Carol Szeto is the CEO at Save the Children Hong Kong. In her 2021 Spotlight Series Interview, she discusses her very interesting career path which includes positions in the business and for the past 12 years in the non-profit sector.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I grew up in Hong Kong, but spent the last 30+ years living in Canada, the U.S., and Switzerland. I returned home a year ago to be closer to my family, and to assume the role of CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong.
I started my career as a chemical engineer. Since then, I have re-invented myself many times. I was a management consultant, and then a marketer. After spending 13 years in the private sector, I moved into the non-profit world. That was twelve years ago.
2. What drew you to this career? What has motivated you to stay?
When I was at Pfizer, I participated in an employee volunteering program and was sent to Ghana for six months to work with NGOs to help under-served communities. There, I was responsible for teaching villagers about the symptoms and treatments of malaria – one of the leading killers of children under five years of age.
The global health fellowship in Africa was a life-changing experience. I realized how privileged I had been, with access to clean water, sanitation, housing, quality education – things that I had taken for granted all my life. I also learned that I could leverage my business skills in the public sector and make a greater impact on the lives of others who most need help.
So I took the biggest risk of my career. I dropped everything in New York for a six-month leave coverage position in Switzerland at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. I made a career change, and never looked back.
3. This year has brought tremendous upheaval and disruption to all aspects of our lives. How are you and your company continuing to promote diversity and gender equality despite these massive changes?
Focusing on the most deprived and marginalized children is at the core of what we do at Save the Children. We have projects empowering adolescent girls in India, educating ethnic minority children in Laos, and providing gender-sensitive training to officials in Thailand to support child victims of trafficking. COVID-19 has widened inequities around the world. The poorest families, children with disabilities, female-headed-households, and girls, are hit the hardest. So we have a lot more work to do.
4. What has kept you motivated to succeed this past year?
What keeps me motivated is the simple belief that everyone has the power and responsibility to make a difference. When COVID-19 hit Hong Kong last year, my organization gathered and donated masks, hand sanitizers, laptops and other relief items to vulnerable families in Hong Kong. We pulled together and adapted. That’s what made me proud.