Now, perhaps more than ever, organisations are looking for expert advice and guidance in relation to Australia’s engagement with Asia. Those looking to longer term success see Asia as critical to Australia’s recovery, and agree that it is the time to intensify, rather than pause, engagement and the pursuit of long-term opportunities.
They also recognise that Asia-capable senior leaders are essential for successful Asia expansion and engagement. As Australian organisations transition from commoditised to more service-driven sectors, building deep expertise and insights into contemporary Asia is key.
Since its inception in 1990, Asialink's mission has been to create an Asia-literate Australian community and to help build and maintain Australia’s role and influence in the Asian region. Each year leaders from across the public, private and community sectors with a passion for advancing the Australia-Asia agenda, join the Asialink Leaders Program, a key platform for developing Australia’s Asia-capability. In its 26th year the program takes leaders on a seven-month journey that develop the insights, capabilities and connections to navigate complex foreign policy, business, cultural, political, ethical and regulatory environments in Asia and Australia. Through the program, participating leaders engage, debate and progress ideas with thought leaders from across the world on the major leadership challenges facing Australia’s engagement with the region
The Asialink Leaders Program has over 900 alumni, many of whom are now in roles across Asia. Dina Coppel has 25 years’ experience of successful strategy development and implementation as an entrepreneur, manager, advisor and board director and is currently an executive coach and consultant. Dina has been based in Singapore since 2016. She attended the Asialink Leaders Program in 2015. In 2021 to better support leaders who join the Asialink Leaders Program from Asia there is an opportunity to establish a new city hub, in Singapore. We caught up with Dina to hear more about her experience on the program.
You joined the Asialink Leaders Program in 2015 while you were living in Sydney. What inspired you to join the program?
I knew that I would be moving to Singapore in the near future and I wanted to be prepared and informed and to be able to contribute effectively from the very beginning. I had worked and lived in different overseas locations previously and one thing that stood out was the inability of some leaders to really listen and be immersed in the local context. Australians are often quick to rush in with an Australian perspective on ‘what’s right.’ I didn’t want to be that ‘uninformed Australian.’
How did being part of the Asialink Leaders Program help shift your thinking?
I had travelled on business to the region and was co-founder of a legal services business with a Singapore office, so I had an overview of Asia. The program goes beyond the obvious. Being able to really deep-dive into learning about various Asian countries and see and understand the differences in history, culture and economic priorities helped broaden my thinking. And some of the learning came in unexpected ways. It was a session with an art curator sharing art pieces from Japan, China and India that highlighted for me how perspective is so different from culture to culture, and how that fundamentally influences people’s views of the world and thus how to better engage.
Another highlight of the program for me was the intensive session, hosted in Canberra. Meeting with embassy staff, politicians and government departments and exploring Australia-Asia engagement through a policy lens gave new appreciation of what Australia was trying to do in the region and how business could connect to, and influence, that.
What practical benefits did you gain from being part of the program?
I was able to bring a broader perspective to my work in terms of thinking about how to engage and connect in the region. One early insight came while I was helping to deliver training in Singapore for a large Australian organisation operating across the region. The training was on sales and relationship management, and while participants were both Australian and non-Australian, the training materials were very Australian centric. I was able to use insights I had gained through the Asialink Leaders Program and subsequent experience to highlight the importance of taking an Asian lens to developing relationships, focusing on the long-term rather than taking a ‘transactional approach’ and showing vulnerability. And it was wonderful to see how that resonated with the non-Australians in the room.
The Asialink Leaders Program has over 900 alumni. How has being part of that network been helpful for you?
I have met a few people here who had either done the program before me or subsequently and it’s always good to make new connections. As a result of the network, I was introduced to someone involved in the local arts scene and, as a result, have become a great fan and supporter of the Singaporean independent theatre company, Wild Rice. Networks are incredibly valuable, and I would be delighted to see the Asialink network here grow.
In 2021 the Asialink Leaders Program will comprise a series of virtual and in-person sessions, with much of the program taking place face-to-face in local city hubs. To better support those leaders who join the program from locations across Asia, there is an opportunity to establish a city hub in Singapore. How would leaders currently based in Singapore, or other parts of Asia, benefit from attending the program?
The program would help those who are new to the region and have had limited experience here. It would also be helpful for people who may have deep exposure to one Asian city or country and are looking to broaden their perspective. We know that we are living and working in one of the fastest growing and changing regions, not to mention the post-pandemic developments. The policies, approaches and influences are constantly evolving, so the program would also be useful for those who want to refresh and deepen their understanding of contemporary Asia. It’s also a great platform for leaders based here to ‘give back’ by contributing as speakers and mentors.
To find out more about the Asialink Leaders Program commencing 26 April, 2021 please visit the Asialink Business website.
This interview originally appeared on the AustCham Singapore website on March 8, 2021.