“Never stop learning and challenge yourself. It’s very easy to stay in your comfort zone and avoid risks, but that won’t help make positive changes. As a leader, I put myself forward as a pioneer to learn new skills.”
Rebecca Liu, Vice President and General Manager, Greater China at Clinical Innovations, LLC
After beginning her career as a legal counsel, little did Rebecca Liu know that a trip to the USA to study for an MBA would change her career path. Today she has more than 10 years’ experience working as a vice president in different organisations in the life science and clinical healthcare industry. She is still learning new technologies and tools and has a vision to bring their benefits to those in need and to improve healthcare globally.
RW: Can you tell us the story of how you reached your current position, and what has driven you on that journey?
I graduated with a law qualification and began working as a legal counsel. I was very lucky that the company I worked for sponsored me to study for an MBA at the University of Illinois in the USA, giving me my first taste of business skills. As I approached graduation, I was offered an opportunity to work for a local US company specialising in ventilation equipment and control. That’s where my career in business development and operation began.
In 2004, most Chinese people working in the US were choosing to stay there, but the company I was working for asked me to relocate back to China and help build up their first manufacturing site there. With this promotion to management I would be involved in bringing foreign technologies into the China market. That really meant something to me, so I said yes. I left the company in 2006 and joined a US company specialized in laboratories solution, I had already developed an interest and expertise in laboratory and healthcare, and also would like to help more multinational companies to “copy exact” in China.
Four years later, when minimal invasive technology was only just being introduced in China, I felt it was a personal privilege to be involved with it and I joined one of the largest private owned US medical device companies. I wasn’t only helping a US company to develop its business in China, I was also playing the role of an industry advocate and influencer. I had opportunities to talk to health departments and authorities in the US and felt I was helping make a change.
Currently I have a GM role at Clinical Innovations, a medical device company which focuses on maternal health and neonatal intensive care. I am helping bring obstetrics technology and healthcare to mothers, newborn babies and families in China, which is extremely meaningful and impactful to me as a woman.
RW: Can you share with us one of the decisions you have made that has had a big impact on your life, and what you have learned from it?
Looking back, I think I have been lucky that at every turning point, I have made the decisions that have suited me best. One of the biggest changes was to shift from the legal to the business field while flying to US for my MBA studies. My flight from Shanghai to the US was just after 9/11 and when it was cancelled, many of the people around me said I should abandon the trip and study because of safety concerns. I insisted I was going and took the first flight I could when flying resumed, changing my career for good.
That may sound like a risky decision at the time, but to me, embracing calculated risks will make you braver in making changes. It has also been a catalyst for making me more confident in my abilities. I am really glad that I didn’t give up, otherwise I would never have achieved the things I have in my career.
RW: Many people think of life science and healthcare as a male-dominated industry. Do you agree?
I do agree that traditionally medical device and life science companies, particularly at leadership level, have been more male-dominated. In the companies I have worked for, the number of women in leadership positions usually makes up less than 40% of the APAC management roles. However, I am seeing a trend for more women to work in the industry and move up, with many now in important roles at middle-to-senior level.
Particularly in obstetrics, the industry field where I am working now, I find women have a closer connection with and understanding of the end customers. Being a woman in a male-dominated working environment should not be intimidating. Women can be just as competent as their male counterparts in any task. On top of that, they tend to be more empathetic and congenial, which is very helpful in understanding and communicating with others. I believe women should always be mentored by women, and I am always looking to nurture and promote other women as leaders, too.
RW: What tips do you have for women who want to thrive and make a positive change?
Never stop learning and challenge yourself! It’s very easy to stay in your comfort zone and avoid risks, but that won’t help make positive changes. I constantly challenge myself in my industry, skills and leadership. People around me know that I love to learn new technologies and skills; I think that my company will always need new concepts and tools for its future development.
So don’t stop learning. The world is changing all the time and we have to keep up. I always say the biggest competition we’re facing now is not from our business rivals, but from disease. As a leader, I put myself forward as a pioneer to learn new skills, which I then ask my team to learn and apply the knowledge they gain.
However, don’t overlook your personal needs or the importance of your family, who give you a safe haven where you can relax. It’s easy to forego time with the family and children as you think you can get it back, but that’s not always the case. You need to take a break and have some me-time, no matter how busy work might be.
Finally, find your passion and be persistent. Always stay true to your values and stick at what you are doing if you believe you are making a positive impact!