Employee Airtime: Globetrotter and avid multi-day trekker, Vivien Cheung, Director of Strategic Partnerships in EMEA
Get to know the Director of Strategic Partnerships for EMEA, Vivien Cheung, based in Amsterdam.
Tell us about your back story - how did you hear about Airwallex and why did you decide to join?
I first heard about Airwallex from a friend at GOAT, an online sneaker marketplace that happens to be an Airwallex customer. This was back in 2019 when I was working in Shanghai.
I moved to Amsterdam just weeks before Covid hit. Fast forward to 2021, Airwallex was expanding the commercial team in EMEA, and I was looking to dive back into an earlier stage of growing a business. I was drawn to the breadth of products and global mission of Airwallex. Having the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of people means I’m constantly learning and solving for new challenges.
What made you decide to move to Amsterdam?
My partner (now recently husband) was on a work assignment to Amsterdam from New York, where we first met. Instead of moving back to the US, we decided to reunite in Amsterdam. We’re grateful to be able to embrace the Dutch culture and explore different countries in Europe!
You started your career working in a bank - what made you decide to make the switch to fintech?
Fintech is a competitive space, but at the same time there is a lot of potential for companies to drive innovation together. While I learned a great deal from my first job in finance, I was motivated by the opportunity to work in a high-growth environment. I spent the last several years working in various commercial roles at Yext, an enterprise SaaS company. Making the transition to fintech requires constant learning, but it’s what keeps my role interesting.
What I find unique about the Airwallex platform is that it’s modular. It allows us to be flexible in working with partners - helping them build their foundation, launch new products, and scale over time.
How can we encourage more women and diversity in technology?
Having the representation of women and diversity in leadership has helped shape the dynamic within Airwallex and how we’re able to attract talent. For me, having a diverse set of mentors has greatly contributed to my sense of belonging at the company. It’s not something I take for granted. We’re solving complex problems for customers who operate globally - I think the different perspectives and skill sets we have as a team are what empowers us to tackle those challenges.
We all have a role to play in encouraging more diversity in technology. I used to think you need to be super experienced to mentor others. Over time, I realized some of the most actionable advice came from people who were just a few years my senior and could relate to me from recent experience. This prompted me to volunteer as a mentor at an external Women in Tech organization. Wherever you are in your career journey, you can support others in the same way you wish to be supported.
You work with a very global team. How do you make it work, and how are you able to effectively manage a global team?
I’m on the strategic partnerships team and we’re spread across Europe, Asia, and the US. It’s not sustainable to have calls with all members frequently. We have a strong written culture which allows us to work asynchronously as much as possible. Earlier this year, our team met for the first time in Singapore. The rapport we were able to build in person really helped us drive openness and push each other to do our best work.
Outside of work, what is something that you enjoy doing?
Running and hiking are some of my favorite hobbies. I find that being outdoors is the best way to unwind and recharge. Since moving to Europe, my husband and I started an annual tradition of doing multi-day treks and were lucky enough to hike the Tour of Mont Blanc, Laugavegur in Iceland and most recently Slovenia. Next year, we’ve got our sights set on the Dolomites in Italy!
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you first started your career?
Being different - whether in gender, ethnicity, background, or sometimes being the “only” - is an opportunity for both yourself and your team.
When I first started my career, I focused so much on assimilating. Channel that energy into finding the niche you can fill. Understanding the unique value you carry will help you pitch yourself for more opportunities. Your difference can ultimately be your superpower - don’t diminish it!
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