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In this profile, we meet Ling Sun, Vice President of Ocean Insight for China. Ling, who has a doctorate in polymer science, joined Ocean in 2006, helping to establish the company’s first location in China.
Q: What is your role at Ocean Insight? Describe a normal day in the office.
My normal day consists of a lot of meetings and giving guidance to my team, [which is a] big part of my leadership and management role. The team discusses what we need to do, to achieve as a company and as a team, the accomplishments we need to have, and if there are any issues.
The other part of my role is travel. I give myself a target: I have to visit at least three customers a week. That is about 156 customers to visit in a year. Sometimes, when I go on a trip, I’ll visit 8-10 customers in a trip. The customer visits include not only the key accounts, but also industry leaders and new applications customers that I have been trying to talk to.
Also, I like to talk to people at trade exhibitions, the people that use the instruments. Talking to them, you learn a lot, and you understand what your competitors are doing.
Q: How do you juggle all of this? That’s a lot to manage, and you have children at home.
It’s actually very difficult. People say we need a balance, because it is very difficult.
I have two kids: my son, who is almost 15, and my daughter is 9. As a family we decided that my husband would quit his regular job, 3-1/2 years ago. He took a consulting job for schools and he volunteered to be coach for our kids. This enabled me to spend more quality time with the kids and I have some strict cutoffs for international meetings so I can enjoy my family.
Q: In your opinion, how does spectroscopy make a difference in the world?
Spectroscopy helps people to extend their sense of the things that are required to make a difference and improve our lives.
I was interviewed by the media in China and the interviewer asked a good question. She said, “Ling, a lot of competitors have come out. What makes Ocean Insight win?” It was a good question, because I never thought about it. But that moment when she asked me, I said, “The competitors, they all make spectrometers. But I think Ocean Insight has reached a culture and a philosophy.”
She said, “What’s that?”
Everyone feels like they have created a spectrometer. We have created Lego® for science and researchers. We’ve created lots of Lego blocks that researchers and scientists can put together for their own use. That’s why [we win]. When you’re looking for Ocean Insight, the winning point is a nice application, like Lego parts.
Q: That analogy has held up throughout the company’s history.
I really think that Ocean Insight creates a blue ocean for researchers and scientists who can use the blocks to build up their own tools to explore the things in the world that they want to do.
Another part of these building blocks is industry. The industry part, when you build up things in a new world, then people can build up companies and business plans. A visitor was here, and I was telling him about the very exciting idea of moving this Lego box into industry. We created a program, MOST™: Moving Optical Sensing Technology to Market.
How do we move these optical systems and technologies to market? We cannot do everything, but we can help our customers build up solutions to make their own business plans, to have their own success.
Q: The past financial year was quite challenging in China, with the trade war and the coronavirus. How did your team cope, and how did your team bounce back? The team seems quite resilient.
It was very challenging here. Like you said, the trade war, and the exchange rate changed so dramatically along with it, and then the virus. In China, we have a saying, ‘If you want to win a war, you have to win people’s hearts.’ Through the many years, we’ve tried, the management team here, at working with people as a team.
We can see that what we create is good for people, for society; it brings value to people. We have a mission, to make the world better. Not just make money but work together to make a difference.
I’m fortunate how our people support each other. I think that because you treat people that way, you have their hearts. So, when the company has difficulties, they tie people together, closer. We always want to win. I said to the team, it’s really the time to work with our customers, with our distributors, to help them. We don’t want to let them down. I always think the culture for a company should never be where we only listen to the boss.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
It’s a very challenging environment right now for the economy. But we do see a few opportunities. Obviously, risk comes with opportunity as well. There are opportunities in bioscience and consumer electronics. More exciting, I think, is rebuilding our people to win their hearts again, to move forward with excitement.
If we are a team, then we will win. If you don’t win your people, then you can’t win your customers. It’s very easy. I think we need to put effort into our people. The market has always been there, and if old segments go down, new opportunities come up. But you need people to have the habits to win.
Thank you, Ling.