"Care about everything you do": Q&A with Kim Heng January 2019
Kim Heng has joined Australian Ethical, a firm whose values "align closely" with her own, as its new chief operating officer. We ask Kim what she is most looking forward to in the role and about the part her degree in geomatic engineering has played in her career. We also discover her best advice, creative passions and a little about her formative years growing up in Redfern when life was, well, simple.
- What drew you to Australian Ethical Investment?
Australian Ethical Investment is a very different type of company built around a set of beliefs that put it in a unique place to operate in the market. It is a mission-led, purpose-driven organisation and its success to date proves that profit can come with the pursuit of a higher purpose. Beyond this, the company’s values - authenticity, empathy, wisdom and action - are closely aligned with my own personal values and since I began here it has been amazing to see how they are embedded throughout the whole organisation. I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the Australian Ethical team to support its vision and focus for the future and create a positive impact in the world.
- What are you most looking forward to in the role over the coming months?
I am really excited to work on the integrated platform and focus on the technology components and how they will interact to deliver the business capabilities required to support the customer strategy. I look forward to working with the team to bring this vision to life.
"It is a mission-led, purpose-driven organisation and its success to date proves that profit can come with the pursuit of a higher purpose."
- Your undergraduate degree was in Geomatic Engineering. Can you tell us more about this field of study and how it has informed your career?
Geomatic Engineering is an engineering discipline focused on spatial information. I majored in Geographic Information System (GIS), which is a system that allows you to overlay different data sets to manipulate and analyse spatial or geographic data.
Even in the early 90s, data was hugely valued but mostly available in government organisations and large corporations only due to cost constraints. The concept of overlaying different datasets to formulate an answer, support a hypothesis or make decisions was a key focus. Working with data all through my career has given me an appreciation for what data insight can do for an organisation when implemented and used correctly.
Project management was also taught at university and while back then I had no comprehension of its significance, it has supported my career from the very beginning. Meanwhile, experience in computer programming has given me the foundation to understand software lifecycles and database structures which now helps in understanding software and integration projects.
The one thing my university degree definitely taught me was the ability to research, think through processes and apply critical thinking.
- How do you see technology advancing to benefit Australian Ethical’s customers?
Technology advancing will allow us to interact and connect with Australian Ethical’s customers in a more seamless way. Data analytics and insights, coupled with an integrated platform, will allow us to better understand them and engage more effectively. Everyone now wants to engage with organisations simply and quickly but without compromising quality service. Technology improvements will also enhance our operational efficiency and reduce risk which in turn will help us to better service our customers.
- What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman building a career in finance?
I have to say I have been really lucky and being female has not really been a barrier to building a career in finance. That said, when I was in engineering I was in a workplace where I would be the only female which could pose some logistical issues because back then the workplace itself did not cater for female staff.
- Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Redfern where I started in kindergarten and then spent the majority of my primary school years. As a six year old child I was able to walk down to the corner store to buy milk and bread, even firecrackers (when it was still legal) and feel completely safe. It was multicultural even back then and it was a great childhood that I remember fondly. Life was simple when you could just ride a bike or play outside before dinner time, do art and craft at the local community centre, enjoy a red skin lolly at the local swimming pool and just be a kid!
- Do you have a secret skill/hidden talent?
I’m not sure if it is a secret skill or hidden talent but I really enjoy art and just being creative. Creating and bringing things to life has always been a real passion. It could start with an idea and end up with an oil painting, some sort of art project or structure. Painting has always been therapeutic and a great way to de-stress. This talent has me served me well with my children growing up as we paint together and do other creative projects, even venturing into creative cooking where recipes may not always be followed.
- What is the best advice you have been given?
A very wise woman (my mother) always taught me to “care about everything you do and the impact it has on others”. If you care, you can make a difference in everything you do. This is something I apply in my personal and work life, and has made a positive impact in my life. I find myself giving the same advice to people around me, like my family, friends and even my previous teams.