Svetlana Li – Embracing diversity beyond borders

Meeting people from all walks of life here at the Bank is an experience for Poland-based Svetlana Li as it greatly broadens her horizons


One of the best things about working in a large international bank like Standard Chartered is the privilege to get acquainted with people from all over the world. It expands my small world tremendously.

I suppose my own background may be a case in point of how diverse the Bank is. I'm a Kazakhstan national with Korean ethnicity working in Warsaw, Poland. I joined Standard Chartered Global Business Services in Poland three years ago, but I’ve been in the country since 2014.  I fell in love with Poland when I did my exchange programme so I ended up doing my Master’s degree and working here. My first language is Russian. I also know a bit of Kazakh and Korean, and my Polish is gradually improving.

In my role, I serve as a bridge between the technology and the business teams as a manager in the Product Management and Monitoring team. I'm responsible for ensuring that new products and transactions are monitored according to regulations.

What I really like about my role is that you can’t quite predict what happens each day – that’s what makes it interesting. Sometimes it can be stressful due to urgent ad-hoc tasks but those challenges keep me on my toes and stretch me mentally.

I like to simplify tasks or processes wherever I can. It can be the elimination of redundant steps, or redistribution of tasks. Over here, I have the opportunity to learn new tools and technology. However, to me, it is not learning for the sake of it. The very first thing is to understand what and why we are doing. Then, find the best way to do it. Domain comes first, technology second.

Besides learning about the business and technology, one thing I’m constantly trying to comprehend is people’s behaviour and attitude. I believe that the biggest challenge - be it at work, at home or in the streets – is understanding others and communicating with them.

In the past, I used to believe that people are simply irrational. But now I’ve come to learn that people, in fact, make decisions using their own unique logic, dependent on their circumstances and environment. I’m making an effort to understand people and why they do what they do so that I can avoid assumptions based on my own limited experience.

This fear of judgment used to hinder me in the past as I was afraid to show if I didn’t know something. I have since changed. After all, what people think of my intelligence doesn’t move the dial one bit on my actual intelligence. Of course, this is not easy to do, and I have to remind myself from time to time that others’ opinion may not be an accurate reflection of me. If I don’t know something, I will make sure I ask and understand instead of worrying about what others think.

My sister told me this analogy once: “When you are a greenhorn, you want to prove that you know everything. When you are a middle manager, you admit you might not know everything. When you are a professional, you know that you know nothing.”

That is something that I find very true and helpful as I navigate through my career.

One piece of advice that has helped me is that sometimes, giving up may be the best thing you can do. We tend to believe that we must finish everything we start, otherwise we've failed. But sometimes, that can just be your ego speaking. If we cling on to sunk costs, we will just be a persistent fool. I've learnt that if a task is not working out no matter what I’ve done, it’s better to fail fast and work on a better solution.

I'm working towards learning to be satisfied with myself. Sometimes, done is better than perfect. If I find the best solution among the various possibilities by the deadline, that is already an achievement in itself. Becoming anxious and impatient about finding perfection does not add any additional value. That is my goal in both my personal and work life.

Interested in joining us?

If you're looking for a career with purpose and want to work for a bank making a difference, we'd love to hear from you.