How many doctors do you know, have left the profession to set up a business creating comics? Sounds crazy? With its high status and salary, the glowing reputation and admiration that doctors attract, especially in the Far East, you’d be forgiven for thinking that those would be enough to keep a young woman within the profession.
But what if she had a passion for comics and a flair for creating comic art that had been carefully honed since she was a toddler? And what if once qualified in medicine, she lost sight of her true self? And what if all she could think about was getting home each day to create her comic art? Far-fetched? Well, it seems that way; but this is exactly what happened to my Page 1 Woman, Vivian Wijaya.
Brought up in Indonesia, Vivian felt pressured by her parents and her culture, to follow family tradition and train for a career in medicine. But it wasn’t what she wanted. Well, you know what it’s like when you’re young, coy and unable to stand up for what you want – that is, if you’re clear on what you want.
‘I cared what people thought about me and I saw that doctors had status. It felt great when I told people "I'm a doctor” and I got this ‘wow’ reaction. But I was seriously miserable and it was slowly killing me. Then one day I passed out for no reason and came to in a pool of blood’. This was Vivian’s turning point. She called time on living a lie. ‘When I started to listen to my heart’, said Vivian, I heard, ‘There’s something else you’re supposed to be doing.’ That “something” was my childhood passion to create comics’. Read on and find out how this remarkable, self-leading, focused and purposeful Page 1 Woman did it.
Describe your work?
Vivian: I’m a comic book creator in my company Hudsonwell Impex Ltd and we’re launching a manga comics magazine called ‘Manga Big Bang!’ The word manga is Japanese for comic. Most people outside Japan associate it with Japanese comic books.
We’re targeting male and female 13 to 35 year olds, who may or may not be into comics. There has never been a comic book magazine like this targeting the UK market and English speaking international readers. Most similar stuff are licensed from Japan and simply translated into English. So it doesn’t often resonate with local readers. We want to tap into local cultures with issues that resonate while using the same advanced Japanese techniques.
The proto-type was launched on 1 August. And we’ve a website. We're aiming to distribute it via ComiXology from Amazon.
What essential steps did you take to get to where you are now?
Vivian: My first step was realizing that I should follow my childhood dream to create comics professionally. The first thing I had to do was learn to do it the professional way. As there wasn’t a lot of information available, I asked around and came across the right people who told me to go study in Japan. Whilst there I was introduced to key people in the industry who recommended me for an apprenticeship.
My original business aim was to be like Walt Disney who revolutionized a lot of things in the film industry. But I’m also inspired by Osamu Tezuka, a doctor, who developed Japan’s manga comic industry. I realized that he wasn’t just an artist but an entrepreneur too. But I knew nothing about running a business so I was scared. But once I began making contacts with entrepreneurs I got hooked.
What’s the most significant thing you did that got you into your current position?
Moving to London. I was brought up in Indonesia and even though I'd lived in the UK as a student, I had to find a way because it wasn’t easy. I believe London rather than the US is one of the best places to start this kind of business. It has business opportunities and many different resources for entrepreneurs and start-ups. I had business contacts here and I had to figure out how to bring the idea here and make it work.
What was the greatest challenge you faced on your journey?
Vivian: After just a few months in London, the big challenge is to find the right business partner to leverage this project. I've been talking to a potential investor and business partner and I’ve been looking for the right leads. So it’s taken a while to figure it out but it seems to be a lot more promising now.
What was your greatest light bulb moment?
Vivian: My greatest lightbulb moment was reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist when I was 22. The message in the book, when you really want something the Universe will conspire to help you achieve it, had a huge impact. My whole psychology changed after reading it and I started to believe it and live it. I began taking action to materialize what I wanted. But it took a while for my dream to be a comic creator to give me a big nudge say, "Enough is enough."
I've been fortunate enough to meet Paulo Coelho twice. He gave a radio interview in my University in Dublin. And I happened to have read his book a couple of months earlier and was stalking his webpage. I made sure that I got to see him. And he noticed me. I had practiced meeting him many times and I just froze. But after signing my book he said, "You look like you want to say something." And he spoke to me and my friends for an hour after the book signing. I met him again a couple of years later after I gave up being a doctor and I emailed him and he answered.
