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Finding confidence outside my comfort zone: Lina’s story

07 April 2020
For Lina, creating an inclusive working environment is vital in giving her team the confidence to challenge themselves and those around them

Lina Lee, cfo and vp strategy of Global Petrochemicals, has always been looking for her next challenge. From a childhood in Hong Kong to joining BP 17 years ago, she tells us: “I’ve always wanted to go outside my comfort zone and challenge myself.”


After university and an early career in banking, Lina decided to go to the United States for her MBA “to experience new things and people and see more of what the world looked like.” Although an MBA itself would be more than enough of a challenge for most, Lina didn’t stop there: “I wanted to do something more challenging. Given that I grew up in Hong Kong, which is a financial centre, I decided to major in finance.” She chose the Midwestern city of Bloomington, Indiana – not the obvious choice for a foreign student, she notes, but she wanted to embrace the challenge and immerse herself in American culture.  


Learning from my daughter


After finishing her MBA, Lina started working in finance, first as an analyst for a gas company, before moving back into the banking world after qualifying as a Chartered Financial Analyst and working 80 hours a week. But after her daughter was born, Lina decided to look for a new type of challenge. She says:

I needed to think about what I could do to continue to challenge myself in my career whilst still being the mother I wanted to be.
It was then that an opportunity with BP came up, and Lina joined BP’s Asia Pacific office in the treasury department. Lina tells us that when she first joined BP, she was cautious not to say too much about her family: “I’d learned in my previous roles that I wasn’t supposed to bring family to the workplace.” She was assigned a mentor within BP, who encouraged her to move away from this mindset. She recalls him saying: “Lina, you need to be yourself, and if you don’t agree with some of the things we are doing, then you need to say it and challenge us”. She began to reflect and asked herself: 
Can I really be myself? That was not what my experience before BP had taught me.

The confidence to be authentic


The challenge of finding and showing her authentic self at work took confidence, and Lina says stepping beyond her comfort zone to experience new things was key. “At first, I doubted myself, but in the time I’ve been at BP, I’ve worked across various parts of the business, and every role I’ve done has allowed me to challenge myself in a different way and work with different people. It’s been really eye-opening, and I’ve found that with the confidence this has given me, I’ve become more authentic in how I work.” Now, she says: “when I introduce myself, I always talk about my family. I talk how my daughter has helped me to prioritise things in my life and has ultimately made me better at the job I do.”


Lina believes being a parent has made her a better, more inclusive leader:

I think in raising my daughter, I can better understand what each person can bring to the table, and how the different and diverse nature of individuals can help team dynamics.

She says this has spurred her curiosity in how to motivate and challenge people to bring out their best. She was also positively encouraged by her daughter writing in a birthday card last year, ‘thank you mum for exposing me to challenges in the last few years to make me a better and stronger person today, this has been your best gift you’ve given me’. 


The importance of inclusivity


For Lina, creating an inclusive working environment is vital in giving her team the confidence to challenge themselves and those around them: “The more confidence is built, the more potential can be unleashed. People need to feel that they won’t be judged, and that they can speak freely what is on their minds.” 


She says that’s why equality is so important: Making sure people feel equal and heard in a workplace means that they can continue to push themselves to achieve more for themselves and the company as a whole. 


The advice Lina would give her younger self now? It’s all about confidence: “Be yourself, and grasp opportunities without the fear of failure.” 

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