When Haley Meng stepped foot in Hong Kong in 2012, she didn’t know a single soul. But previous co-op and study abroad experiences in China had whet her appetite for the region, she says, and she knew that’s where she wanted to return after graduating from Northeastern in 2011 with degrees in international affairs and East Asian studies.
Fast-forward seven years and things couldn’t be more different for Meng. Today, she works in business development for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the international professional services firm, and teaches swing dancing in her spare time. But her biggest claim to fame in her adopted homeland, she says, has been creating the West and East Club, an online platform that makes it easier for people from different cultures to connect in Hong Kong.
The WE Club, as it’s known, was borne out of an observation that Meng made shortly after she moved to Hong Kong: While there were lots of events and activities in the region, and plenty of young people and expats to keep the wheels of the economy churning, there wasn’t a streamlined platform to find a workshop on entrepreneurship, say, or a comedy show, and meet people from different cultures who share similar interests.
“Hong Kong is a place of cultural silos,” Meng says. “We wanted to create a platform where people could engage with Hong Kong, whether at a tea ceremony or at yoga.”
WE Club, which Meng co-founded with business partner Candy Tang in 2015, curates weekly events, including panel discussions, food tastings, and street art tours. Today, the organization is managed by 20 staffers and boasts a membership of 10,000 people.
Meng says that the model can be exported to other cities. “The fact that it has sustained itself makes me realize that there is a hunger, there is a curiosity in people to do something outside their 9 to 9 finance job,” she says.
As she ponders the potential to expand WE Club, Meng has also set her sights on starting her own company while continuing to teach swing dancing and promote her alma mater. She is a member of Northeastern’s Young Global Leaders program, which comprises more than 100 recent graduates who advise university leadership and help to strengthen Northeastern’s network of international alumni.
She credits her personal and professional development to two groups of people: women professors at Northeastern who taught her lessons beyond the classroom, including how to negotiate her salary, and mentors in Hong Kong, whom, she says, “asked the right questions, gave the right guidance, and allowed me to test the waters for myself to help me find my own path.”
But she says she might not have developed an interest in working abroad if it had not been for working on co-op as a marketing intern for South China University of Technology and studying abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Those experiences, she says, helped her cultivate a global mindset.
“These were all really formative experiences for me in terms of ‘Who am I in the world’ and ‘What am I going to do when I graduate?’ If it weren’t for those programs I wouldn’t find myself as an entrepreneur, introvert-turned-extrovert, business transformation consultant, or resident in Asia right now.”