Here, Irene shares with us 5 valuable life lessons and advice she’s garnered through her professional career:
1. Learn from the best in the industry
“We all play different roles at different stages of our lives. No matter which role I’ve played – whether it was a producer, actress or an entrepreneur – I do my best. You have to try your best to do it well.
When I’m given a role – for example, an insurance agent, mother, or director – I will find out more about it, whether from online, from people, or from the directors themselves. We have to find out and learn from the great ones.”
2. Stay true to who you are, even if people around you don’t
“People change. When you are just starting up [a business], everyone is poor, motivated and works hard. However, you come to realise that as the company grows, many people change when they start to come into contact with money or power. I have personally witnessed – even amongst my staff – the way that people can change with power.
I feel that the happiest people in this world are those who don’t let their success get to them, who don’t change their fundamental self, who are able to stay grounded and real while staying close to their values.
I can be whoever I am, but at the end of the day, I am still me. I still go for rehearsals. I still work with my team to get things done. The environment can change; your position can change. I can win many awards, but it doesn’t change who I am. We can change the way we do things but we don’t change who we are fundamentally.”
3. Be willing to adapt and step up to lead
“I’ve learnt to expect changes and adjust to people’s changes as well. As a leader, you must learn to identify opportunities that come by.
I used to be very afraid, and tell myself “I can’t possibly do this!” when I’m faced with a foreign situation. For example, asking a messy person to come up with an SOP… But when you are forced into a situation to do something no one else would, a good leader will have to do it… and you just do it!
Back when we could not afford a director for a project, I stepped up and that’s how I started directing. Now? People see me as a director and invite me to direct. You just have to step up when the opportunity comes, because when you think for too long and worry too much, the opportunity might be gone in the blink of an eye.
So, I encourage all leaders to go into things that are known, but with open eyes. Never go into something unprepared.”
4. If you own a business, be present and involved
“At one point, I had several businesses and because I was so busy, I decided to let some people run the business [and] these businesses failed not because they were no good.
Imagine this: you give birth to a child, and you pass your child to a nanny because you are busy. All of a sudden, the child is 5 years old and doesn’t recognise you. Things have happened, and these nannies may not have groomed the child the way that you wanted.
Some of the businesses failed because I wasn’t too involved. Therefore, now I only do businesses I am personally able to contribute to, or be involved in one way or another. A good leader knows what is happening and is in the know.”
5. Stick it through
“Never give up in whatever you do. No matter what happens, every time you feel like throwing in the towel, hang on. It has happened to me personally many times. I hang on, and if I fall, I simply do it one more time. There’s bound to be a turning point.
There were so many moments when I wanted to give up. I would think to myself: Would it be easier if I just continue to be an actress, a host, and earn money? Why do I even bother? In the end, I held on.
Never give up on yourself, or the people around you. I don’t give up on people unless they give up on themselves. As an entrepreneur and a business owner, I need to manage my staff and I do so by correcting them when they are in the wrong until they leave or they stay long enough and get used to me. Sometimes you need to shift people around, train them, and other times you don’t give up on them but accept that they are not the right fit for the job and that they are probably [better] in something else.”
Photos: Joel Low
Irene Ang is the executive producer of upcoming local film, My Love Sinema, slated for theatrical release in September. Starring Tosh Zhang, Cheryl Wee and Jeff Wang, My Love Sinema is set in nostalgic1950s Singapore and tells the story of Kheong (Tosh), a young, starry-eyed 20-year-old who moves to Singapore to train as a film projectionist. He encounters Wei (Cheryl Wee), a young Chinese teacher who finds herself torn between her obligation as a dutiful daughter and her feelings towards Kheong. As their affection towards each other grows, they face various obstacles that prevent them from being together. A riveting story of courage and hope, this nostalgic film chronicles life’s triumphs and disappointments, inspiring audiences to stay true to their passions.
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