Seeing What is Possible When Employees Stand Together: Victor Song's Story
When Victor Song reflects on the meaning of McCormick's purpose statement, "To Stand Together for the Future of Flavor", the words "standing together" resonate most with him. In 2008, Victor joined McCormick China Group's office as a Management Accounting Manager in Commercial Finance, supporting the consumer business. Just one year later, he had the opportunity to work in the Hunt Valley, Maryland headquarters as a Financial Planning and Analysis Manager. Although he knew that moving from China to the US on his own would present some challenges, it was an opportunity Victor could not refuse.
Soon after arriving in Maryland, Victor set out to get his US driver's license. "I remember how challenging it was to prepare for my driving test when I didn't own a car," he recalls. "Then a colleague heard about my situation and invited me to use his car at lunchtime to practice parallel parking. It helped tremendously and I passed my driver's test," he said. Prior to that, Victor had been walking to and from work every day, until a janitor saw him late one evening. When he learned about Victor's circumstances, he immediately offered to give him a ride. Victor gratefully accepted and from that night on, he never had to walk home in the dark again. The next three years in Maryland were busy ones for Victor. In addition to working full-time, he earned a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. His wife joined him in his second year and they welcomed a daughter just six months before moving back to China. "My time in the US taught me a lot, but most importantly, it showed me what's possible when people stand together. Without the support and encouragement of those around me, my experience in the US would never have been so positive," Victor states.
Today, Victor is back ommercial support of the consumer business, which represents 70 percent of McCormick China Group's total business. In addition to managing teams in Wuhan and Shanghai City, he serves as the Chair of Women's International Network (WIN) China. He chose the position because it allows him to be instrumental in identifying ways for employees to work well together and nurture the next generation of McCormick. And he recognizes that there is great diversity within WIN China. "I am proud that many men have joined WIN China. It shows we listen to everyone's ideas and value different perspectives, which is critical in creating an inclusive and tolerant workplace," Victor states. WIN China also focuses on retaining young talent, connecting employees, and helping members discover their passion.
In January 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China went into lock down and travel was brought to a standstill. Since the timing coincided with Chinese New Year, the most important festival in China, hundreds of millions of people were affected. Many McCormick employees could not get home to be with family and friends as they normally would. Victor remembers how people stepped up to support one another. He saw McCormick employees helping others who were far from home and unable to leave their hotel rooms, by providing them the necessary technology to stay connected to loved ones. He saw colleagues delivering food and masks to those who needed them. He saw people reaching out to those who were struggling during those difficult and frustrating months. "Once again, I witnessed first-hand, the good that comes when people stand together," Victor said.
The WIN China leadership team also made the decision last year not to cancel the Chinese New Year activities they had planned, but to move them online. They felt celebrating in spite of the pandemic might help improve people's mental health by giving them a sense of normalcy and hope. So, employees virtually shared in annual rituals like writing notes of good wishes to post on doors and creating traditional lucky red packets representing peace, longevity, and good fortune.
"All of us are thankful for the continued support McCormick has given us, especially during the pandemic. Our voices were heard and as a result, employees are engaged, involved, committed, and connected now more than ever. I have personally experienced on two continents McCormick's culture of standing together and can say that being valued as a person, not just for the work I do, gives me the sense of purpose that we all need," said Victor.