Beverly Chen is the marketing director of marketing analytics firm AppsFlyer in the APAC region. Prior to AppsFlyer, she worked for e-commerce fashion group Zalora in Thailand and wine and spirit firm Pernod Ricard in Boston.
Note to ally: It’s really important to create a sense of community with other women, and remember that we should be here to lift each other up.
Growing up as a third culture kid, the question of “Where are you really from?” always takes Beverly some moment of hesitation, wondering whether the question refers to her nationality, birthplace, where her parents live, or where she is currently located.
Beverly, who is from a Taiwanese family, was born in the US, but grew up in Thailand, where she studied in a British International School. That international environment gave her the privilege to connect with people from multiple countries. “You don’t necessarily belong anywhere and it gives you a really unique perspective. You realize, for example, that the world isn’t that big,” she said.
While this reality has prepared Beverly to be more flexible and agile when it comes to changes, the most palpable learning of being a third culture individual for her is empathy, or in her own words, “a shared humaneness,” to know that that despite the differences — “We all feel joy, we all feel pain, and we all have our own challenges.”
“It really helps me foster a sense of understanding, which has also served me in my career, whether it’s understanding the nuances of different markets, or landscapes, or knowing what resonates with different audiences. Being exposed to different types of people’s experiences, the whole spectrum versus just a part of it, really informs your ability to think critically and solve problems through a wider lens,” she explained.
Graduating from Boston College at the age of 22, Beverly landed a job at Pernod Ricard, a premium french company that produces wine and spirits including Absolut Vodka and Bacardi. At Pernod, she met Patrick Lyons, the founder of Lyons Group, a prominent and regional food and beverage group in Boston. Lyons would become Beverly’s lifelong mentor.
One morning while having coffee with Patrick, Beverly asked him if he had thought about turning one of the iconic restaurants under his belt into a coffee shop. The question was something casual and even unintentional, but Patrick straight away encouraged her to realize this idea.
Beverly gladly accepted the proposal, even if she never had any previous experience managing a cafe. While she successfully turned the front area of the restaurant into an open-air cafe, that moment of transforming something that she imagined into a reality made her believe that she was capable of anything she had ever imagined for herself.
“What I mean by that isn’t necessarily in the context of competence, but rather that we all, as human beings, draw a line in the sand, whether consciously or not, of what we think is in the realm of possibility for ourselves, or what we want to achieve,” she said.
“Patrick basically pulled me outside of that circle I had drawn for myself, and left me with, instead of a small circle, the whole range. So I think it’s really that perspective shift, because a lot of the hesitations or challenges actually come from ourselves.”
While the cafe continues to remind Beverly of the capability to think big and beyond, her mind and heart have changed and grown throughout the years. Many people believe that mentorship is a binary relationship in which the mentor gives advice and the mentee receives, however, she believes that mentorship is a “living, breathing, dynamic relationship.”
“My personal experience has been that most of the time, from a mental perspective, the mentors always see a little bit of themselves in the mentee, and so you have this shared connection,” she said.
Along the way as both a mentor and mentee, she discovered that what she cares deeply about is more about giving than mentoring people.
“Because of the immense amount of support and encouragement that I’ve received from so many people, whether it’s people I know or people that I don’t know, I really feel that it’s important for me as well to do the same. So I’m really passionate about giving that advice when people want it, guiding them through experiences that maybe I’ve navigated before, so that they don’t need to hit the same challenges that I have.”
One learning that she always loves to share with her mentees is that only the most challenging moments help to discover the limitations and the boundary of oneself.
“The idea of grit: not necessarily coming into challenges with an optimistic view, but recognizing those challenges for what they are. At the end of the day, all problems can be solved. It’s about knowing that something is going to be hard, but you’re going to do it anyway.”
Perhaps that’s the spirit that brought her back to Asia. Before joining Zalora in 2015, Beverly did not know anything about tech, e-commerce, and the startup ecosystem in Asia. While logistics and infrastructure are some of the early challenges of e-commerce, she said that the most interesting thing about the region is that it forces people to be very imaginative when it comes to business challenges.
“It only serves you to come in with a more entrepreneurial mindset. And what do I mean by that? Not necessarily that you have to go and start your own business, but that you come into a mindset of having a blank slate, and really working from the bottom up to solve different types of challenges.”
Her enthusiasm for solving problems has taken her further. She joined AppsFlyer in 2016, at a time when mobile space was still new and did not have marketing measurement and attribution for marketers. AppsFlyer, a San Francisco-headquartered company that offers marketing analytics and fraud protection products, has grown from a small team to over 2,000 employees, while it has also reached a USD 2 billion valuation.
Along the way, Beverly has been surprised by the sense of community and support in the tech world. “I’ve come across so many people in the last few years. People I’ve reached out to or that I’ve been introduced to by a friend of a friend of a friend. They’ve been so generous with their knowledge, their time and advice, and I really tried to pay it forward in that regard.”
“The biggest thing for me is to remember that you always need to learn because that is your biggest asset: your ability to observe, to listen, and to learn. And it’s usually from other people. In terms of allies, I think it’s really leveraging the people around you. It has been such a pleasant surprise to have everybody be so willing to give their time,” she said.
She believes that it is very important to create a sense of community with other women. While strengths are hard to generalize based on gender, she brings up the idea of cultivating strengths that are not a result of being born in a certain way.
“Most importantly, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that every day we need to choose to challenge the unconscious biases that we all hold. To think about your own internal dialogue, and what goes through your head in different types of situations.”
”It’s really important also to recognize if we are holding ourselves back in certain ways? Are we placing biases on ourselves? It’s important to choose to challenge the status quo and what our understanding of normality is. So, I think that if we can do a little bit of that every day, it will help,” said Beverly.