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Q&A with Sharlane Foo, director, Opera Gallery
You are managing a team of Millennials. What challenges is that creating?
Personal growth is important for Millennials. Younger leaders are more prone to set long-term goals and inspire their team. I strive to achieve difficult tasks and set an example for my generation as well as my employees. The traditional workplace hierarchy is shifting, so I try not only being their leader, but also their mentor. I choose to lead not with my title, but with my teachings so my team understands I appreciate them. This is how I operate because Millennials have a stronger focus on company culture and opportunities.
You are relatively young for such a senior role. What advantages/disadvantages does that present?
There are difficulties such as not being taken seriously in a society where age reigns supreme and commands greater respect. Some believe that age is synonymous with experience, but it is actually hard work and effort that truly matters. In a heavily male-dominated industry, being a leader while being young and female can be a challenge, but it is one I embrace.
The positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Being accomplished at my age allows me to aim further and higher. In conventional offices, where directors are much older than their subordinates, there can be a generational gap, but I am able to relate with those in my gallery. Young leaders are able to embrace change because we are not confined by older, traditional mindsets. Definitely being able to understand the most coveted demographic is a huge benefit in my position.
Being Millennial-aged yourself, do you think that is an advantage or disadvantage?
It definitely is an advantage to be a Millennial and to understand my market. Being like-minded allows me to understand and anticipate the needs of younger consumers with purchasing power. It also allows me to be flexible. A particular ability that Millennials have is the ability to adapt in any environment. I am fluent in Mandarin, but only started learning seriously as an adult, having worked previously in a Chinese gallery.
You relocated from Singapore to take up the role. How do you find the two cities different?
Singapore and Hong Kong are vastly different cities. In terms of the art industry, Hong Kong is obviously faster paced and has a much more diverse landscape. As the main art hub of Asia, the presence of many great collectors and different institutions makes my job interesting. The talent pool here is also extremely competitive which is great. Overall, the working environment in Hong Kong is fantastic because of the great opportunities and vibrant people.