Ai Hua Ong - Part 1 - Company Group Chairman – Asia Pacific at The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson
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Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.
Welcome to the boardroom.
Michael Murray 0:48
Ai Hua, thank you very much for joining C-Suite Partners in the boardroom.
Ai Hua Ong 0:52
very welcome, Michael
Michael Murray 0:54
Can you talk me through the previous 15-20 years of your executive career?
Ai Hua Ong 1:00
I’ve been with Johnson and Johnson for 28 years. I’m a homegrown talent in J&J. Start right from the most basic job, which is a product specialist. My career is characterised by a lot of new experiences, new jobs that JJ never had, and I was the first one to take it. Take it up. Very, very grateful for those opportunities from turning around to starting new businesses to licensing acquisition in Asia Pacific have been acquiring the first medical device acquisition in China, and Moving now to pharmaceuticals. I’m very blessed by the opportunities given to me,
Michael Murray 1:44
How do they retain such talent as yourself about long ?
Ai Hua Ong 1:48
keep you very busy,
Michael Murray 1:50
Of course, of course
Ai Hua Ong 1:52
keep you extremely stimulated Yes, and very much, you know, give you the opportunity, before you’re ready. I think there is the power of it because it stretches you, it motivates you, so it makes you work hard for it because you’re not quite there. And it definitely stimulate you know, that learning desire, and real and truly putting agility in practice.
Michael Murray 2:17
Talk to me about a time where you’ve been promoted into one of these roles and you a little bit worried about your ability to achieve? Do you remember the first time that happens?
Ai Hua Ong 2:30
Of course. So when I took first, my first Managing Director job, okay, which was in Singapore, or, you know, like many of us, your first Managing Director job is like, wow, you know, I have so called “arrived” and this is the job that everybody aim for in your career as a major milestone. So, when I took over that job, I felt like I’m here to change the world, you know, and I felt I still, you know, I can lead the people to drive growth and that is what everybody should desire. But I was wrong. I think it is really more about what does it mean to each one of them. Growing business is something that I drives a lot derives a lot of energy but that name may not be the same for everybody. You know, I think what’s important is to understand what the means to each one of the person and by growing business, what’s most important is how does that grow people as a whole.
Michael Murray 3:31
And what about your journey as a female, in leadership? Have you had struggles coming through the business to find where you are today? Can you talk to me about them? If you have had had them?
Ai Hua Ong 3:44
Yes, several, a few of them. I think one is also yourself. Right? Okay. You have to be comfortable, you know, with a room, only men, and you’re the only women. Yes. So I think, first start with yourself to be comfortable and to be confident. So that’s one. And second thing is, you know, understanding how to bring a point across with firmness without changing your own style because you have to be comfortable with it. And thirdly maybe more in terms of socializing. You know, there’s always a social side to the business. I think some of the topics are quite different, maybe talking about certain sports that I’m not familiar with. But at the same time, you know, also I also can learn how to throw a topic where it could be new interesting to to a dinner conversations with mainly male. And we talk about, you know, digital, which I really love about, I think that becomes a neutral ground.
Michael Murray 4:48
Of course, of course. And what about in terms of working for J&J? It’s got to be the has to be one of the most well-known healthcare brands in the world. Why do you think that business is such a leader in the market? What are the tangible qualities?
Ai Hua Ong 5:07
J&J is 130 years. You know, I just want to add a bit more color. It has seen two world wars. So it’s pretty amazing. For a company to stay so long, and be able to grow, I think it’s very important, you know, that there is a real and genuine purpose. And this real genuine purpose is really the credo of the company, the credo talks about in our responsibilities our customers, to the patients, to the doctors, to fathers that we serve with our responsibility to the employees, the third tenets of responsibility to a community and the fourth tenets about responsibility to the shareholders. You know, I’m saying this because it has become very real in my life as well, not just reproducing the words on the paper. And that purpose really brings people together to know what this company stands for. That is a very important calling to how a company is right and exists for 130 years so I think that is really core to being a leading company and centre of everything.
Michael Murray 6:29
What about China in general, because everyone wants to get into that market?
Ai Hua Ong 6:34
How do you build an environment that brings out the best in people sometimes may not be well understood because it is the more compensation more salary that we see, which is true and that’s the that is the ticket to play. But that’s not the ticket to win.