Home' A Plus Magazine : Nov 2012 Contents 38 November 2012
Jenny To, regional recruitment and talent
development director, Pernod Ricard Asia
To was growing up in a traditional Chinese
family in Hong Kong not too long ago, there
was still a limit to how far a girl would be ex-
pected to develop her career. While still in
high school, To's mother suggested that per-
haps it was time she earned a living.
She decided to pursue nursing, a fairly
traditional field of work for young women
at the time. Her choice would unsuspect-
ingly help propel her towards an accounting
degree and membership of the Hong Kong
Institute of CPAs.
To was working in a hospital in Hong Kong
when she heard that the United Kingdom was
experiencing a severe shortage of qualified
nurses. It was when she got to London that
she decided to further her education.
"I did part-time study for my A levels be-
cause I didn't finish them in Hong Kong,"
To recalls. Then she went to City of London
Polytechnic, now London Metropolitan Uni-
versity, and did her accounting degree.
"I'd been pretty good all along with my
mathematics subjects in my high school,"
she remembers. "I subsequently did my A
levels in the U.K. in maths and did my other
course in accounting, so it was kind of natu-
ral for me to do accountancy in university."
After graduation, To became a trainee
at a small accounting firm in Staines-upon-
Thames, a suburban town near Heathrow
airport. "We had about 50 people in the
firm," she recalls. "We didn't really have
to work long hours -- almost every day we
could finish at about six o'clock." She was
living far across town in Plaistow, east
London, at the time.
Two years later, To returned to Hong
Kong to follow her husband, whom she
married in Britain soon after graduation
and who had been made redundant when
the British economy faltered in the early
1990s. "I worked for Kwan Wong Tan &
Fong, the largest local audit firm in Hong
Kong, with quite a lot of major listed com-
panies on its books," she says. (The firm
merged into Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in
Once she began working in Hong
Kong, finishing at 6 p.m. became a thing
of the past. "I had to work long hours," To
recalls. "When you were chasing dead-
lines you could not sleep, you worked
overnight. It was tough."
To began to look for opportunities in
Hong Kong's corporate sector, without
having a particular sector in mind. "I wasn't
choosing an industry," she says. "As accoun-
tants we were quite diversified." A small but
ambitious beverage distribution company
called Casella Far East appealed to her. "The
main reason was the friendly attitude of the
human resources manager. She was open
and persuasive." Almost 20 years later, To
herself is in charge of human resources at
the company, in her role as regional recruit-
ment and talent development director.
When To started at Casella in 1993 as chief
accountant, she was surprised by the primi-
tive systems in place. "Everything was quite
basic," she explains. "There was no accoun-
tancy system as such. The clerks were still
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