This letter was created for a 2011 Letters To My Younger Self Seminar conducted for Deutsche Bank in New York City
Mary Chen-Eng joined Deutsche Bank in November 2009. As Head of U.S. Regional Finance, she’s responsible for overseeing all of the financial, regulatory and head office reporting for the various legal entities in the United States. She is the key contact for regulatory bodies and external auditors, and plays several other important roles in the organization.
Prior to joining DB, Mary was a Managing Director and the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in Regional Management at Societe Generale for four years, as well as held various finance and accounting roles for 11 years.
This illustrious career was launched when Mary took her first job as an examiner at the New York Stock Exchange. It was not exactly her heart’s desire, but it was Wall Street. And it was the direction Mary’s parents wanted for her. Both her mother and father emigrated from Hong Kong, but met here in the United States. Mary’s father had been an engineer in China, but was unable to pursue that career here, so he worked in laundry in Brooklyn, where Mary grew up. Her mother, from a well-to-do family in Hong Kong, got a job as a seamstress in Manhattan.
Mary’s parents had high aspirations for their four daughters and, as the oldest, Mary felt the pressure of setting a good example. “In everything I did, I tried to excel,” she told Ellyn. Although she was eager to experience campus life by going to an out-of-state college, Mary complied with her parents’ wish that she live at home while attending New York University. Mary chose to write to her younger self at NYU, when she was trying to decide upon her career direction.
You are such an excellent daughter. So far you’ve followed your parents’ wishes willingly, despite some show of defiance. After all, they immigrated for a better life and they work so very hard. It doesn’t seem too much to ask that you conform to their choices for you. They have given you everything possible. You carry their hopes, dreams and aspirations.
But still, inside you, other desires beckon. You used to want to be a teacher or an engineer. And now you have chosen to major in business. You have taken your first business law course and now you want to be a lawyer. But your parents are saying, ‘No. That’s not for you.’
It’s hard to step outside the mold. It feels impossible to go after a career you are passionate about. Your parents wouldn’t understand. How would you even explain it to them? And so, even as you aspire to something that speaks uniquely to you, you know that you’ll take the safe route, the careful, secure path they are pointing you toward.
Mary, you’re not doing the wrong thing. But you don’t have to shut the door on passion forever. Do not let the safe choice today stop you from risk-taking and challenges tomorrow. Cultivate your desires to excel in your life. Try different activities, interests and jobs as you go along.
Also, know that your willingness to be the responsible first-born will bring you intense personal gratification later. You’ll be able to persuade your parents to let your next oldest sister go out of state to college. You’ll influence your younger twin sisters’ decisions to go into non-traditional careers like social work and occupational therapy.
Most importantly, your father will be so proud that he’ll carry your business cards around to show to acquaintances. The two of you will develop an even deeper relationship when he elects to live with you. He will choose to care for your kids while you focus on your career. And then, by the time cancer takes him so quickly at age 67, there will be nothing that is left unsaid between you. You will have lived up to your parents’ hopes, dreams and aspirations for a good life, as well as your own.
With pride in you,