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Featured Member: Viola Chen, chief of staff, the Good Food Institute Asia-Pacific

What kind of work do you do/business do you run?

The Good Food Institute is an international nonprofit organization focused on creating a healthy, just, and sustainable food system through plant-based protein innovation, cellular agriculture, and fermentation-derived proteins.

As the Chief of Staff in the Good Food Institute Asia-Pacific (GFI APAC), I am responsible for project execution, online communication and partnership management.

What do you love about it?

I believe the plant-based diet is good for people and the planet. I understand how difficult it is for people to shift their diets. Therefore, alternative protein is a pragmatic and prudent solution to accelerate this transition by providing more protein options besides conventional meat, eggs and dairy. GFI is an organisation that has laser focus on accelerating the alternative protein sector.

What’s your ‘why’ in life? What drives you?

My “why” in life and also the biggest motivation is summarised by a well-known quote by Gandhi – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Why are you a member of the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network?

I am eager to connect with like-minded women and support each other in building up leadership skills in our own career fields.

What’s been the biggest highlight or ‘wow’ moment of your career/business/professional life?

I have made the career move to follow my passion for technology and food. Now it’s a great privilege to work in a mission-driven origanisation which is also a thought leader in alternative protein sector in Asia-Pacific region.

My biggest highlight is leading exciting projects to support the growth of this sector. For example, we have just revealed Asia’s top 100 protein disruptors of this year who are highly committed to and invested into the alternative protein industry.

How do you handle failures, fear and disappointment?

Failures, fear and disappointment are inevitable. When they hit me, I would go with the flow, and not be hard on myself. Emotions come and go, then it’s time to think about solutions to significant problems which trigger those negative emotions.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

Thanks for being so curious about the world, so eager to equip with more knowledge, so caring for people around you… You made me who I am.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how has it helped mould who you are now?

My biggest obstacle is fear of uncertainty when I decided to make a career move after 7 years’ experience in my previous industry which is hospitality and tourism.

I felt stressed, and anxious over the direction of my career and it trapped me in an endless spiral of “what-ifs”. Glad I went though it, and things turned out I made one of the best decisions in my life.

What I have learned is to be bold instead of fearless. We all have fear, but only people who are bold can bear in mind the risks and be confident enough to take actions.

What’s your super-power? What are you amazing at?

I don’t think I have any super-power, instead I am a generalist. I dream big but I take a million small steps to achieve it. Every step counts.

What brings you joy?

Since I am a quick learner and can easily adapt to a new environment in both life and career, being a nomad and free spirit makes me feel fulfilled.

Freedom doesn’t mean free from responsibilities; being accountable to myself and people I love is the basic to be a nomad or a free spirit. I am looking forward to staring my next new journey.

How do you define success, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

Success for me is satisfaction and finding inner peace. I will know at the moment I would wear a big smile on my face but couldn’t stop my tears from rolling down to my cheeks.

What’s your vision for yourself and your business/career for the future?

I want to be a specialist in the Asia alternative protein industry by really diving deeper into different markets and sectors then I can utilize all my skills and knowledge to support the growth of this industry.

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