From Crunching Numbers to Crafting Wood: Kate Ngo on Taking Control and Forging Her Career Path
In the realm of professional aspirations, a remarkable truth prevails: there is no predetermined path to success. Gone are the days when a linear career trajectory was the norm and individuals were expected to follow predefined routes to reach the pinnacle of their professional lives. Today’s modern landscape is rich with possibilities, and the truly ambitious understand that forging one’s own path is the key to unlocking unparalleled career potential.
From embracing change to cultivating a growth mindset, Kate Ngo shares her story and empowers individuals to take control of their destinies and steer their careers toward happiness and fulfillment.
Carving One’s Path
After obtaining a business degree, Kate dedicated a considerable amount of time to working at her family’s accounting firm. However, driven by her own aspirations, she ultimately made the valiant decision to pursue her own path, defying the traditional expectation of continuing to work within her family’s enterprises.
“If I don’t change the direction of my life now, this is going to be it. The longer I stay [at this accounting firm], the more firmly I will be planted. Who was going to redirect my life? Except me.”
With a deep desire to pursue a creative path, she made the decision to apply to a design school in the UK. Living under the roof of a traditional Chinese patriarch, she meticulously planned every detail before even approaching her father about her aspirations. Knowing that her father had a decisive and straightforward disposition, she understood the importance of presenting a comprehensive and fully-formed proposal.
“I had everything prepared, from acceptance letters to exam results, my dorm, and even my budget, which was super cramped already. Everything had to be designed and presented in a way that he could not say no.”
Designing with Ingenuity
Design has always been her natural inclination. If there’s one thing she truly enjoys, it’s the art of transforming spaces with minimal cost and alterations. Her approach is a blend of creativity and practicality, resulting in innovative yet functional conversions.
“When I look at the material, [I ask myself] how can I best transform it while staying true to the material? [Same with] converting spaces to a functional, workable, and comfortable space without changing a lot of things.”
This value and perspective have evolved into her guiding principle, remaining steadfast across all her endeavors and undertakings.
Clamping the Passion in Place
Kate’s affinity for woodworking had been nurtured since childhood, drawing inspiration from her mother’s hometown in Mindanao and her father’s involvement in the warehousing and lumber business. Her enthusiasm for the craft led her to explore the endless possibilities of shaping lumber into practical and meaningful creations.
After completing her woodworking education in London, Kate returned home and began designing pieces for her family’s properties, employing her creative skills to transform spaces such as lobbies and restaurants and focusing on maximizing her current resources efficiency.
Her venture truly took off when she first crafted a dining table made from Narra wood, garnering significant attention from families and friends and serving as a stepping stone for her woodwork business.
However, the transition from passion to business posed challenges. The repetitive nature of the enterprise, involving the cycle of acquiring new materials, designing, and delivering, gradually sapped the joy from her work, making it feel robotic and uninspiring. Recognizing the need for change, Kate realized that preserving her love for woodworking required a shift in perspective.
As she started getting involved in the family business, Kate discovered that maintaining woodworking as a source of passion, separate from her primary responsibilities, allowed her to continue creating things she truly loved. This realization helped her rekindle her enthusiasm and keep the flame of her passion alive.
“The more I got involved [in the family business], the more I realized that keeping this woodwork as not my main [work], but a source of passion and still creating things I love, helps me keep loving it.”
Building a Foundation
Today, people are no longer confined to a single industry and have embraced the culture of exploration and pursued ventures that extend beyond their degrees. This newfound freedom has allowed many to break free from the constraints of traditional career paths and explore the intersection of their passions, which brings fulfillment and a sense of purpose.
“If you’re curious about something, go for it. It’s never too late to try this in your industry or add another thing to your portfolio. If you have the liberty to do those things, then don’t box yourself.”
The prospect of trying new things may sound scary, but building a foundation through courage can empower and transcend limitations toward personal fulfillment.
“I don’t vouch for courage as a whole because I know it’s impossible, [but I vouch to] take little bolts of courage. I don’t believe we’re always fearless; we’re a bunch of scared people. Getting out of our comfort zone is about being mindful of what we are capable of and the experiences we’ve had.”
“[My advice], Take a leap of faith and see where it leads you.”
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.