Initiative’s Michael Chong: What Do Mountaineering, Media & Marketing Have In Common?

Initiative’s Michael Chong: What Do Mountaineering, Media & Marketing Have In Common?

Michael Chong, Initiative’s chief analytics officer, has done something quite remarkable — climbing Ama Dablam, one of the most challenging peaks in the Himalayas on a trek that takes the best part of a month. Here, he tells B&T about his marvellous mountaineering, and what we can learn from it.

Ama Dablam, rising proudly at an elevation of 6,812 meters in the heart of the Himalayas, commands respect as the “mountaineers’ mountain” owing to its formidable technical challenges and rugged terrain. To ascend this Himalayan giant presents extraordinary challenges including navigation of incredible ice sculptures and imposing rock bands that test even the most seasoned mountaineer.

The name Ama Dablam translates to “Mother’s necklace” and carries profound significance in Nepalese culture, This symbolism is deeply rooted in the mountain’s physical features—the elongated ridges flanking its sides evoke the image of a mother’s loving embrace, while the hanging glacier (serac), symbolises the Dablam, a traditional “double pendant” adorned with sacred images revered by Sherpa women.

Michael Chong when he isn’t ascending treacherous peaks.

For trekkers embarking on the iconic journey to Everest Base Camp (EBC), Ama Dablam serves as a captivating landmark, first appearing on the horizon as they traverse the rugged landscapes from Namche to Dingboche along the EBC route.

My recent ascent of Ama Dablam was a long-time dream come true and I will carry the lessons learned on the Mountain back to my desk at Initiative.

For me, mountaineering serves as more than just a physical pursuit; it’s a profound journey of self-discovery and personal growth. With each ascent, I find myself drawn deeper into the realm of introspection and resilience. Climbing is not merely about conquering peaks but also about confronting the inner demons that arise in everyday life —whether it be physical fatigue, mental exhaustion, or the emotional toll of separation from loved ones. Despite the inherent challenges and risks, the allure of the mountains lies in their ability to push us beyond our limits, fostering a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and personal triumph.

In many ways, the lessons learned in the mountains mirror the demands of my professional life in media and marketing, particularly in the realm of data analytics. Just as climbing requires adaptability, problem-solving skills, and effective communication, so too does navigating the fast-paced, ever-evolving landscape of our industry. Whether analysing complex datasets, devising strategic campaign measurement, or collaborating with multidisciplinary teams, the parallels between mountaineering and my professional endeavours are striking.

Ama Dablam, with its towering presence and awe-inspiring beauty, holds a special place in the hearts of climbers worldwide. Yet, its significance extends far beyond the realm of mountaineering. Like any lofty goal worth pursuing, Ama Dablam represents the pursuit of excellence, the relentless pursuit of one’s dreams, and the unwavering commitment to personal growth and fulfilment. It serves as a poignant reminder that true success is not merely reaching the summit but embracing the journey itself—the trials, the triumphs, and everything in between. The parallels to achieving career success cannot go unnoticed.

As I reflect on both my mountaineering and career journeys and the challenges that lie ahead across both, I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the unwavering support of my colleagues, peers, and team members. Their encouragement and camaraderie have been a constant source of strength, propelling me forward even in the face of adversity.

Looking ahead, I am filled with a sense of expectancy for the adventures that lie ahead, both on the mountainside and in the ever-evolving landscape of data analytics. With each new expedition, I am reminded of the enormous potential that lies within each of us—the ability to overcome obstacles, defy expectations, and reach greater heights than we ever thought possible.

Ama Dablam stands not only as a testament to my ‘stubborn-I-can-do-anything-nature‘, but also as a timeless symbol of resilience, perseverance, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. As I continue my journey, both in the mountains and in my professional life, I carry with me the lessons learned and the memories forged amidst the towering peaks and sweeping vistas of the Himalayas.

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