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An Interview With Sylvia Yu Friedman, Award-Winning Filmmaker, Author & Serial Entrepreneur!

Her Expat Life recently had the pleasure to speak with Sylvia Yu Friedman, Penguin Author of A Long Road to Justice, Global Top 50 Women In Sustainability, TV Host & Award-Winning Filmmaker to learn more about what life is like as a successful woman!

1: You have accomplished so much over your career as an award-winning filmmaker, Penguin

author, TV host, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropy consultant! What has been your most

rewarding role/project to date?

I always have this nagging feeling that I have so much further to go and more milestones to hit. I

never feel like I’ve made it and I would never want to “peak” which is why I try to go out of my

comfort zone every year and take on work that truly scares me (something totally new). The

most rewarding projects on the go are a book collaboration with a client – I can’t mention the

details yet but it’s with Penguin Random House – check back with me later this year. I’m

developing a TV series with a film production company and we’re working on the episode

summaries and it’s been a wonderful shift to focus on the creative side of things. I hope to

explore more creative projects this year through my (first) novel.

2: What would you say are the key factors that drive female success in business and the

workplace and what advice do you have for women living and working in multicultural work

environments who want to advance their careers?

Networking strategically and finding solid mentors have been a crucial part of my work success

especially as an expat – I highly recommend building up your network and identifying mentors. If

you can’t find a mentor, then hire a coach. Overseas in Asia, I don’t have the luxury of tapping

into deeply entrenched networks like the ones I have back in my hometown Vancouver where I

can call upon childhood friends and high school buddies. I have intentionally spent a lot of time

meeting new people in professional mixers or by joining clubs. Working in cross-cultural settings

is not easy and experiencing culture shock is a real thing. I can easily forget that I need to pull

back and be less direct with my Asian colleagues and that “saving face” is really important to

them. I rely on my mentors and friends outside of the office to help me process if I come up with

a challenge that’s due, let’s say, to cultural differences.

3: You have lived all over the world from Vancouver to Beijing and now Hong Kong. Tell us about

life as an expat!

I have been living abroad since 2004 and often forget that I’m living in a foreign city. Once in a

while, as I’m walking by an outdoor vegetable market with all the Chinese signs around me, I

have this seemingly dawning revelation, ‘Oh gosh, I live in Hong Kong!’ The one difference in

my life as an expat that stands out is that work projects are much more international in Hong

Kong and in the span of a day, I have met someone from Israel in the morning for networking,

then had a work meeting with someone from Singapore; and in the evening, I spoke with a local

Chinese from Hong Kong and corresponded with a South Asian in the city by email.

During the Pandemic, there was an exodus of expats including my original group of girlfriends

and I found myself starting all over again and expanding my friendship circle. Expat life has a

revolving door of people coming and going and yet this has given me more resilience in the area

of relationships – meeting new friends and maintaining friendships and my surrogate family –

and I’m much more intentional about building a support system around me than my friends in

Canada would be. I also stay in regular touch with my family and my longtime friends around the

world. It really is comforting to reach out to family and old friends whenever I need to speak to

someone who’s known me for a long time. One of the perks of living in this city that I’m looking

forward to doing more of is air travel to Thailand, Singapore, Korea and Japan etc. They are just a

few hours away.

4: What advice do you have for