Talk about Keeping Up With The Jones' - one miss Kristy Jones is hard enough! While she prepped to leave Hong Kong for a new Marketing Director role in the big apple, we took the opportunity to ask her about Hong Kong life, tips on the city and her transition to NYC.
Name: Kristy Jones
Occupation: Marketing Director
Hometown: Brisbane, Australia
Current Residence: Hong Kong on way to NYC
How did you come to be in Hong Kong?
I was cruising along in Sydney and loving life there, when completely unplanned and unexpectedly I was given the opportunity with my previous employer to take up a promotion to lead the marketing department in Hong Kong. I think secretly though, I had my radar on the alert for a change and a challenge, I just didn’t imagine it would turn out to be a move to Honkers. As soon as I had a taste for some of Hong Kong’s best - the Peak, Stanley, Mott 32, LKF, Wan Chai, 22 Ships, Sheung Wan cafes and Mongkok markets - I fell in love with the city and seized the chance to be here.
What were your first impression of the city as a place to live and work?
Hong Kong is so many things, all crammed into one teeny tiny place - which makes for something so awe-inspiring it becomes hard to explain. Kind of like a cacophony of sights, smells, tastes that you can only appreciate once you experience it. I quickly had the sense it was the most fun-filled city you can find (it’s going to be hard to beat), but what was most profound to me was the imminent adventure at every corner - a thousand cultural experiences all around me and regional travel that was screaming my name... it’s still so infectious.
You are part of the Women's Foundation in HK and undertook the mentor program - how do you think that has helped you over the last few years personally and professionally?
My involvement in the Women’s Foundation, particularly the Mentoring Program for Women Leaders, has had such a positive impact on my life and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. Like many things in Hong Kong - or life - you get out what you put in. The content in the program, coaching from my mentor and the network of support, ideas and inspiration from the cohort all came together to provide the platform for professional and personal development that I was seeking. I knew I had changes to make and a sense of where I wanted to go, but it was the program’s structure that provided the strategies, process and advice from experts outside my organisation that I needed.
Of course, you never know when the unexpected is going to happen, and as life turned out for me I was surprisingly made redundant the day after our graduation ceremony. Nothing quite prepares you for being celebrated as one of Asia’s future women leaders to being without a job in less than 24 hours. However, in so many ways much of the learning and development I’d been working on for the previous 12 months was both the saving grace and the launchpad for what was to come.
Keeping up a strong connection with the network has been important to me. I also take the gift of having received TWF’s completely free career development seriously. So to maintain a forum for professional development outside of the workplace for myself, as well as continue to support a pipeline of future women leaders and voices for gender equality, I now co-lead a Lean In Circle, a concept started by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organisation. It’s a small group of TWF alumnae who continue to support each other’s professional development and sharing strategies for building gender diversity.
You said you changed jobs while you were here and had a period off work. How do you think that shaped your attitude to the city and/ or work and roles you applied for?
Just like staying true to yourself in your personal life here is so important, the same rings true professionally. Undoubtedly the employment landscape is rapidly changing alongside the fast-paced political and cultural changes we are seeing in the region. The temptation to settle for something that’s not quite right in order to stay in this amazing city is there for many people on the job hunt. However, it’s also a fine balance between compromising and taking a risk that could pay off - be it entering the startup world, embarking on a career change or taking a role to get your foot in the door.
I received early advice that if I wanted the kind of role that I did, I would have to leave Hong Kong. Only being 18 months into the adventure, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. In many ways you are never ready to leave Hong Kong. But, now that I’m over 3 years here, have lifelong friendships and a laundry list of adventures gained, I’ve come to the happy conclusion that “leaving the party at midnight” is the best move for me. And importantly, everything always turns out the way it’s meant to, and often for the best...
You’re about to jet off to the Big Apple - what are some of your expectations about differences in life here vs life in NYC?
So much of that I’m about to discover! I think in many ways the lifestyle is similar; living in big cities, working hard and enjoying a healthy social life. I have missed living in a city with lots of cultural diversity and access to great live music and performing arts, so I’m looking forward to more of that. What I will certainly miss going forward is getting out my passport every other month, that’s for sure! But, there are 50 states to explore...
For a woman who has had an endless HK Bucket list, what are some items you are still yet to tick off?
This is a tricky one, because as we know with Hong Kong life if you’re keen to do something (legal) there’s not much stopping you, so I have seen and experienced most of the highlights! What’s important with me is cramming in as many of my absolute favourite HK things with my HK besties.
A few more hikes (although difficult to schedule with this summer’s up and down weather).
As many foot massages as I can possibly fit in. I love them, and no where quite does it like Gao’s or 10 Feet Tall
Some Champagne at Cafe Gray and Canto food at Hutong
(Another) Duddell’s brunch - a Hong Kong classic
Jumping on a plane and going away with the girls for a weekend in Bangkok
Falling into the LKF and Wan Chai vortex one last time
Have you got a list of top things you want to do or achieve in NYC?
Rooftop views - what a city!
Fall leaves of the New England area - a trip to Maine or Connecticut, anyone?
Catch a baseball game at Yankee Stadium
The long list of museums and art galleries
Discovering some of the speakeasy’s
Easy access to yummy gluten free food (not one of Hong Kong’s best features)
Central Park to sit on some grass and have a picnic or read a book
Learn NYC’s version of Typhoon Roulette on snow days
Join a Lean In Circle, go to Creative Mornings and discover all the local ways we’re rising women to the top
Oh yeah, and do some work in my kick-arse new job
Do you have any parting words of wisdom on living life in HK and maximising your time?
It’s just completely infectious - so let yourself just go with it. Don’t fight the city or the people, weather or language; just ride the wave and always stay true to yourself. Focus on seeing the adventure or learning in all the “what the?” moments, because soon enough your love/hate relationship with Hong Kong’s quirks might be over!
Also, I arrived briefly knowing one person, and now walk away with more friends that are family than a girl can dream of... Go on a million friend dates, say yes to everything (and be kind to yourself when you say no, time for yourself is super important here) and you’ll find your tribe/s soon enough.
Also, don’t forget to pay it forward - we’ve all been the new kid on the block.