Lingy Au, BTM, BCA
Lingy Au is blazing a path through the entrepreneurship scene, supporting the best startups in Aotearoa scale and grow on the global stage.
Lingy reflects on his journey so far―the hardship and struggles coming from a refugee background, lessons learned through his studies and early career, and his passion for enabling others to scale and grow internationally.
Alumna Lingy Au grew up in Lower Hutt, after his parents were displaced during the Vietnam War in the late 1970's and were then accepted as part of the Refugee Resettlement Programme in New Zealand. After completing his degree in 2011, Lingy has forged a career with a keen interest in startups and entrepreneurship. He has contributed to innovation hubs such as Creative HQ, and worked for organisations that represent New Zealand on an international stage, such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT). Having just started a new role, he's keen to share his knowledge and expertise with others who want to follow their heart in the entrepreneurship world.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I describe myself as a third-culture kid. Growing up I always struggled to reconcile the two cultures I have been brought up with, but have since come to see that I am not one or the other, but the best of both worlds. Every day I make sure to remind myself that I have the privilege to call Aotearoa New Zealand home.
What did you study and why did you choose your degree?
I was always curious about other countries and cultures so I originally chose to study a Bachelor of Tourism Management (BTM), but added on a Bachelor of Commerce & Administration (BCA), majoring in Marketing and Management halfway through my first year. After 4 years, I graduated with a double degree with a double major.
What’s your strongest memory of studying at Victoria University of Wellington?
The friends and connections you make are lifelong networks that set you up for success. There were classes I walked into not knowing a single person, but by the end of the course I had met and made friends who I still kept in touch with to this day!
What’s your current role and what does it involve?
I've spent the last several years in and around the startup and entrepreneurship space and have now found myself working at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, Te Whītau Tūhono. It is New Zealand’s leading Asia-focused organisation providing experiences and resources to help New Zealanders build their knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive in Asia. My role is to build a network of entrepreneurs and business leaders while supporting kiwi leaders to scale and grow their businesses in Asia.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like working on something that has a purpose bigger than myself. The work I do at the Foundation allows me to utilise my skills and background to build connections and gain a better understanding of business across different continents. It fills my cup and provides me with purpose every morning.
You have worked overseas a couple of times throughout your career, how has that experience been?
Invaluable! I can't recommend it enough. Growing up in New Zealand, you really are tucked away in the corner of the world geographically. For those who have the privilege to be able to travel, it really broadens your mind and exposes you to new ways of thinking.
What are your plans for the future? What do you want to do next with your career?
Even though I've been working for both small and large organisations, I am eventually looking to run my own business in the future. Living and breathing the startup world, I'm constantly rubbing shoulders with top entrepreneurs who are pursuing their dreams, so it's hard not to want to chase my own!
How has what you learnt at Victoria University of Wellington helped you in your career? Any standout advice?
It provided me breathing space to figure out what I want to do with life, while building and gaining key business concepts studying at Pipitea for my commerce degree. Advice I wish someone gave me while I was studying is to get involved with everything you can, and I mean everything! By saying yes, you put yourself into situations that are both positive and sometimes negative, but regardless of where you end up, you will always learn something new about yourself.
I understand you were part of the Alumni as Mentors programme, how was that experience and what would you say to alumni thinking of taking part?
I've always looked to give back to past experiences, as it helps me see how far I've come, but also pay it forward to the next generation. Taking part in this programme has been an amazing learning curve for both mentor and mentee so I encourage anyone thinking about joining to give it a go. You never know what you'll get out of it until you try.
What advice would you give VUW students today?
The world we're living in feels in a state of constant flux, now more than ever before. I would encourage students going through university today to take time to ask questions introspectively to really figure out what you want from life, really dig deep. Some people go through life not knowing, or they're happy with whatever life throws at them. But true satisfaction and living life with no regrets come from knowing your own goals and pursuing that with everything you've got.
What are your interests/passions outside of work?
I love playing sports and staying active. Outside of work, I play touch rugby, ultimate frisbee and basketball. But if anyone asks me to jump into a yoga class, hit balls at the driving range or fill in for their indoor netball team, I'm all in!
What would someone be surprised to know about you?
My full name means Golden Dragon. I was born in the year of the dragon on the Chinese calendar, so my parents gifted me that name. I didn't understand it as a child but have learnt to appreciate everything they have done for me as I get older and start my own family. Love you Mum and Dad!