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“Every Hinrich scholar is an innovative thinker. They like to break new grounds with their skills and adaptability.”

Breaking new grounds

“Success for me is to follow the passion that I have always nursed. It has always been a dream to do the kind of work that has not been undertaken by others. Success for me is all about breaking new grounds!”

Juliet Shwe Gaung has always aspired to do something unusual, something she is passionate about and something that helps her achieve her goals. She deems the culmination of these three conditions to be her definition of success.

Middle of the road

Juliet Shwe Gaung is a Hinrich Foundation Global Trade Leader scholar who completed her Master of Arts in International Journalism Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) in 2012. She wears her middle-class heritage proudly and counts her blessings that her family is comparatively in a far better state than many others in Myanmar.

Juliet modestly calls herself the ‘middle’ child. “The support one gets from our employment and education was limited at the time I was growing up, but my parents skillfully managed a well-rounded home-schooling. I was never a top student, always somewhere in the middle, but not that bad either,” she fondly reminisced.

She completed her undergraduate studies from the Institute of Economics, Myanmar, and since writing was a passion, interned at dual-language newspapers. “Writing was my passion, and there weren’t many journalists in Myanmar at that time. So I liked the idea of having a career that was atypical. Not that there were many career choices available to us,” she laughed.

In her own words, the chance to study at HKBU was a turning point. “After I graduated, I met Alex Boome and was inspired to change the status of my life when he said to me: ‘You are in a position to make a change.’ It’s like a missing jigsaw piece fell in place!”

Juliet is very nostalgic about her time at HKBU. She recalled various highs and lows in her life as a student. “A week after I had enrolled at the master’s program, I wanted to buy an air ticket and head back home. The loneliness, expectancy and urgency related to study was overwhelming for me. But I gradually loosened up with time. I tried to enroll at the gym, took day trips despite tight submission schedules and generally created a more balanced existence and managed to score well overall.”

Amid all the activities that the course offered, Juliet enjoyed talking to people and interviewing them the most. She worked as a sales assistant at the Conrad Bazaar like other students, but honed her skills as a journalist by interacting with people on the ground level. The various interactions and study trips undertaken during the course broadened her perspective as a global citizen.

Juliet holds up one of the products on sale at the 2012 Conrad Bazaar in Hong Kong

“My first study trip to Prague and Paris was an eye-opening one. I remember taking the bus alone at night to interview a Burmese family who had arrived in Prague to take refuge, and it suddenly struck me how far I had come. And [the] few things that used to bother me earlier seemed so unimportant in the face of what I seemed poised to achieve!”

Juliet joins a study trip to Prague and Paris while a student at the Hong Kong Baptist University

As part of the HKBU-organized study tour to Prague, Juliet attended a foreign correspondent training course where she interacted with foreign correspondents. Meeting professional foreign correspondents, a female war reporter and Pulitzer Prize winners inspired her to become a foreign correspondent.

Creating change

Juliet regards graduating from HKBU as her winning moment. “The opportunity to study at HKBU was the turning point for me. It was my first study trip abroad and I made a success of it,” she said.

“My parents are so proud, because I am the only one in the family to get a master’s degree,” Juliet admitted easily. From home schooling in a middle-class household in Myanmar to graduating from HKBU, Juliet has surely come a long way.

Given a chance, Juliet would gladly rewind the clock and be a student at HKBU all over again. She attributes the majority of her valuable life skills, experience and learning to her one year of study at HKBU.

One can still catch glimpses of the irreverent HKBU student in Juliet. She comes across as a free spirit who is extremely candid in her observations about the kind of work she is doing, the wistful pauses she takes before answering each question, and the raw ambition that burns bright.

Business space

Juliet has worked with two international teams during her tenure as a journalist. After graduating from HKBU in June 2013, she worked for Hinrich Foundation as a consultant for marketing, branding and communications.

“It was a great experience and I learned little details about communication, on the job, that I can never find in any book or learning material. I reported to Alex Boome, who is a bit tough on students, but the coaching is invaluable,” she added tongue in cheek.

In October 2015, she joined DealStreetAsia, a news and intelligence platform that provides international and regional investors insight into Asia’s financial markets. The site www.dealstreetasia.com reports on investments, mergers, acquisitions, private equity, venture capital, investment banking and the business of startups in the region.

Juliet and the DealStreetAsia team relax after successfully holding the Asia PE-VC Summit 2017 in Singapore

“My experience with my second team at DealStreetAsia has been equally rewarding. We don’t micromanage each other. We retain our freedom, share flexible hours and have ample time to create new ideas.” Juliet believes that a good team needs to be open to new ideas and be generous enough to allow each member to retain their freedom of expression.

Currently a reporter for DealStreetAsia, Juliet focuses on investments, which is a niche space in Myanmar. For Juliet, this is one step forward in her definition of success.

“When I was working for Myanmar Times as an intern, my focus was always on investment-related stories. Despite being a startup, I joined DealStreetAsia because it’s covering business topics that strike a chord with me.”

“Very few people in Myanmar can write a clean piece or cover a business space, and I feel I am making a difference covering this space for my country,” declared Juliet proudly.

Visibility with words

Juliet is very passionate about the kind of work she is doing. She feels her stories about investments in Myanmar can make it more visible to the world.

“I was always in love with journalism and writing. However, without detailed knowledge on how to tell a story and the opportunity to cultivate my skills, I never realized what qualified journalism was like and how I could effectively improve my talent.” Juliet feels that taking her master’s degree at HKBU gave her better perspective on how she can use her talent to better serve her country of birth.

“I can make a difference by making Myanmar more visible to the world, and bringing investments to my home turf.” Committed to the cause of positive change, Juliet is on her way to contribute as much as she can.

New initiatives

Juliet wants to take a shot at writing long-from content in the near future. Long-form journalism deals with content ranging anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 words, and often take the form of creative nonfiction or narrative journalism.

“My passion is writing. It’s my dream to write a long-form journalistic piece. Long-form journalism is an art that may die in the near future, and I want to make an attempt to keep it alive,” Juliet said with great conviction.

A cycle of support

Juliet is most thankful towards the cycle of support she received while growing up, during her study years and later in her career.

“My dad is my superman. I am most thankful toward my parents who set me on my path to success despite the obvious difficulties that life presented before them. I also feel immense gratitude for the Hinrich Foundation for offering me the scholarship that opened my eyes to new possibilities. And to my various team members who gave me their support, shaped my perspective, taught me in different ways to be part of a team and grow with it.

Juliet joins Mr. Merle Hinrich, Hinrich Foundation’s founder

Just as I leaned on them for support, I also learned to support others and it became a cycle of support that has grown through the years.”

100% effort and honesty

“I believe that even if you wash a dish, wash it super clean, with 100 percent effort and honesty.”

And that is Juliet’s sincere advice to the new generation of Hinrich Global Trade Leader candidates — to finish each piece of work with 100 percent effort and honesty.

 

Read more inspirational stories here