I felt like something big had been revealed to me - the power of the mind to manifest and take action. It's something that I'd suppressed for too long. That one catalyst helped become the real me.
What key resource has been crucial to your success?
Vivian: I’ve been blessed with having many mentors at different stages in my life. For instance Paulo, and a Japanese teacher, who taught me the first techniques in making a professional comic book manga. I’ve also met amazing mentors in Japan and England, including Andy Harrington who helped me develop as a public speaker. I’ve been given opportunities and I’ve grabbed them.
People often say, “I wish I had your luck." But opportunities are around for everybody. The question is do you recognize it as an opportunity? Because if an opportunity comes your way and you don't grab it, it’s lost. For example, if I saw that Paolo Coelho was coming to Dublin, but I didn't get a ticket, then I wouldn’t have seen him. But because me and my friends pretended to be student volunteers and acted like psycho fans, we got to meet him. Also I was really aggressive in getting my apprenticeship in Japan with one of the best-selling artists. I’ve gone for any opportunity, no matter how small, that would push me forward. And I focused on the desired outcome and found a way to get it.
What do you understand by leadership?
Vivian: A leader is someone who’s ahead of other people and who creates a vision and finds a way to achieve it. And when they figure it out they get others to follow.
With Manga Big Bang, I’m the leader. I don't have business partners and nobody knows how to make this project work. But I’m finding out. I’m forming the team and briefing them on the vision and the plan. And I’m listening to their opinions. Then I decide how to move forward.
Right now I have two editors and 7 creators. There are only two women. We started with more and some gave up when things got difficult. Women should be more confident and assertive when it comes to advancing their careers and getting what they want. The men are more assertive. If I say ‘no’ once they'll return with a new idea and pitch it again. And I'll say ‘no’ again, and they'll return with something else. Eventually when I see a gem I'll say, "Welcome to the team." Whereas a lot of the women just give up at one go and say, ‘I guess I'm not good enough."
How has your understanding of leadership informed your role as a woman leader?
Vivian: My team members see me just as a leader. It's not about gender. I deliver and I don't make empty promises. I get things going. I'm also gender neutral. So female artists don't have to make girly content and male artists can write something more mellow. I also speak my mind which they appreciate and I give honest, constructive feedback.
What difference has it made being a woman leader in your business?
Vivian: In 2016 more women are becoming empowered and running a business. The world is still male dominated, so this message should be broadcast more frequently because we haven't reached a critical point where most women have the confidence to go for it. Gender differences are in people's minds. And women have different advantages from men when running a business. For example we tend to be more diplomatic and have that softer side that helps balance feminine and masculine energy. There are things that men do better and that women do better.
Sometimes the testosterone gets the better of men and they forget about being productive, and going for win-win, whereas women are often more grounded. We’re better controlled in power-struggles and can remain focused on the big picture and the goal.
It would help my company to have more women. We currently produce content from a male perspective so it appeals mainly to men. I want a manga that’s geared towards both genders, not just guys.
What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?
Vivian: First, focus on your goal. Be a go getter. You’ll get respected. When you're creating a new pathway, there's a reason it hasn't been done before. So if you manage to figure how to do it, you’ll inspire others and they’ll want to work with you.
Second, don't be intimidated by male dominated environments. For example, you’re at a networking event and 90% of participants are men, it doesn't mean you’ll struggle to get into the conversations and make meaningful connections. You can use your gender to your advantage because you're actually standing out in that crowd. So don't fight your femininity just attend with confidence. And it might be difficult at first, but keep putting yourself in those difficult environments because it gets easier as you learn to adapt. I was the first woman to assist Kenjiro Hata, a best-selling Japanese comic creator. I was shy; I'd never had a permanent assistant job. I asked everyone how to do the job and they told me. In that all-male environment, I brought the feminine element and it worked.
Third, be tenacious. Persevere and commit to completing the project. Too often I see a lot of really enthusiastic women quit when things get tough. When you persevere you’ll develop your reputation and get offered opportunities. There’s nothing to lose by completing a project. And even if it doesn't become an overnight success at least you have an achievement to include in your CV.
To find out more about Manga Big Bang click here.
Can you identify with Vivian in any way?
Drop me a comment and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
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