Ruby Ng is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Alzheimer Society of BC. A generalist over the past 14 years, Ruby’s previous experience took her from working at one of the big banks, to a university and then to produce a TV show. Most recently Ruby began a Master’s in Leadership degree program at Royal Roads University.
Ruby, before joining the Alzheimer Society you worked at HSBC. Was it a difficult transition to go from working at bank to a non-profit?
I would say that in the past there may have been a bigger difference between corporate culture and non-profit culture. That is changing however simply because it is becoming increasingly competitive in the non-profit sector whether it is in fundraising, sponsorships or awareness campaigns. There is a way for business and non-profit principles to co-exist.
I believe non-profit organizations provide a ripe learning and professional development environment simply because there is so much to accomplish and often resources are limited
Do you need to take a different approach to marketing when working at a non-profit compared to a for-profit company?
Being resourceful takes a high priority in the non-profit sector not only because there are often financial constraints but because non-profits need to be accountable for how they are using donations. Making every dollar stretch and getting best value is definitely priority considerations on our team.
For people considering working at a non-profit can you talk a little about some of the benefits as well as the challenges that go along with it?
Professionally, I believe non-profit organizations provide a ripe learning and professional development environment simply because there is so much to accomplish and often resources are limited. For example, that could mean opportunities to take on projects that allow someone early in their career to develop new skills or for seasoned professionals to informally mentor and coach.
Speaking personally about the benefits of working in a non-profit, I would say there are two key highlights: 1/ there is a sense of fulfillment in knowing you are making a difference through your work and 2/ you get to work with people (employees, volunteers, donors, etc.) who are committed to and passionate about the cause.
Looking at what you’ve accomplished to this point and the roles you’ve had in your career, why go back to school? And why did you choose the Masters in Leadership program?
I love to learn and that may be one of the reasons why I think over the years I pursued work in marketing and communications positions in different industries (corporate, government, post-secondary, and non-profit) rather than specializing. I also believe there is a degree of individual responsibility in not only keeping our skills sharp through professional development, but also to develop ourselves as individuals because whether in work or in our personal lives we interact with others. I chose the Masters in Leadership program rather than one in communications because I wanted to further cultivate and enhance my abilities as a professional, but also because I wanted to tackle that from a different approach and to learn new perspectives. In a cohort of 50 other individuals in leadership positions there certainly are a lot of perspectives to learn from. We just had our first two-week residency and it was probably one of the most intense experiences of my life not only with the content, individual and group assignments, and practically 24/7 interaction with others, but the reflection alone on leadership decisions in the past and a vision for the future. It’s all very invigorating and you get out of it what you put into it.
Does going to school and working full-time make it hard to maintain a good work-life balance? How do you cope?
I think for anything balance is something that you always have to tweak and adjust. I am a lady at liberty at the moment so I don’t have the responsibilities of caring for a partner, kids, or even pets for that matter. My parents and brother and sister-in-law and my friends are all very supportive of the new adventure in my life and they see how much I am enjoying it, so for the next two years they understand if I’m around a little less than usual. In addition to regular exercise classes, I try and get on a North Shore trail at least once on the weekends. Rain or shine. I find it’s a great way to get away and process while getting in some exercise. I almost always end up getting clarity on something or a new idea. It’s great. Vancouver is a great place for playing outside.
We are all leaders in who we choose to be and how we choose to lead our lives. There is an inevitable ripple effect.
What tools/devices do you always carry with you or use on the job (apps, gadgets, etc)?
I am a Mac fan personally. I use an iPhone, iPad and have a Mac at home as well. At work we’re a PC environment. I’m also one of those people who acquire gadgets and barely scratch the surface of maximizing use of all the features. I’m not a techie at all and could always use some help in that area.
Can you share a personal or business challenge that was hard to deal with and how you overcame it and what you learned from it?
I’d be happy to share a personal one that I believe will also have implications in my business life. In only the first eight weeks of the Masters in Leadership program I have found myself revisiting my personal values and examining how I live those values in my leadership professionally. Through reflection of past experiences both professional and personal I found that while I hold my values close to my heart, they sometimes get put aside in order to address other external priorities that seem more urgent. The challenge I present to myself is to be mindful about practicing those values and that starts with recognizing opportunities to do so.
What’s the most recent book that you’ve read and would recommend to others?
Well, being in the master’s program there are an awful lot of readings we have to do! So far one that really resonates with me is The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. It’s in its fourth edition now and I believe is considered one of the core leadership literatures. What I enjoy most about it is that the concepts are applicable to everyone not just those in “positional leadership” roles. We are all leaders in who we choose to be and how we choose to lead our lives. There is an inevitable ripple effect.
What is your favourite quote of all time?
I’m not sure I have one favourite quote of all time. I often find inspiration from occasions when people share their insights and wisdom even in casual conversations.
What is one thing that your coworkers, clients or friends may not know about you?
I don’t have a poker face so I actually believe that I’m a pretty open book. But perhaps something that I’d like to bring to my interactions would be a bit more vulnerability. The Master’s program has already helped me to accept that I now know how little I actually know.