Life in an Asian household can be challenging — and Tracy Ang knows this well.
“When I was born, my mother would tell me in my childhood that she cried, not because she was happy, but because she was so disappointed I was another girl,” the INSEAD business school graduate tells Study International.
Feeling unwanted became a deep-rooted internalised belief that made its way into her life as an adult.
That feeling, however, started it all.
Ang was determined to prove her mother wrong — she was just as capable as a son, let alone worthy of being born.
Pursuing an MBA during the SARS pandemic
Growing up, Ang was extremely self-driven.
Add imposter syndrome into the mix, and you get an overachiever — so she lived up to her parent’s expectations by graduating with a degree in accounting.
Then, the 2003 SAR pandemic happened and the country’s economy took a hit.
Having lived her whole life in Singapore, Ang saw this as the perfect opportunity to travel.
“Before my husband and I made any major decisions on whether we’re going to have children that young, we figured perhaps we should travel the world and see what’s available outside of Singapore,” says Ang.
At work, she had a great mentor at Unilever who recognised her potential and strongly encouraged the Singaporean native to pursue an MBA.
“So, my husband and I both applied to schools and the only parameter that we agreed on was that we have to be in the same school because of our limited financial budget. There are some economies of scale going together (paying for one room, etc.),” she explains.
Soon, they were on their way to Paris to pursue an MBA at one of the world’s leading business schools — HEC Paris.
Upon graduating, the couple switched careers and continued to work in London and Hong Kong before returning to Singapore after their first child was born.
Juggling between her career and motherhood
For 14 years, Ang worked in a private equity firm until the COVID-19 pandemic — a moment the Singaporean graduate clearly remembers.
Being in risk management during the pandemic was stressful since she was responsible for developing contingency plans for the fund’s portfolio companies.
On top of that, she had to juggle her career and motherhood, which inevitably led to her burnout.
“At that point in time, I imagined what it was like to live a different life,” the mother of two shares.
Struck by a mid-life crisis, Ang quit her corporate job to be more present as a mother to her two children. It leads to the question: can a woman truly have it all?
“You could ask me: Is there a balance? Could I do both? To be honest, I didn’t feel it was possible because I was in the private equity industry,” she says.
“If you know a little bit about the industry, it’s a full-on intensive job. They don’t pay you a high salary for you to be half there.”
INSEAD business school’s transformative EMC programme
Joining the Executive Master in Change (EMC) programme at INSEAD business school took her on a reflective journey.
It drives home an issue that goes back early into Ang’s childhood: being self-driven and self-motivated.
Through the programme, she’s realised an intergenerational trauma and a deeper understanding of her mother’s desire for a son.
“I used the concepts learned in the first two modules about ‘The Self’ to really process why I behaved in certain ways in the past, my corporate job, and what encouraged that internal drive that I had in childhood,” Ang shares.
With this, INSEAD business school allowed her to start the second half of her life with a “clean slate”. Ang had the privilege and courage to try different things.
She even took a coaching certification to empower other women — in similar positions as herself — connect the dots.
“I wanted to be able to help other women so that they don’t end up like me being so burnt out. Coaching could show women how to have a more sustainable way to balance both work and life,” she enthuses.
For International Women’s Day, Ang advises women to reflect and redefine what it means to be successful as a woman.
“Look at your entire life, not just at a particular stage. Women can want different things and that’s okay,” she says.
These outstanding alumnae are part of the INSEAD business school’s “Ambition Has No Gender” campaign.