Connecting the dots to create value

You are not a founder of an NGO or a social enterprise, you are not an activist or an entrepreneur, you are an employee in a multinational company. You are young and junior, not even based in the headquarters; can you still make a difference? The answer is yes.

Then you ask, how can I? Here’s how: know yourself and the organization, connect the dots to create value, and keep asking “how can I help”.

This is exactly what I’ve been doing over the last 5 years. These principles got me here in Ottawa as one of the 15 selected future leaders across the globe in my company to form this year’s Thomson Reuters delegation.

I started as a contractor when I joined my company. Even though I was not a full-time employee, I had no doubt I could and should make a difference. I didn’t hesitate to take the lead and stand out; in fact, I did my best to grab any opportunity that I saw, and once I had the opportunity, I made the most of it for the company and for myself. I took over the leadership role of the local employee volunteer group and transformed it, I joined the steering group of an employee learning club and I became part of editorial team of our internal journal. I was challenged by some people; they didn’t understand why a contractor wanted to devote so much of his time to things that didn’t seem to make him any money. 

Seven months later, I interviewed and secured a full-time role successfully, and I began the 2nd phase of my journey of making a difference in a global company. I begun to do more research on the organization: its core values, its existing and needed resources, the social impact and corporate citizenship it wanted to commit to. I also asked myself the questions: – do I want to become a future leader in this company, how do I want to grow with this organization, what can and should be the areas I explore next or keep exploring? During that time, I led those employee resource groups to initiate many projects and activities to drive engagement and partnerships. Meanwhile, I also started to leverage global resources and have a Chinese voice heard. I was the first one who won a Community Champion Award issued by my company’s CEO Office. I also began to brainstorm how to synergise employee engagement, social good and innovation. Occasionally, I still faced misunderstanding and challenge. For example, some people once asked me why I sometimes worked from 7am to 9pm, and whether I could manage my day job well.

Since late 2014, I have been in the 3rd phase. On top of my day job, I am the co-chair of Thomson Reuters’ Global Volunteer Network Asia Pacific regional group, named an Innovation Champion who promotes and enables innovation within and beyond his office location, and a founding member of the China Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion Taskforce. I have stronger support from my peers, senior business leaders and internal partners to make a difference leveraging a global company’s resource. I face less criticism now which is not bad.

Understand who you are, what your unique strengths are that differentiate you from the others, and then embed this knowledge into your understanding of your organization. Always fearlessly speak up, boldly take actions, and strongly become the future leader aspire to be. Connect the dots with people or businesses, ask others how you can help; you’d be surprised how rewarding helping others will be. – You’ll actually be making a real difference.

Justin Fan is a delegate from China. He is a Business Analyst at Thomson Reuters. He is the Co-Chair of Thomson Reuters' Asia Pacific volunteer network, growing cross-region efforts and creating enterprise-level synergy. He won the 2012 Community Champion Award issued by the Thomson Reuters CEO.