In last month’s It Starts With Me spotlight, we focused on Kathy Liang and her ability to bring people together to find win-win solutions.
This month, we are highlighting Sam Kwok, Global Technical Manager, Environment and Sustainable Production, from our Hong Kong office.
Sam is truly a lifelong learner, and a problem-solver with an insatiable curiosity that helps him grow. He represents the spirit of It Starts With Me by constantly providing support and guidance to others. Whether through answering colleagues’ questions or leading initiatives during his time as the Corporate Responsibility Ambassador for China, Sam has worked tirelessly to honour others’ trust.
Sam can still recall the day he joined OI as a Senior Fabric Technician 17 years ago. Through his dedication, he was promoted to Senior Fabric Manager, responsible for the China region before switching tracks to his current position. Having gained expertise in Quality, Sam now ventures into exploring the environmental impact of the textile industry.
While working at OI, Sam took evening classes to complete first his higher diploma, then his bachelor’s degree, and finally two separate master’s degrees. This second master’s degree in environmental engineering management is what motivated Sam to switch to his current position.
“In the beginning, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t understand anything during my first lecture! As my professor explained waste decomposition and the complex chemical interactions, I felt completely lost. But I knew I won’t give up” he recalls.
This resilient spirit allows Sam to find answers. “You must be humble enough to ask questions. I know when we work for a long time, it feels as though we know everything. But you must get out of your comfort zone and ask questions if you want to learn.”
Throughout this process, Sam collaborated with others by aligning his vision with his manager and working on projects with his colleagues. “Before starting my second master’s degree, I asked for my then manager’s advice. He really supported me and helped me get sponsorship from OI to cover part of the tuition fees. I am so grateful to have this recognition and support.”
He also gives credit to his team: “If you want to succeed, you cannot do it alone. My success as a Senior Fabric Manager was in large part due to the constant collaboration with my team members.”
Expanding and Sharing Knowledge
Now, as the scope of Sam’s responsibilities have expanded globally, he shifts his optimistic problem-solving attitude to making the textile industry more sustainable. In this pursuit, he believes sharing knowledge is a key persuasive strategy. After work, he can be found reading books on sustainability and environmental protection, always working hard to understand the complexities of changing the current systems.
Understanding that this knowledge is a crucial perquisite for creating lasting change, Sam works on creating trainings for factories, educating them on how to measure and reduce their carbon emissions and water consumption and improve their waste management. Taking insights from the factories who are leading this change, he believes, “sharing best practices can help us grow together.”
Similarly, he is often the person people turn to for guidance. Walking by his seat, one can sometimes notice a queue forming up of colleagues waiting to ask him questions. For this Sam expresses his gratitude, “I thank them for this opportunity because it allows me to learn. I believe that if someone comes to you to ask questions, they have faith in your ability to help them. Therefore, it is my responsibility to honour their trust and do my best to analyse or problem-solve for them.”
Caring for the Community
Because Sam goes the extra mile, he has made a substantial impact in the community around him. For a period of time, when he was CR Ambassador for China, he was also the CR Chairman for the Hong Kong office. In this time, he organised several events, including five during the COVID pandemic. From Charity runs and bake sales to nature walks, Sam has worked in his own time to reach out to local NGOs and charities, plan activities with them, and inspire colleagues to volunteer with him.
Sam Kwok at some of the various CR initiatives he helped to organise.
He fondly remembers one such event when colleagues visited the elderly who are living alone in Hong Kong during the Mid-Autumn Festival. “Traditionally we eat mooncakes that represent sharing happiness and coming together as a family. Unfortunately, the senior citizens who live alone end up feeling more isolated during this celebration. We wanted to share mooncakes and other everyday necessities with them, so they too can feel loved and appreciated.”
During the five years that he was China CR Ambassador, this event has a special place in Sam’s heart. “When the elders opened the door, you can see how lonely they are. But seeing us and our gifts, they break out into the warmest smiles that melts my heart. It is so touching to be able to make someone happy like that. This memory has motivated me to continue volunteering since.” Overall, Sam attributes his successes to two reasons: his passion, and the welcoming people in OI. “Without passion, you cannot continue… Since my first day at OI, I could recognise that this friendly and kind atmosphere is hard to find elsewhere. This is also why I have been able to stay here all these years because we value people as the most important.”
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