Linda Hung is the Senior Director of Theme Parks at FORREC, a global entertainment design company based in Toronto. Her project experience includes the design and development of large-scale destination resorts such as Resorts World in Singapore, regional parks including LEGOLAND Florida, LEGOLAND Malaysia and Universal Studios Singapore and a local children’s playground in the not-for-profit Evergreen Brickworks at home in Toronto.
My first job ever was working at an ice cream stand in Toronto’s Eaton Centre. I was 13, and thrilled to be getting paid $3.15 an hour. It never mattered to me that it took an hour each way to my three-hour shift after school – I was just so thrilled someone wanted to hire me. Who could have imagined that a scooping ice cream would turn into a career of designing entertainment projects?
I decided to enter the world of theme park development because this is the most fascinating work I had ever heard of. I started my career in traditional landscape architecture, but never knew someone could actually plan and design theme parks as a real job.
My proudest accomplishment was not flying 190,000 miles last year, but returning from each trip to a happy home, where my husband and I figure out how to manage a family while we both pursue our own careers. We are determined to make travel, career and family work.
My boldest move to date was taking the leap from being the master planner who designs the experience at theme parks to the sector leader who closes the business deals. I was very comfortable and confident as a master planner, a job I did for more than 12 years. In my first year in business development, everything felt like a hurdle – including the public speaking. But it forced me out of my comfort zone. My strategy was to absorb as much as I could from the talent around me to develop the skills to do my job.
I surprise people when I tell them that my simple joy is shopping for my mother. My mother doesn’t shop for clothing. Since I can remember, my siblings and I have always maintained her wardrobe. It’s our special connection, and I have so much fun helping her look stylish.
My best advice for someone looking for a unique career path is that it takes time. Be patient with your craft. Set realistic goals and develop your skills one at a time. In our fast-paced world, there’s often a tendency to think that you have to achieve results instantly. But if you love what you do, I believe that your career will naturally advance, because you don’t stop learning.
My best advice from a mentor was from my Dad. He was a very quiet man who didn’t say a lot – maybe that’s why I’ve retained most of the advice he gave me. He emigrated to Canada at 24 and made his own way, job by job. He told me that “you are not born with wealth, fame or prestige…you have no control over these things. But you can control how hard you work and pave the path to achieve your goals.”
My biggest setback was my Dad’s passing at the early age of 53. This experience with grief moved me to change my life. It was the year I grew up.
I overcame it by refocusing my priorities and returning to Toronto to be near my family. I found out about FORREC at that time and started my first job with the company. It quickly became clear to me that this would be a long-term commitment.
I balance work and life by being flexible in how I think about balance. It doesn’t have to mean that there is an exact 50-50 split between work and home. In fact, I probably work more than I am at home. But I feel mentally balanced, in control, and I love what I do. I make sure my children and my family get what they need from me.
Being a woman in international business is so rewarding – it reaffirms that there are no boundaries. I don’t think I necessarily meet a client’s initial expectation of a senior representative of FORREC. They’re usually expecting a Western-born man. And not too long ago, a Canadian-born, Chinese-woman working in China was very challenging to that culture. But I focus on being competent, knowing my business, and winning their confidence.
Working with clients around the world helps me appreciate different countries and cultures. This appreciation has grown since the age of 23 when I moved to Hong Kong, leaving the comfort of home cooked meals, to pursue my first full time job. And I love that I have friends that I have worked with all over the world.
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know how much I love my new Mini Cooper. It’s so much fun to drive.
Creativity is an important part of my job because I am a designer at heart. Design is where my career started and it’s the foundation of my work.
I stay inspired by the people in our company, and the creative solutions they come up with. I often walk around our office, peeking over the shoulders of our designers. They don’t have to be working on my project – just seeing them create, hearing the flow of ideas, makes me want to try new things.
The future excites me because I am now in a different role than what I was 10 years ago. I am shy about using the word mentor, but I do feel like I am passing along my knowledge and encouraging a whole new group of young, enthusiastic and talented people to succeed. That’s incredibly rewarding.