had an unconscious bias? What did you do about it?
Yes. I realize I have had gender bias before and seen men as harder working than women and that has changed for me over the years. I no longer have that perception and see women joining our consulting team here who are doing great work. We need gender equity. It’s important.
When we do ABC recruitment, we now look to hire half male, half female. The female ABCs have proven themselves that they can do just as good as men!
What’s the best risk you’ve taken and why?
Taking the risk to leave Blue Yonder and go to Coca-Cola! It was the first and only time I changed my job. I was new to the industry and had no background in it but Coca-Cola is a leading company and growing here. It gave me an opportunity to grow up professionally and I learned a lot about myself between when I left and when I came back. I am more open, talkative and don’t hesitate to speak up. I am comfortable expressing myself more than ever.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am just very proud of all that I have learned since I graduated and seeing the work I was doing then – more administrative – and now – more HRBP-focused, and more independently working.
What is your favorite hobby?
I like to do anything with my hands! Cooking, baking, crafting.
What’s one fun (or surprising) fact about you?
I like to make soap! I started two years ago, learned myself by watching YouTube videos.