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Talking about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Spotlight on Catherine Lee

Tell us about yourself and your role at Toronto Global.

My name is Chin Nyong Lee but I go by Catherine Lee. Many people misunderstand my first name to be Chin and middle name to be Nyong but my first name is only complete when the two are together. I am a Senior Advisor on the investment attraction team, looking after the Asia market. I support Asian companies expanding to the Greater Toronto Region.

I provide my clients with information and make sure our region is on their radar when they consider expanding overseas. I try to do everything in between to ensure that they have peace of mind when coming to Canada because I understand how difficult it could be when starting anything in a new place. I have been in this role for five years – time flies!

What do you love most about your job?

Working at Toronto Global means always pushing yourself to educate yourself. The world is constantly moving, and the work here needs you to stay up to date with the latest current affairs and industry changes. This is what I like most about the job, not to mention getting to work with my forward-thinking clients who always seek to solve challenges ahead of their journey – which is where I can help.

What is a common problem that you help clients/people solve?

I help my clients see our region and Canada from an unbiased perspective. As an Asian-Canadian, I am familiar with some of the most prevalent stereotypes Canada has and I understand my clients’ concerns over them. From doing business to having a sustainable life in Canada, I help them navigate our region in the most efficient ways possible.

Tell us what equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) means to you and why it’s important.

To me, EDI means everyone gets the same opportunity to be seen and heard without any labels attached. It is important because it is a part of basic human rights that everyone have equal opportunity.

What is your approach to bridging cultural differences with international companies hoping to come to Canada?

I am an Asian-Canadian myself, and I believe my ethnic background and life experience of growing up in Korea and studying in China has helped me tremendously to connect with my Asian clients in depth. Many of them find me as an accessible resource, who can be empathetic to their concerns. Being able to hear and understand the clients’ thoughts is the first step of my job and is always the beginning of any project that expanded to our region successfully.

How have you made use of a hybrid work environment?

I am probably the one who benefited the most from the hybrid work environment, as my work hours are not typical. Before COVID, when we were working in the office five days a week, I often worked overtime as I had calls with my clients anytime between 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., after I completed my regular nine to five office work. Now that work is hybrid, I am more flexible with my daily matters outside the office, it has improved my physical and mental health a lot.

Tell us about a family/cultural tradition or celebration that you look forward to.

When I was young, I always looked forward to January 1st because when the new calendar year came, every Korean got one year older. This tradition was officially cancelled by the Korean government as of June 2023, as it was considered outdated and made all Korean people feel older than the rest of the world. As an adult, I am not as excited to get a year older on January 1st – quite the opposite, actually – but I always enjoy the Korean new year traditions such as having tteokguk (Korean rice cake soup) and wearing hanbok (Korean traditional clothing).

Christmas is a big celebration in Canada, so as a Korean-Canadian household we get to celebrate Christmas then the new year within a week of each other. We also celebrate the Lunar New year, called seollal, which is often a month after January 1st. So, from the end of December to early February, our family and community are in a constant festive mode!

Where/what is your favourite place/memory in the Toronto Region, and why?

I love the Trinity College quad at the University of Toronto. This is where I lived, studied, and made memories with friends. My engagement photos were taken there as well. There are so many hidden spots only the students know on the University of Toronto campus, and they all make great places to take strolls, all year round. Many people don’t know that the UofT has its seven distinctive colleges – they are truly an urban oasis in the centre of busy downtown Toronto!

How many languages do you speak?

I am pretty sure I can survive anywhere speaking English, French, Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin.

Tell us about your family/children/pets.

I am a newlywed as of last month, so I just made my own family! My husband and I have two cats, named Lemon and Dalkomi (aka Komi). Lemon is a flame point Siamese cat, who’s been raised like a prince since he was a kitten. Lemon’s big (13lbs) and very spoiled. Komi is half the size of Lemon who was once belonged to the streets, so she knows how to fight. I brought two cats into my marriage and my husband didn’t mind at all, although he knew nothing about cats before dating me.

My husband is a living example of Toronto’s technology industry – he is a machine learning engineer and the CTO of his second company he co-founded. So, whenever I have questions about the industry, he is my go-to person who gives me real-life answers. My husband is the most generous, patient, and street-smart person I know.

Tell us something that most people would be surprised to learn about you.

I worked at a daycare in a small city called Saint-Lin–Laurentides in Quebec. It was a long time ago, and I was probably the only Asian person the kids ever saw in real life back then. In those days, I had a passion for French, and went to French speaking competitions and such as the school district rep. I almost minored in French Language during my undergrad, but it was too much on top of my double majors.

What’s your personal mantra or favourite quote?

Just do it! I am a generalist and have so many interests, maybe too many. If I didn’t live by the quote, I wouldn’t have done what was considered quite random in my life such was working in Quebec or studying in Beijing. All the things that I “just did” for my genuine interests and passion made me who I am today.

Want to learn more about Catherine’s work with Asian companies? Check out our Korean landing page.

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