Christine Wang is an entrepreneur, consultant, and business leader with 10+ years of experience–she is currently the Head of Asia for the Singapore-based Lufthansa Innovation Hub. Previously, she was the China CEO of Meero, a French AI startup, Project Leader at BCG Digital Ventures, and Global Leadership Associate at Alibaba. She speaks five languages and has lived and worked in multiple countries including China, the United States, Germany, Singapore, and South Africa. Christine is also an avid documentary photographer who has held solo exhibitions and accomplished violinist that has performed in orchestras, quartets, and ensembles.
Christine Wang, Head of Asia at Lufthansa Innovation Hub
KrASIA (KR): What does it mean to push the boundaries of self? Was this something that was cultivated during your youth, or was there something that triggered this mindset shift?
Christine Wang (CW): That’s actually quite a big question. It really comes down to where your motivation and drive comes from. For me, it has always been curiosity. I was always really curious and open-minded towards trying out new things and why things work the way they do, and not care too much about what other people think.
Being Chinese but growing up in Germany definitely had an influence on me being more open-minded and curious. I think there was always a part of me that wanted to belong and become more German and the more I tried, the less I actually fit in. And so, in a way, pushing my boundaries was like experimenting with myself and envisioning what I could become.
KR: The whole idea of not caring what other people think—that’s such a muscle that people need to exercise and use. So, expanding on that question: How do you exercise that [muscle]? How do you make yourself not care and be more confident in the choices you’ve taken?
CW: I really think growth comes from struggle. When we talk about pushing our boundaries, we have to go through struggles in order to grow.
When I was 20, my dad passed away. I think this was when I really started to reflect more and understand that, oh man, we’re not invincible. When you’re that young, you kind of feel invincible, death is like a concept from Hollywood.
Through this experience, I realize that our time is the only thing that we truly own. For me making the most out of my time has become my life mantra and made me grow as a person, [which] also essentially means to care less about what other people think and to focus my energy on the things I still want to do and achieve in life.
KR: I’m sorry that happened to you at such a young age. I’ve read about the things that you’ve done and [how] you’ve utilized your time—you have probably accomplished way more than people at eighty have. You don’t pigeonhole yourself into any role, from photography and violin to entrepreneurship and business. How did you develop the courage to explore these diverse pursuits?
CW: Obviously, I don’t wish anyone to have to go through the struggle I had to go through, but I think there’s something to take away here: Be just a bit uncomfortable and put yourself out there.
Ever since that happened with my dad, I’ve started traveling, I’ve lived in different countries. I really tried to understand other people and what they care about. I think that enabled me to adopt a lot of different [perspectives] and not follow a path that everyone else was following. For example, one day I woke up and I thought it would be so cool to have a museum, so I started a gallery — I didn’t ask anyone for permission or what they thought about it, I just did it.
KR: Most recently, what has been the most uncomfortable thing you’ve done?
CW: Most probably circuit breaker. I always try not to fall into a routine. I think routine means being in your comfort zone, and therefore it means no growth. You need that bit of a shake-up—that creative flow and chaos. During circuit breaker, I didn’t have that, and so I felt a bit trapped. Typically, every month, I would travel to at least two places, and so I had to find ways to really [re]create that chaos in my mind.
KR: Now that we’re still in the midst of COVID-19, how are you channeling those creative juices? What are you working on?
CW: I have a lot of different side interests and projects, and that’s what keeps me quite busy. I just recently bought a piano, for example. I picked up oil painting again and I want to set up my gallery here in Singapore while also dabbling on startup ideas with some friends.
Most recently, I’ve started organizing small, random dinners at my house. I would put people together that didn’t know each other but had something in common and we would have dinner and great conversations.
I’ve just organized a banana dinner, which is essentially Asians that grew up in Europe or the Americas, you know—yellow outside but white inside, for example, a Guatemalan Taiwanese or an Italian Korean. We had such interesting conversations around ie self-identity and in a way, this dinner felt like a place to belong to. I would also host dinners around female leadership or innovation or other themes and this is how I’ve been keeping myself engaged and inspired.
KR: Now that is a great dinner concept. You must get great perspective from navigating and speaking on identity. What values are important to you right now and do they continue to evolve and change?
CW: I work for an airline, and the airline [industry] has been hit quite badly by COVID-19. I think, in times of crisis, that’s when [people show their true faces], and it’s a time when leadership matters most.
When I think about true leadership, the most important value to me is authenticity. Authenticity, to me, means to really be centered with yourself, be guided by principles, and show vulnerability.
That’s something that people don’t show enough in our world today. It is not about having the answer for everything but to let your people know: I don’t know exactly what the future brings, but this is how I think about it and believe in and that I will do my utmost best to get us through this.
Additionally, coming back to the notion of struggle and being in the comfort zone, traveling helps me [remind] myself to challenge the status quo. I don’t typically adopt a thought or belief just because everyone else is following it, but I would [reflect and] really think about it and build my own position or view on it. I can do that because I travel so much and see different ways of living and different value systems.
KR: I think you’re so right [about] being authentic; people tend to mold to what others want, not what they personally stand for. What advice would you also give to those who [want] to be more daring, more empowered, and more authentic?
CW: [You have to create] those opportunities for growth. You put yourself out there, you’re trying something that you feel uncomfortable with, and this is where you start to reach for your aspiration. I think that’s number one.
Number two is self-introspection. I’ve been reading this book called Reboot written by a guy that coaches start-up CEOs. The book is really great. At the end of each chapter, he has some homework questions for the reader. For example, he asks: In what ways do you deplete yourself and run yourself into the ground? Where are you running from and where to? Or, How are you complicit in creating the conditions of your lives that you say you don’t want?
Sitting there and answering those questions honestly for yourself is very powerful. I think those are very deep questions and [they] are the right [kinds of] questions to ask, [in order] to really become true to yourself.
KR: Thank you for that recommendation. Just to wrap this up, and as my last question: What are your thoughts, [moving forward]? As you continuously push the boundaries of self, what’s your next move?
CW: Wow, great question. I think the next couple of years is all about living up to my full potential. My 20s were guided by proving myself. And then, now that you’ve built your career, you have all of these names on your CV, you kind of feel empty. You’re like, “Okay, what’s next?” Personally, because I’m very creative, I would love to build out this artistic side of me and I want to give back through building communities and networks.
I think [also] having more control over my time, and using that time and freedom to do things I still have on my list is what I would like to focus on – maybe eventually start a coffee shop. Some of these passion projects are what I’d love to expand on.
KR: That’s great. One thing I’ve seen with COVID-19 is that it’s been an accelerator for a lot of the things that we wanted to do because, as you mentioned, time is [fleeting] and it’s hit a lot of us. It’s like: Why shouldn’t I do that passion project? Why shouldn’t I open a coffee shop? If you do open a coffee shop, I will be one of your most loyal customers.
Thanks so much. This has been such a great conversation and I look forward to the future topics that we discuss in person.
Disclaimer: This article is part of our “Tuning In” series, where we interview and chat intimately with thought leaders who are breaking the mold, pushing the frontiers of innovation, and are trailblazing figures in their space. All answers reflect the personal perspective of the interviewee herself, and not KrASIA’s.