As a self-described “advocate for the diversity of thought”, Professional Development Forum founder Jeffery Wang is passionate about supporting underrepresented cultural minorities in Australian business. Profile by the Straight Plains Press news team at Western Sydney University (Claudia Larbie, Kasozi Livingstone and Corin Shearston).
When jumping excitedly into careers, we often find ourselves going in headstrong to try our hardest. We might also start to feel burnt out, lost or directionless.
According to recent global research conducted by Staff Squared HR, only 15 percent of one billion full-time workers feel engaged at work. The remaining 85 percent may be unhappy in their career, feeling lost or unmotivated. Before co-founding the Professional Development Forum, Jeffery Wang used to be one of those people.
“When I founded the Professional Development Forum [15 years ago], it was out of frustration”, Wang stated. “A very deep sense of frustration because [my friends and I] didn’t feel very satisfied with where our career was, so we got together and tried to do something about it.”
Coming from a Chinese background, Wang has been in the Australian workforce for over 25 years. He believes in the power of taking initiative and surrounding yourself with passionate, capable individuals. Working against the creeping feeling of being lost in a career while wanting to find some solid footing, Wang took action.
“We could have just sat there complained but nothing was going to change unless we tried to do something. We got together with a group of people and found the most senior person we knew at the time, got her in a room [and] heard from her about what she did to become who she was at the time. That was the first forum.”
As time progressed, support for the forum grew to the point where they were hosting speakers such as CSIRO Chairman and former Telstra CEO David Thodey, and former NSW Premier Mike Baird. Wang went on to have an important realisation about how people from certain cultural backgrounds might struggle to gain footing in the workforce.
“People from certain cultural backgrounds, we find, are struggling to achieve their potential. Most notably, that’s people from an Asian background, people from a South American background or people from an African background,” he said.
“We think the reason is because these backgrounds are very different to the culture of the mainstream culture in Australia, and that manifests in the career advice that we get.”
Due to his passion for community, Wang often seeks ways to assist those around him. His work in supporting underrepresented cultural minorities in Australia has led him to participate in the Judith Neilson Institute’s Community Voices project, to learn effective media engagement in a minority.
Wang believes his engagement with the project will help to promote the voices of the underrepresented, as they learn to engage more effectively with the media. Through this process, public attitudes towards the backgrounds of individuals can change. The project has allowed a greater level of awareness to be given to this issue, in a national context. Wang ultimately believes our country will function better if business skills are nurtured more effectively within certain cultures.
“Know how much power you have by taking initiative,” Wang concludes. “If you go in and you try your best, reach out, show people that you’re willing to work hard, [and that] you’re willing to take that initiative, it’s incredibly well-received. If you haven’t made it by 50, don’t give up.”
Regardless of what your heritage may be, this is valuable advice for us all.
Jeffery Wang works in IT and is a member of the Liberal Party’s Chinese Council. He’s also a co-host of the business podcast 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn, which is available on most streaming platforms.
Corin Shearston is the youth editor of the Sydney Sentinel.