Career Path

Combining flair with business acumen

by Judy Chan

Michelle Liu, director
Peegaboo Parenting Group
Photo: Wallace Chan

For a whole decade after graduation, Michelle Liu worked in sales and marketing, strategic planning and public relations, achieving one business goal after another. The opportunities to work alongside prominent business leaders provided her a quick climb on the success ladder but this did not satisfy her — there was something missing for this born entrepreneur with a zeal for music and a passion for children.

Born into a musical family, Ms Liu had mastered piano and violin, as well as a range of percussion instruments at a tender age. A bachelor's degree in commerce and a minor in child psychology from the University of British Columbia in Canada gave her a head start in the business arena — her love of vocal music later led her to pursue further studies at the Vancouver Academy of Music, learning from a world famous soprano.

Her musical flair was paired with a strong interest in early childhood development. It was in Hong Kong six years ago that she finally set up an early childhood music and drama learning centre, offering a portfolio of more than 15 music and drama programmes.

Ms Liu soon became a respected personality in the parenting industry, appearing as guest host in children's music television programmes and working as a parenting columnist for local newspapers and magazines.

The arrival of a baby boy Markus brought joy to Ms Liu's family in 2006. But, juggling her roles as a mother and businesswoman was tough and she subsequently sold off the learning centre. "That was a significant decision but I had no regrets," she says.

A year later, she and her husband founded "The shift from running a music academy to a parenting website gave me the flexibility to manage time with my son and my family. This enables me to spend at least four quality hours with my son every day," she says.

The Peegaboo site draws on the expertise of a group of specialists in parenting and early childhood education, focused on helping parents with children under the age of 12. Over the past few years, Peegaboo has grown into a diverse communication platform that connects parents and families through group forums, training, events, workshops, concerts and playgroups, as well as Peegaboo's own magazines.

"If an opportunity presents itself, don't hold back"

Ms Liu is grateful for the advice, tips and support she received from various professionals in starting up Peegaboo and stresses that like-minded, devoted experts have been a rich source of inspiration to her.

"These people helped me to get where I am now. While not everything has been plain sailing, we are now operating on full steam," she notes.

Balanced approach

People generally see a solid academic background with work experience as a prerequisite for building a successful career. While Ms Liu agrees that basic education is fundamental, she feels that practical experience is what provides that extra edge to demonstrate an understanding of the world of work, skills and abilities.

When it comes to hiring, Ms Liu is particularly interested in applicants' personal attributes. "I will choose a passionate achiever with charisma and team spirit over an ambitious one that possesses sound educational credentials but lacks passion and drive," she emphasises.

Considering the relatively high unemployment level among mid-career workers in Hong Kong, Ms Liu appreciates her staff's dynamic qualities and she is only too happy to offer time and resources towards staff training to help young professionals develop into competent business leaders.

In her view, integrity and good manners are at the essence of the social maturity necessary to approach tasks and relationships confidently and effectively.

Describing Peegaboo as her "life career', Ms Liu stresses however that she will never compromise her home life. "It makes me feel good to know that I'm needed at home. My family always remains at the top of my agenda," she confirms.

Although she is clear about her personal choices and priorities, Ms Liu believes in taking advantage of any opportunity for self-development.

"Career success means the world to me, provided that I have my family's support. Young people should seek to live a full life. If an opportunity presents itself, don't hold back," she advises.

Taken from Career Times 20 November 2009, p. B12
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