“Being the Authentic Me” -by Kumjoo Huh of South Korea
The current state of global business is defined by rapid and disruptive changes. During my 30+ years of experience in an Asian financial institution in Korea, I have always strived to be authentic by changing my job positions to align with the market trend as well as my personal life cycle, and ultimately integrating my work and personal life in a meaningful way.
My career trajectory began in the PR department, but I was soon transferred to the Founder's Office where I made history as the first female Chief of Staff of a financial institution in my 30s. In my pursuit of global business, I learned Chinese at the age of 40 and moved to China to work with my two sons when the market was opening up to foreigners. In China, I established strategic alliances with a major financial institution and governmental associations. Upon my return to Korea, I spearheaded the expansion of our global customer base in the newly introduced Corporate Pension sector. After a decade, recognizing the potential of digital transformation, I enrolled myself at Technology school in order to evolve into a digital leader then voluntarily took charge of the company's new growth engines where I launched in-house corporate venturing program and focused on digital projects. In the meantime, the company endowed additional roles including Governmental Relations and Public Relations. I have always endeavored to design my job position considering both work and life aspects, then took the initiative to make the proposal to the management. As a result, the Asia Insurance Industry Award endowed me with “Woman Leader of the Year” in 2020.
Along with my career success, I was juggling several balls and the ball that always dropped happened to be the most fragile, my family. When my two boys were in elementary school, I constantly wondered whether they were being sacrificed for my work. My guilt trip led to massive accumulation of toys even if I had given every effort to spend quality time. When my sons grew up, however, they proudly said “ I think you are the greatest mom among all my classmate moms and I am glad that you pursued you career .” Without a doubt, this was truly the happiest moment of my life. It compensated for all the lost hours.
Being cognizant of the challenges encountered by women in the workforce, I wanted to give back to the society and became an advocate of DE&I. I first participated in the American Chamber of Commerce’s Professional Women’s Committee and then was invited to be on the board Women in Innovation which had a focus on group mentoring program. Inspired by this experience, I launched a DE&I council for my company and started a conference called Korea Women’s Innovative Network, now a symbolic Conference in Korea. As I believe that mentorship is one of the most important factors that can lead to creating a talent pipeline, I now help many non-profit organizations and companies establish mentoring platforms. This experience also helped me realize the importance of gaining insight into people. As a result, I pursued Coach and Yoga Alliance certifications to enhance my authentic leadership
Due to this track record, when the G20 Leaders decided to set up the G20 Empower Alliance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family jointly bestowed me with the honor to represent Korea, the highest honor as an Asian woman leader. I now shoulder a larger obligation of continuing my DE&I journey in order to leave behind a better world for the generations of daughters and granddaughters to come.