How an Alibaba Receptionist Became One of the Company’s Top Executives

Before Judy Tong Wenhong became Alibaba’s “most inspiring partner,” she served as the company’s receptionist, then customer service representative, and finally, an inexperienced vice president who did not back down in facing tough challenges. 

Tong was 30 years old when she joined the Chinese e-commerce hub in 2000.

Image via Sina

Without any previous experience in the field, she applied for the post of administrative assistant in the company but did not pass the first interview, according to Women Of China. When she attempted to apply again, she was eventually given a chance to work at the front desk. However, a conflict with a colleague would result in her filing for resignation just one week later.

Despite her shaky start, it was her persistence that would eventually help her chart her destiny within the company. Her colleagues reportedly spoke highly of her foresight and meticulousness at her job as a receptionist.  

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Many noticed how she would go beyond her daily tasks, mailing Hangzhou-Shanghai train schedules to colleagues on business trips to Shanghai, stocking cold drinks for them during summer or assisting clients who have questions intended for customer services.

Image via Sina

A year later, she was transferred to the customer support department. Three months after that, she returned to the administration division, but this time, she was promoted as director.

“It’s a great challenge for me to lead the group because I was just a receptionist in the past,” Tong was quoted as saying.

Her rise through the ranks would continue over the next six years, earning several promotions from managing the customer service center and the human resources department to eventually becoming vice president of different departments between 2007-2013, according to Reuters.

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During Tong’s stint as VP in various divisions, she faced numerous challenges that would test her mettle as a leader. Among her notable accomplishments include the West Lake Internet Symposium, a massive event where she successfully facilitated the group’s venture building projects which she effectively oversaw. 

 

Tong’s role in fighting the spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in the company back in 2003 was also highly commended. She was responsible for reporting emergencies to senior leaders, keeping in contact with security guards and installing emergency evacuation equipment, among others.

When another break came Tong’s way in May 2013, she was already very prepared to take on bigger roles.

Alibaba has launched a CNS system cooperation with other companies and founded Cainiao.com, where Alibaba founder Jack Ma served as president while Tong took the role of chief operations officer.

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The new entity was reportedly established to create “a large, open logistics platform within five to eight years and delivering goods to customers within 24 hours.”

In 2014, Tong was among Alibaba’s first 27 partners and one of its nine female partners when the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange. It was then when Alibaba made history as the biggest U.S. IPO ever, raising $21.8 billion for the company and investors.

Alibaba’s $68-a-share IPO price values the entire company at $170.8 billion, making it the 23rd most valuable company in the Standard & Poor, ahead of other tech titans such as Amazon at $150 billion and eBay at $65 billion.

Tong currently serves as Alibaba’s chief people officer, overseeing talent and organizational culture, including development and strategy within the company.

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With Jack Ma’s planned retirement next year, Tong is poised to hold even bigger roles in the years to come as one of Alibaba’s next-generation leaders.

Her rise from holding an entry-level job to one of Alibaba’s 27 partners is a testament to the importance of perseverance and dedication in paving the road to success.

Featured Image via Zhimeng (Left) and Zhuanlan Zhihu (Right)

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