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How one woman rose from cleaning staff to CEO

Juliet Wu Shihong

The Story of Juliet Wu Shihong  – one of China’s first-generation professional managers, who gained success by working her way up the ranks from a cleaner, a nurse, a marketing executive, through self-education and learning on the job.

She had been the general manager for the world’s most famous multinational IT groups’ Chinese branches (Microsoft 1985-1998; IBM 1998-1999). She is also China’s first successful international corporate executive to join the executive team of a domestic private firm. Wu was seen as a symbol of the new generation of business executives that China has produced in its economic reform and opening-up.

When Wu started off in a big company working from the lowest ranks, her daily job was to pour tea and sweep floors. Once, because she forgot her staff pass, the company’s guard stopped her at the door and denied her entry. She explained to the guard that she was indeed one of the company’s employees, and that she had merely left the building for a short while to purchase office supplies.

Despite her pleas, the guard still did not allow to enter. As she stood at the gate, she watched as those of similar age to her, but smartly dressed in business attire walking through without having to show their passes.

She asked the guard, “Why are these people allowed through without producing a pass?” The guard dismissed her coldly nonetheless.

That was the turning point for Wu – she felt great shame, her self-esteem trampled on.

She looked at herself, dressed in shabby clothes and pushing a dirty push cart. Looking back at those dressed in smart attire, her heart felt a deep ache from the sudden realization of the sorrow and grief from being discriminated. From that moment, she vowed never to allow herself to be shamed like this again, and to become world-famous.

Since then, she used every opportunity to enrich herself. Every day, she was the first to arrive at work, and the last one to leave. She made every second count, spending her time learning the ropes. Her efforts soon paid off; she was made a sales representative, and quickly progressed to being the regional general manager of this multinational company in China.

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Wu did not possess strong academic qualifications, and was revered as the ‘Queen of Part-timers’. Subsequently, she assumed the position of GM of IBM China. This is the Wu Shihong, the heroine in China’s business circle.

Source: Cambridge Entrepreneur Academy

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