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Jackie Li

Jackie Li

APAC Legal Counsel

Beijing, China

Don’t wait to take charge of your career.

Meet Jackie Li, APAC Legal Counsel

  • Celebrating over 15 years with Hitachi
  • A career profession inspired by economic reforms and pop culture
  • Life lesson that the best time to do something is now


Choosing my profession

I was born towards the end of the Cultural Revolution in China. And a few years after I was born, China started reforms and opening its economy to the world.
Gradually we were able to access pop music, world movies, global TV – like any teenager I liked to watch a lot of TV. The most popular TV dramas then were from Hong Kong, and that’s where I was exposed to the legal world through the legal dramas that showed the work and life of lawyers in Hong Kong. Those shows were a revelation, it opened another world for me.

Fast forward, by the time I was about to enter college, there was a surge in new majors, like finance, business management, corporate law etc. due to reforms. And as economy and business was booming in those years, there was a huge demand for lawyers, especially corporate and business lawyers. And one thing led to other, I ended up choosing law for my major.  I can say I was drawn to the legal profession because of my interests in reasoning and influence of legal dramas in my teenage years.

Best career decision I made

I joined Hitachi as the head counsel for Mainland China and Taiwan. Three years ago, when my manager was moving on, he asked if I’d be interested in being the APAC general counsel – I was completely surprised. The role of APAC General Counsel is huge, I never gave it a thought or aspired to be there – I have always been limiting myself to a regional head role. I asked for some time to think through.

In that time, I put together a list of the challenges I could face, all things that could go wrong – English being my second language, my limited experiences of working outside Greater China region. APAC is such a diverse region, you’ve ANZ, India, other southeast Asian countries etc. Cultural difference, time zones, expectations, all these were playing in my head. I lacked the confidence to decide until I reached out to my colleagues, with whom I worked for 12 years. I spoke to all of them, tried to understand the expectations of the role, responsibilities and get their advice.They all had faith in me. They encouraged me and assured me of all the support to make this move a success. This eventually gave me the confidence to take this opportunity.

It’s been the best decision I ever made!

Challenging but rewarding

The last three years have been very challenging, yet the most rewarding. I have had so many learnings from technical skills, legal skills to communication and a mindset change.
When I look back, I think I focused too much on the differences, all the negative aspects. And because of my limited experience, I completely neglected all the common practices, all the positives that could happen. Working with other countries, having similar business practices, different cultures to learn from – there is so much in common. I realized the most difficult aspects I faced in China, for example complex commercial transactions – were substantially similar across APAC.

Advice to my 25-year-old self

I’d say, ‘don’t wait for the perfect time to do anything’. I have been passive in my career path – even when an opportunity landed in front of me, I was still hesitating. But it’s not a good thing in career development. There is no such thing as perfect timing in the world at all.

Another advice would be ‘to have experience of working and living in another country and experiencing the culture’. We know how important it is to have effective communication and strong collaboration. I think exposure to different perspectives, different culture helps a lot in developing mutual understanding and empathy, which eventually broadens your understanding about almost everything.

We can do a lot of things online, but as an old-fashioned person, I still think experiencing life in another place makes a huge difference.

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