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CORe Asian Amplification featuring Stephen Yap

Thank you for taking part in our Asian Amplification Series Stephen! We are excited to hear and share your story with our members. To start with could you share a little on your Market Research journey and what you do now?

Thanks CORe for having me! Before MR, I cut my professional teeth in the public-relations industry. My first job was as an intern with a PR firm in Seattle. I moved to Hong Kong and worked for a couple of PR firms before being approached to be the Director of Communications for a start-up in the audience-measurement business. That became my bridge into MR.

One of the great things about working in a place like Hong Kong is that you can progress your career quickly and take unconventional routes, compared with the UK where there is more of an emphasis on “paying your dues” and switching industries is comparatively more difficult. My very first research job was as a Research Director, despite having very little actual research experience at the time. That was with NFO in Hong Kong, which was acquired by TNS in 2003. In 2008 I returned to London, just as TNS was becoming Kantar. I worked there until 2013 when I joined Ipsos MORI, where I stayed until 2019 when I became self-employed.

I'm sure working in Hong Kong was amazing! Talking on your background, do you feel your your ethnicity has defined you personally and at work?

Actually I’ve never been strongly defined by my ethnicity. Growing up in the UK in the 1980s, I didn’t know many other East Asian people other than family and I didn’t have any East Asian friends.

It was only after leaving the UK that I discovered my “Chinese-ness”. Today, I consider myself a “Third Culture Kid”, someone who belongs both everywhere and nowhere.

When I was growing up in the UK, East Asian people were relatively few and the ones that were here kept a low profile. We kept our heads down and lived a quiet life.

In hindsight the issue for me personally wasn’t so much about having to deal with overt racism, but something more subtle yet equally as insidious. The best way I can describe it as, is a feeling that one was always going to be a beta at best, with no hope ever of being an alpha. In every country there are social hierarchies, and in 1980s UK as a Chinese person you were aware of your place on the ladder, with no hope of reaching the top.

British standards and icons of aspiration and success are rarely represented in East Asian form. They’ve started to emerge more recently, but when I was young there were none. Even today, how many British public figures can you name who are of East Asian descent?

Spending time in North America, where there is a much larger East Asian population, opened my eyes. Then I moved to Hong Kong, to be surrounded not only by people of the same ethnic background but immersed in a rich diversity of people of many different backgrounds. Those years spent overseas were some of the happiest of my life, and I flourished personally and professionally.