After earning Bachelor of Laws in 2011 and Juris Doctor in 2014 at Ewha, Choi Yujung worked as a counsel at Philip Morris Korea Inc. from October 2014 to September 2021. Although now embarking on a new journey at another multinational company, Choi shared her story with Ewha Voice as an in-house counsel at Philip Morris Korea Inc.
Philip Morris International (PMI) being a multinational company, the company’s law department used to hold international conferences for its employees. This is to enable the exchange of best legal practices and to get to know each other through various activities including mock trials. Although these events have stopped due to the pandemic, Choi was able to find familiar faces when she moved to Switzerland thanks to these events.
Choi was dispatched to PMI’s global headquarter located in Lausanne, Switzerland from October 2020 to July 2021. According to Choi, PMI regularly sends employees to different quarters based on their performances and potential.
When Choi moved to Switzerland, however, the entire country was under lockdown due to COVID-19. Only employees requiring onsite work such as lab scientists were permitted to go to the office.
Despite the situation, Choi gained the most out of her stay thanks to her teammates. Her team was diverse in nationalities, including Swiss, Pakistani, Columbian, French, American, and Brazilian. Choi and a few of her teammates created a group called The Swiss Conquest and travelled around the country.
“What I loved the most about PMI was the people, and it was not different in Switzerland,” Choi said. “I was lonely because it was my first time working abroad. It was hard to talk to friends and families in Korea due to the time difference and travelling was not easy because of the pandemic. The weather was also gloomy when I arrived in Switzerland. However, my teammates were very caring, fun, and loving people and they understood my situation.”
Choi said that she did not feel burdened when communicating in English while working in Switzerland as there was no difference in the means of communication at the Korean office. Choi added that she did not have native-level English skills as she did not live abroad during her childhood.
Choi mentioned that her work experience in Switzerland did give her more courage in working in English. According to Choi, many employees at PMI were not native English speakers.
“Some colleagues had unique accents which were a bit difficult for me to understand at first as I was not familiar,” Choi said. “But they expressed themselves freely regardless of their accents. I learned that not being embarrassed for speaking differently and being confident about your expertise are more important when working in other languages.”
Regarding the difference in work-and-life balance between Korea and Switzerland, Choi said the workload between the two countries was similar, but she was able to find more balance in Switzerland.
Choi used to feel pressured to work even on weekends although she was told not to, which led to feeling burned out from time to time. After she moved to Switzerland, she found her colleagues strictly refraining from working during weekends and holidays to spend quality time with their families. This culture inspired Choi to change by working more productively to secure time for herself, leading to a more balanced life.
“There are various things to consider when you are seeking a career overseas, but you can still find work environments sharing similar traits with companies overseas in Korea, just like I did,” Choi said. “Do your best regardless of where you are. Nothing can be controlled, but yourself. Opportunities will find you when you are ready.”